Cairn of Barnenez

Cairn of Barnenez, Plouezoc'h

Cairn of Barnenez
Ancient Ruins • Monuments & Statues
10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
Situated on the Kernelehen peninsula in the Finistere-Nord region, the Barnenez Cairn is a truly exceptional megalithic site. This large tumulus is, in fact, composed of two adjacent cairns (stone pyramids), dating from 4500 to 3500 BC, known as the "Prehistoric Parthenon". This vast construction made entirely from carefully piled stones comprises eleven funeral chambers connected by galleries. The Barnenez site is a gem of the Neolithic age when mankind began to settle, develop livestock farming and agriculture, pottery, weaving and other civilised crafts. Open: > 2nd May to 30th June: from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. > 1st July to 4th September: from 10 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. > 5th September to 30th April: from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. Last admission 30 minutes before closing time. Closed: > Mondays from 5th September to 30th April. > 1st January, 1st May, 1st November, 11th November and 25th December. Admission fees: Adults : 5,50 €; Concessions (18 to 25) = 4,50 €; Free admission: minors under 18*; Free admission: 18-25 years old* (citizens of one of the 27 countries of the EU or are non-European permanent residents of France) * excluding school groups
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287 reviews
Very good

Lisbon, Portugal624 contributions
Nice view over the bay
Sep 2021
Located in morlaix bay, this prehistoric structure must be interesting. Unfortunately it was closed. The entrance price was 6 euros which I think is a bit exaggerated.
The visit was not in vain, because a little bit further the view over the bay and the sea is magnificent.
Written October 5, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

46 contributions
Impressive site
Jun 2020
Very impressive structure and beautiful vistas. Did not notice the museum shop as mentioned in other reviews. Unfortunately, you are unable to go into any of the chambers and only view the structure from the outside.
Written June 28, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Catherine K
Albion, CA152 contributions
Impressive Site but Not Really Worth the Money
Sep 2019
Whenever I pay to see a historic site, I expect more than a few panels. The site itself is stunning. The structure is atop a hill with an incredible view, but the site is what you came for, and the site, unfortunately, is not given its due. There were a few panels, and you could buy books in the gift store, but the sort of information I've come to expect at such sites was missing. In a land with so many incredible prehistoric sites, most of which are just sitting along roadsides, I expected much more.
Written October 5, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Hull4 contributions
Save your 6 Euros, Far better ancient monuments to visit than this ! And some even Free
Jun 2019 • Family
6 Euros each to visit this site, minimal information is available in English, so you are unable to gain very much from either the leaflet you are given or the few relics on display. Very little of the interior of the cairn or the burial chambers are actually open to the public . Majority of the site is either closed with stones or iron railings. So it takes approx 15 minutes to walk around basically the outside of a pile of stones. Very very disappointed. In fact I would go so far as to say it is just another tourist rip off.
Written June 12, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Torger B
Copenhagen, Denmark1,382 contributions
Interesting and a great location
Oct 2018 • Couples
It is hard to imagine some of the history behind this massive collection of stones, said to be burial chambers. The construction is impressive and hard to believe it could have been created several thousand years ago. We found the site interesting also due to the magnificent view over the landscape and the water on both sides of the peninsula on which it rests. Further, the museum shops deserves to be mentioned. It has a great collection of gifts and books.
Written October 23, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Durbuy, Belgium66 contributions
Stunning monument
Sep 2018 • Couples
The cairn contains 11 funeral chambers, or at least that’s the going theorie. You really need to visit this monument with a guide, he or she can explain how the chambers are situated and which building techniques were used. The visit takes about one hour, put a vest on, the site is quite cold with a lot of wind.
Magnificent situated in the bay of Morlaix, but know that the period the cairn was build, 4500 years ago, there was no sea nearby!
Written September 18, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Birmingham, UK591 contributions
Cairn de Barnenez
Jun 2018 • Couples
Went here during a wonderful week's holiday in the area - this cairn (in truth, a very ancient burial ground) is a fascinating visit. You have to pay to get in, but it's not a fortune (they don't do concessions for seniors unfortunately!), and then you can walk round the site (or the bits that aren't fenced off) for as long as you like. I suppose you could take a picnic there - the views across the countryside are sensational! Really really interesting. The visitor centre is great, and staff are helpful and friendly. It's fascinating to realise just how long ago this was constructed by "the locals"! Well worth a visit!
Written July 30, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Portland, OR1,088 contributions
So large it's hard to photograph, so old it's hard to comprehend
Jun 2018 • Couples
Great care has gone into creating a fine visitors center around this ancient artifact. Good quality information available. It is cool that they allow you interact with the site as much as they do. You can even walk through one of the tunnels that originally led to a burial chamber.
I enjoyed how the information about the site was displayed inside and on panels outside in multiple languages. I also enjoyed being able to roam around and ponder the minds of those who created it so long ago.
Written June 22, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Bellingham, WA568 contributions
Cairn Suggests many mysteries
Jun 2018 • Couples
Some might say "okay, this is just a pile of rocks" -- but a closer look suggests much was going on here. For one thing, the block design of the thing reminds one of the mastaba-type tombs of Egypt, except if it was constructed circa 4500 - 3900 BCE, this would pre- date any of those structures. Second -- although I couldn't climb up, there seemed to be a path to the top. Rituals or observations of the heavens were going on there? I counted 11 tombs within the mound (entrances only visible; some of the stones had been quarried away). One tomb had some "extra" stone pillars to the right: bigger chief; better-loved chief? Public bench on the south side? The site seemed to have been picked for the view of the bay to the west.
There were some inscriptions on the site: head with long hair, stylised water, others not clear.
For six euros, I found the site worth it. Provocative!
Drive safely. Keep on going to see the "savage coast" -- actually not so savage -- to the north.
Bon voyage!
Written June 17, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Jan S
2 contributions
Far more than just a man-made pile of rock
Feb 2018 • Couples
The cairn actually belongs to the top five of oldest man-made structures in the world and it is very little known. It is far more than just an old man-made pile of rocks. A cairn with built-in dolmens and corbelled vaults, the earliest type of vaults, 11 corridors and associated chambers. The largest Neolithic structure in Europe. It was almost destroyed as a stone quarry in 1954. The quarry left a scar that now provides a view of its internal features. 2500 years older than Stonehenge and 2000 years older than the pyramids with far less visitors. The view over the Bay of Morlaix is great. That's part of the reason the cairn is where it is. An imposing and dominating position. My advise is to read-up before you go there as you will know what you are looking at. Its internal rock carvings were even painted. What rocks were used and where they come form. What was done to build this structure and why it lasted for more than 6000 years. If you go there without preps it will be indeed be just a pile of rocks and it may disappoint you just as it did for others commenting on this site. Blame it on ignorance. Ever visited Stonehenge with hundreds of other shuffling along? That's disappointing, but people accept that because they know about Stonehenge, You will not have the people problem in Barnenez. Very few know about Barnenez and what it stands for but if you do you will look very differently at this old pile of rocks. It is clear that the builders had a good understanding of the characteristic of the natural rocks available in the area. They chose their material wisely, minimizing work and maximizing what could be achieved with limited means. No need to invoke dark fairies or dwarfs, the infamous Breton korrigans, as old local tradition tells us. Excavation revealed that the strcuture consistst of actually two connected cairns have a complex history, with parts of earlier structure(?s) dismantled and re-used to build the current structures.

Internal features (not accessible in chamber H) include carved symbols, ax-shapes, bow-shapes, zig-zag-shapes, U-(bullshead) shapes, with the most famous a kind of head with radiating spiky hair, ‘forme d’écusson’, dubbed the “Dolmen Goddess” - although there is no indication at all of anything female.

What would it take to build this thing?
One cubic meter of the Barnénez cairn contains some 1,500 kg of stone. It is estimated that the collection, transport and construction of such an amount represents about four work days for a single worker (a 10-hour day). With a volume of about 2000-2500 m3 (3000-4000 tonnes) the first cairn is built of some 750 tons of granite and 2250 tons of local dolerite. That would take 8000 days to build for one person, or some three months for a group of 100 persons. The combined cairn is about 2 ½ - 3 times bigger and with much more granite used in the extension, would have required a massive investment and organization of people and time. Impressive to think that was achieved some 6000-7000 years ago.

What would it have been used for?
There is a lot written, but the simple fact is that we don’t know too much. It has been termed the oldest mausoleum of the world but we don’t know whether it was used solely for the dead. Reports of remains of scorched or charred human bones indicate a connection with the dead is likely. The acidity of the soil would not have left many bones which could explain the absence of more remains. It is a massive monumental structure that has taken a lot of effort to build and is located in a dominating position. That implies it has had an important function. That’s why the connection with the dead, gods and perhaps even fertility becomes a plausible one. After all, these are the things that have kept us humans puzzled and mystified ever since we started thinking about them. For those who like mystery, just stick with a dwelling for korrigans…..

Why there?
There were originally two separate cairns on the headland. Only the southern one, the largest, survived the quarrying-at least for a large part- when it was stopped in 1954. The northern cairn by then had completely disappeared.
The guidebook of the cairn states that some 6000-7000 years ago the Bay of Morlaix was largely dry, providing good soil for early agriculture. The bay in this view was grassland with a river running through it. It is questionable whether this interpretation is valid. Inspection of the Holocene sea level curve tells us that sea level has hardly changed in that period and the peninsula therefore may have looked very much the same as it does now. We should not forget that the shallow rocks and extensive tidal flats would have provided plenty of seafood to the Neolithic people who built the cairn and one does not necessarily need to invoke extensive early agriculture as a reason for people to settle.

A great pile of rocks with a long history to dream about for sure, but you should take a nice sunny day with few visitors to get a feel for its age -and stay- in this mood. Nice and sunny means people, whereas quiet and peaceful means wind and rain, a bit disruptive for contemplation. There are those rare days in autumn, winter and early spring that just fit the equation.
Have fun and know what you are looking at.
Written March 11, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Cairn of Barnenez

Cairn of Barnenez is open:
  • Sun - Sat 10:00 AM - 6:30 PM