Huelgoat Forest, Brittany, France
Lost high in the Parc d’Armorique in central Finistère, the village of Huelgoat looks sleepy at first sight, and its lake peaceful. However, descend into the Argent Valley and you suddenly find yourself amidst a mass of magical mossy boulders that have stirred the Breton imagination in fabulous ways.
A beautiful old watermill stands at one end of Huelgoat’s lake, the latter built in the 18th century to help in the task of extracting silver lead from the valley here. Take the slippery paths down beside the mill and you enter an amazingly secretive, green, rock-strewn world, which has inspired wild Arthurian and Christian myths. One rung of steps leads to the so-called ‘devil’s grotto’ via an unnervingly narrow descent. In another spot, the indentations in the rock are said to have served as the Virgin Mary’s cramped home – use your imagination to spot Jesus’s supposed cradle! One fanciful story claims that the boulders were chucked here by a Celtic giant. Another says it was a grumpy Gargantua who threw the rocks around as a way of complaining about the nasty porridge he was served at Huelgoat.
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