"a megalithic wonderland"Aubrey Burl
The small town of Carnac in southern Brittany is world-famous for the long rows of standing stones stretching over a mile or so in a north-easterly direction to the north of the town. Much plundered in centuries past for stone and generally getting in the way of earlier generations, these fabulous relics gained greater respect over the 20th century, and are now under State protection.
Nothing can really prepare you for the sight. While stone rows are known elsewhere, such as the Merrivale stone rows in Dartmoor, England, they just aren't on the stupendous scale seen at Carnac. The area is also surrounded by a wealth of menhirs, dolmens, passage graves, making the town well worth a visit if you're interested in megalithic sites. Carnac is also blessed with an excellent beach and the Quiberon peninsula nearby caters for all sorts of sports like wind-surfing and sailing. Take a look at the staying there section for more information as to where to stay, relative to the stones and other amenities.
If actually getting to the stones is important for you then you might want to know that (at 2001/2002) low season was October 1st to April 1st. It's worth calling the Carnac Tourist Office what the current situation is here as it varies year to year.
To see the alignments you can pick up a free map from the tourist office which shows the alignments and local roads. That's all you need to locate the Carnac alignments and about a dozen of the major local sites. For more detail he map you need is the 0821 OT Top 25 map from IGN, titled Presq'île de Quiberon, Auray, Carnac. Completists might consider the 0921 OT Vannes/Golfe De Morbihan for the few stones around Locmariaquer but the few major sites on that sheet are easy to find from normal tourist maps.
It makes sense to start with the alignments, of course, which takes between half a day and a day depending on your pace. See the map below for a general overview of the alignments. Unfortunately access is restricted, particularly in the summer, to reduce erosion of the site. Most people drive out of town, following the sign to the alignments which takes them to the massive car park south of the Le Ménec alignments. The panorama above is from there, though you have to go little bit further to see them from that angle. It's worth trying to do this earlier in the day, as it gets very popular since it is the closest to town and the place most people go if they want a quick look-see of what all this fuss about alignments is about before getting on with the rest of their activities.
If you are going to drive along the alignments there's something to be said for coming from north-east to south west instead - you're on the right side of the road as the alignments, and the two smaller car parks at Kerlescan and Kermario are handy right hand turns after the bend rather than awkward left-hand turns across the road before the bends...
Carnac-plage is into the cycle hire business in a big way, from standard mountain bikes to big all-family affairs which people seem to have great fun with. The higher point of view of a bike (above the infernal fence!) and the more leisurely pace plus being able to stop where you fancy has a lot going for it. since so much is within three or four miles of the town.
Assuming you carry on the standard route, carry on NE to Kerabus (just after you cross the main road, and this one is busy, being the main Carnac to Auray highway and the way most long-distance traffic comes into the town). There's no formal parking, but the lie of the land is nice and you can look over the smaller alignments there.
Kermario is your next stop, with a large-ish visitor car-park on the left just as the road turns to the right, which is a dodgy manoeuvre for UK visitors as the French drive on the right. Old-timers will recall the massive wooden platform where you could look over the alignments but all that has gone now, and there is an information building behind the stones. That does mean you get a better view of Kermario allée couverte, nestling at the corner of this alignment. A nice touch is they have placed a path to an old mill in the Kermario alignments at the north-eastern half which you can climb and get a better overview. Parking there is bad - you're better off walking from Kermario car park. On a bike, of course, there's no problem.
Next stop is Kerlescan - basically if you get to see the alignments from your car you've gone too far, as the small car park is just before the horse riding school, on your left before a bend to the left. It's also worth taking the forest trail for 500 yards to say hello to the Géant du Manio. Take the largest path going past the horse grazing fields, and the Géant is signposted on a turning west. It is the largest standing menhir in the area, 6.5 m high, and nearby is a rectangular-ish enclosure of stone, the Quadrilateral.