Département of Brittany, northwest France, occupying a peninsula with the English Channel to the north and the Bay of Biscay to the south; area 7,030 sq km/2,714 sq mi; population (2006 est) 879,500. The administrative centre is Quimper; Brest and Douarnenez are the chief towns. Inland there is heathland and fertile valleys; the Arrée and Black mountains run east–west. Horses and cattle are raised on the extensive grasslands of the département, and there is agriculture and seasonal fishing. The chief crops are wheat, rye, barley, oats, potatoes, flax, and mangel-wurzels; fruit and vegetables are exported. Industries include textiles, electrical goods, paper, and shipbuilding.
Physical Finistère is the most westerly département of France. The départements of Côtes-d'Armor and Morbihan lie to the east. The coast is rugged with granite cliffs, and many headlands, inlets, and bays. The narrow sea inlets or ‘drowned valleys’ of Finistè are known as rias. The rocky and dangerous headland of the Pointe du Raz lies in the extreme southwest of the département. The island of Ouessant (Ushant) lies west of Brest.
Inland, two hill ranges run east to west – the Monts D'Arrée in the north and the Montagnes Noires (Black Mountains) in the south. The hills are covered with trees and heathland; rich meadows and fertile valleys lie between. Finistère has a temperate climate.
History The area was settled by Celts in the 5th century BC, conquered by the Romans in 56 BC, and invaded by Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century AD. Its Celtic heritage of language (Breton) was not favoured by the French administration in the 19th century but survived among rural inhabitants living in more isolated areas. Interest in the Breton language, customs, and costumes experienced a revival in the latter half of the 20th century. Quimper is the main focus of Breton cultural activities.
Deep-water access at Brest was used for submarine installations in World War II, and it remains an important port and naval base.