With Merlin being a major draw around these parts, this place is signposted almost as soon as you leave Paimpont (Brittany’s version of Glastonbury) on the Rue de l’enchanter Merlin (also known as the D71). When you do reach the ample car parking though don’t set off straight into the forest, but rather cross back over the road and take the tarmac cycle path, you’ll be at the tomb within minutes.
As we park the car we again encounter a large group of foragers emerging from the forest with baskets full of fungi, who within seconds identify us as ‘Anglais’ and with a friendly ‘bonjour’ start to gesture us in the opposite direction, over the road towards the tomb. Perhaps it was the camera, notebook and copy of Aubrey Burl’s ‘Megalthic Brittany’ I was clutching that gave it away?
In a land abundant with a cornucopia of spectacular megalithic remains, Merlin’s Tomb is like one of those sad hangers on, riding on the coat-tails of a famous name, whilst lacking the ability to be impressive in their own right.
The site consists of the slight remains of a ruined dolmen, little more than two cracked stones, out from which sprouts a holly tree. A modern circular kerb of stones has been set around the dolmen, and a plethora of offerings are crammed into any available crack in the stones, or tied as clooties to the holly tree, along with written messages to Merlin which are placed around the site. Someone had also placed halved apples at each quarter point of the kerb, possibly as part of an early Samhain ritual.
Just up the path from the tomb is the Fountain of Youth, a sluggish pool, which looked as if eternal youth would arise from failing to get any older on account of having died due to contracting some virulent form of dysentery upon drinking the water.
Compared to even the lesser of Brittany’s megaliths this is somewhat uninspiring, but yet the place has a certain charisma. In a way the adoption of the site as a focal point for offerings gives the site a resonance it was probably previously lacking, and in the usual surroundings of lovely Breton woodland, with the clootie bedecked holly tree sprouting from the stones it has a certain charm.
Although I may sound disparaging this is a nice place, just diminished by the embarrassment of megalithic riches just a stone’s throw (if you’ll pardon the pun) away. Still if you’re in Brocéliande you can’t not visit Merlin can you? Just be prepared that like some other iconic tourist stops, the reality of the place might not be quite as impressive as you expect.