Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Megalithic Sites in France

France has some of prehistoric Europe’s most fascinating megalithic sites. The area around the town of Carnac, on the southern coast of Brittany, is the most well known. Here you can explore many intriguing stone alignments, the largest concentration being some 4 km long. And there are the decorated burial chambers, such as Gavrinis and Locmariaquer. Megalithic sites can, however, be visited throughout France. The characteristic dolmen, two uprights with a capstone, is to be found in forests and fields everywhere.

The megalithic stones of a large passage tomb in amongst trees in autumn foliage.

Megaliths, Menhirs & Fairies
in North East Brittany

North eastern Brittany is is well known for its medieval heritage. Here a handful of towns have retained a quaint Middle Age charm, attracting visitors throughout the year. This part of France also has much older megalithic sites that should not be overlooked. Not least because one of these sites is one of the largest of its kind. Thomas recently spent a few days tracking down many megalithic sites and researched the associated urban legends and myths.

Megalithic Sites in France

Carnac Stone Alignments

The different series of stone alignments to the north of Carnac are made up of over 3,000 individual standing stones – they are the largest concentration of megaliths in the World. Thought to have been erected between 7,000 and 4,000 years ago, the lines of standing stones cover a distance of about four kilometres in total. Although now fenced off, guided tours of certain sections of the stones are available that enable visitors to walk among the stones. These guided tours are highly recommended.

Dolmen de Bagneux

Located in a southern suburb of Saumur, the Dolmen de Bagneux is thought to the biggest of its kind in France, and perhaps even Europe. This dolmen, a typical Neolithic portal tomb – the chamber would have been used within which to place bodies of the dead, and is made up of 15 very large stones. The collective weight of these megaliths is estimated at approximately 500 tons. There are historical records of excavations in 1775, but no burial remains were recovered. Not surprising given the structure had been used as a barn.

Dolmen de la Madeleine

An isolated dolmen in a private field on the outskirts of the town of Gennes, on the banks of the Loire River not that far from Saumur. There are a number of these megalithic sites in the area – but this one is one of the larger ones – measuring 14 metres in length and with an interior height of 2.7 metres. Like many of the more substantial dolmens it has been used by local farmers for centuries. This particular dolmen was used to house a large bread oven; the remains of which are still present in the chamber

Gavrinis Passage Tomb

The stone cairn with its decorated passage tomb is not only one of the more spectacular Neolithic sites in the Morbihan area, it is also a great day out for the whole family. Today, because of the rise of sea levels since it was built, the cairn is now on a small island, and the only means of getting there is a short ferry ride from the nearby coastal fishing village of Lamor-Baden. Once on the privately owned island a guided tour enables access to the decorated passage tomb.

La Roche-aux-Fées

Forty-one enormous stones make up a passage, or covered alley, that is 20 metres in length, four times as long as it is wide. Most archaeologists ad enthusiasts alike accept that this is the largest such megalithic in the World. The dolmen is aligned inn such a way that it catches the rising sun at the winter solstice. The land around it is now a well kept parkland that has a Visitors Centre, which is only open during the summer months

La Table-aux-Fées de Saulnières

This dolmen is on gated and locked private property, and so it is inaccessible to the public. There is nothing much to see anyway, other than two very large stones, one of which is over two metres in length. As with all the other megaliths in the area, these two seemingly abandoned stones feature in local folklore and are thought to have been left by the fairies (fées) when they were taking stones from Saulnières to la Roche-aux-Fées.

Le Petit Mont Chambered Tomb

The Cairn de Petit Mont is thought to be one of the most significant chambered tombs in Brittany. Although this is for all intents and purposes a “neolithic site”, from about 6,600 years ago, it is an excellent example of how sites from one period are re-used in following periods. Artefacts recovered during excavations show that this site was also occupied during the Bronze and Iron Ages. But the most obvious evidence of re-use is the typical German bunker built into the cairn in 1943

Megalithic Sites of Locmariaquer

There are a number of megalithic sites in the seaside town of Locmariaquer. The main site open to the public is an intriguing cluster of different megalithic structures. This includes the tumulus of Er-Grah, the Tables des Marchands Cairn, and a enormous broken menhir – which is thought to be the biggest prehistoric stone stele in Europe. Not to be missed is the large, decorated megalith inside the cairn, which is open to the public. The Visitor Center has a very informative short documentary about the megalithic tradition in the area.

Saint-Michel Tumulus

This spectacular tumulus, measuring 125 metres long, 60 metres wide and 10 meters high, and typical for the Carnac area, was constructed during the Neolithic period on what was already a naturally high point on the landscape. From the top of the tumulus there is an expansive view of the surrounding area. This position is clearly something the local community took advantage of in the later medieval period, when a church was constructed above the tumulus.

Sel-de-Bretagne Menhirs

Two standing stones can be visited on the outskirts of the town of Sel-du-Bretagne, and are in a small field that has been fenced off that can be accessed via a footpath from the town square in the village. These two stones are known locally as les menhirs du Champ de la Pierre et du Champ Horel. According to local folklore these two striking stones were abandoned here by the fairies while they were making the nearby Roche-aux-Fées passage tomb.

Prehistory Museums Associated with Megaliths in France

Carnac Prehistory Museum

The Musée de Préhistoire de Carnac is housed in an old rectory with a collection of over 7,000 artefacts from many of the megalithic sites in the area – one of the richest museums for megalithic culture. A handful of display that deal with the various aspects of everyday life, but the museum has a greater focus on the development and significance of funerary architecture, from the early dolmens to the later, more complex passage tombs. A few galleries explore the Iron Age and Roman  periods.

Maison des Mégaliths, Carnac

Besides serving as an information point and a ticket office for guided tours of the Carnac stone alignments, the Maison des Mégalithes also has a series of exhibitions outlining the history and understanding of the megalithic tradition in southern Brittany. The viewing platform on top of the building is a viewing platform that gives a better view of the alignments than you will get at the fence.