The mystery of the standing stones will probably never be solved, but you need to see them for yourself, just for the profound impact that they make. It boggles the mind when you are standing in the fields of Carnac on the southwest coast of Brittany. Row after row, each unique, perfectly aligned like tall soldiers.
A grand monument is an understatement, the massive construction project from pre-Celtic Bronze Age times perhaps between 4500 to 1200 BC, men transported these hand–hewn stones, weighing between 70 and 350 tons into standing geometric formations in accurate and unique East /West alignments. As a visitor, it is spectacular as well as overwhelming because 3000 standing stones in 11 rows carries on for over 2 miles. Now broken into three separate areas of Le Ménec, Kermario, and Kerlescan in this tranquil farmland and woods along the coast.
I was astonished to be in the field having access to be able to wander, touch and imagine what they could be about. Notions of burial sites, astrological functions or the local legends of Roman soldiers being turned to stone, no one really knows. Our guide I thought gave a pretty viable hypotheses; for marauders coming from the sea this line of huge stones could have been construed as being giant soldiers standing guard – remember it wasn’t just a few, it was three thousand! That could be quite a deterrent.
Many years ago when I was in school in England, I went to Stonehenge, again a site made up of the large standing stones called menhirs (long stone in the Breton language). At that time you could walk within the circle and contemplate. To me it was much more obvious that it was an astrological and religious site, where as Carnac is much more mysterious! Too many questions to pose, there are Dolman, stone tables and yes, some burial chambers, a little closer to the sea is Saint-Michel tumulus burial mound crowned by a small chapel.
I don’t buy into the Extra-terrestrial theories, but it is the most extensive menhir collections in the world that deserves time and study. My suggestion is to take your time in the area to visit all three sites. You can stay at the Hotel Restaurant Le Tumulus a 19th century villa with simple rooms and pool as well as an excellent kitchen focused on fresh local market cuisine. The restaurant is listed in the Michelin Guide and Tables Remarquables by Alain Ducasse. You are close to the sea and Carnac’s five sheltered sandy beaches for strolling, kit surfing or sailing.