Out at sea off the coast of the legendary coastal point of the Pointe du Raz, scarcely rising above sea-level, the Île de Sein withstands all the winds and tides coming off the Atlantic. This little strip of land dwarfed by the sea on all sides has inspired many artists over the years. If you have a few days here, or even one afternoon, here are some of the sites you simply must see on Sein.
Classed as ‘a port of heritage interest’ since 2013, Sein’s harbour is a charming place to stroll, between old buildings and bobbing boats. From the Quai des Paimpolais to the Quai des Français Libres, you can explore the streets of the town, all along the seaside, and breathe in that sea air…
In memory of the Second World War
Following General de Gaulle’s famous broadcast on the 18th June 1940, in which he appealed for Frenchmen to join him, twenty men from the Île de Sein set sail on the 14-metre fishing boat "Corbeau des Mers" and headed off to join the General in London. It was thanks to this bravery that the entire island was later decorated with the title ‘Compagnon de la Libération’ at the end of the Second World War.
Today, you can admire the monument dedicated to the Free French, located between the main town and Goulenez lighthouse. It was inaugurated by the General himself in 1960. Every year, on the 18th June, there is a commemorative ceremony on the island.
From the Phare de la Vieille to the Phare Ar-Men, the busy stretch of water in the Raz de Sein has plenty of illuminations, including La Vieille and Ar-Men, Tevennec, Goulenez and An Namaouic. The waters all around the island are carefully protected.
On land, the portside lighthouse of Men Brial and the Goulenez Lighthouse supplement the lighthouses at sea. Goulenez is the only one you can visit, and it overlooks the waters around Sein from its position at the far west of the island. To make the most of the incredible panoramic views that it offers, you’ll need to climb 249 steps! To check its opening times, please contact the Île de Sein Town Hall.
There’s gossip at the church
Since prehistoric times, two gossips have held their ground in the main town of the Île de Sein. Having gained Historic Monument status in 1901, these two standing stones look for all the world like two people gossiping in front of the church. Let your imagination go, and you’ll soon see their silhouettes taking shape!
The nearby Saint-Guénolé church is a lot more recent, as it was built in the early 20th century by the islanders using manual labour, as shown on the commemorative plaque inside.
Every year, in spring, there is the famous religious pardon of Saint-Guénolé who, according to legend, protected the island from the Devil. The Devil fell into the sea, which explains the strong and violent currents that you can see between Sein and the Pointe du Raz.
In a place so connected to the sea, it’s no surprise to find a renowned watersports centre on the Île de Sein. Up until recently, sports were more pedestrian but the opening of this new centre confirms how Sein is inextricably linked to the sea. Whether in a kayak or standing on a paddle-board, these sports allow you to discover the island as you’ve never seen it before!
Workshops and initiatives to discover...
The Café-workshop of Didier Marie Le Bihan
This artist, who has lived for many years on the Île de Sein, paints real-life objects, in particular still life. He combines modern techniques with ancient methods, such as 15th century Flemish painting, to lend a particular luminosity to his canvases.
His gallery also shows work by Christelle Le Dortz. This ceramic artist trained with Nathalie Derouet and settled on the island in 2011. Her stoneware and especially her porcelain pieces focus on pure, minimalist forms.
There, you'll also discover the association RADOOO whose work on heritage is acknowledged by UNESCO. The association proposes many activities on the island.
Where? In Le Lenn, towards the old Gueveur foghorn.
Brigitte Conan’s workshop
This artist draws inspiration from the sea, particularly the waves. She seeks to capture the moment when the wave clashes with the earth, the rocks and the islands.
Her technique uses lacquer that transforms her canvases into shining, mirror-like surfaces.
Where? 8 rue Estienne d'Orves, in the main centre of the Île de Sein.