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"Ouessant" redirects here. For the breed of sheep, see Ouessant (sheep). For the Agosta-class submarine, see French submarine Ouessant (S623).
Ouessant, Eusa
Satellite image of Ushant in 2003
Satellite image of Ushant in 2003
Coat of arms of Ushant
Coat of arms
Ushant is located in France
Coordinates: 48°27′29″N 5°05′44″W / 48.4581°N 5.0956°W / 48.4581; -5.0956Coordinates: 48°27′29″N 5°05′44″W / 48.4581°N 5.0956°W / 48.4581; -5.0956
Country France
Region Brittany
Department Finistère
Arrondissement Brest
Canton Ouessant
 • Mayor (2014–2020) Denis Palluel
Area1 15.58 km2 (6.02 sq mi)
Population (2008)2 856
 • Density 55/km2 (140/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 29155 / 29242
Elevation 0–61 m (0–200 ft)
(avg. 30 m or 98 ft)
Website Official website

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Ushant (/ˈʌʃənt/;[1] Breton: Eusa, pronounced [ˈøsa]; French: Ouessant, pronounced: [wɛsɑ̃]) is an island at the south-western end of the English Channel which marks the north-westernmost point of metropolitan France. It belongs to Brittany and is in the traditional region of Bro-Leon. Administratively, Ushant is a commune in the Finistère department. It is the only place in Brittany with a separate name in English.


The island is ringed by several smaller islands, including Keller Island (Île de Keller) and Kadoran (Île Cadoran) to the north. The 200-meter (660 ft) channel between Ushant and Keller is called the Toull C'heller.

Ushant marks a southern limit of the Celtic Sea[2] and the southern entrance to the western English Channel, the northern entrance being the Isles of Scilly, southwest of Land's End in Cornwall, England. Although it is sometimes considered an island in the English Channel, it does not form part of the Channel Islands. According to the definitions of the International Hydrographic Organization the island lies outside the English Channel and is in the Celtic Sea.[3]

The island is a rocky landmass some 8 km (5.0 mi) by 3 km (1.9 mi) with a total area of 15 km2 (5.8 sq mi).


Ushant is famous for its maritime past, both as a fishing community and as a key landmark in the Channel approaches. It is named in the refrain of the sea shanty "Spanish Ladies":

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

Several naval battles have been fought near Ushant between the British and French navies.

During World War II a force of British Commandos and US Army Rangers of the 29th Provisional Rangers successfully attacked a German radar installation on the island.[4]

In March 1978, a U.S. oil tanker, Amoco Cadiz, ran aground at Portsall about 19 miles (31 km) from the island, leading to major pollution of the Brittany coast.

An old Breton proverb says: Qui voit Ouessant voit son sang, Qui voit Sein voit sa fin ("He who sees Ushant sees his blood,/He who sees Sein sees his end"). This proverb is related to the area around the island, considered one of the most challenging to navigate in the world with its many rocks and more than ten knot tide streams.

The usual start and finish line for circumnavigations of the globe is between Ushant and Lizard Point.


There is only one significant community on the island, the village of Lambaol/Lampaul.

Historical population of Ushant
Year 1800 1806 1821 1831 1836 1841 1846 1851 1856 1861
Population 1510 1465 1851 2032 2151 2194 1983 2271 2258 2391
Year 1866 1872 1876 1881 1886 1891 1896 1901 1906 1911
Population 2368 2377 2382 2364 2307 2490 2287 2717 2761 2953
Year 1921 1926 1931 1936 1946 1954 1962 1968 1975 1982
Population 2586 2524 2439 2363 2223 2071 1938 1814 1450 1221
Year 1990 1999 2008
Population 1062 932 856


The Creac'h lighthouse is reputedly the most powerful in the world.


In August 2010 the islanders were reported to be seeking to establish cultural links with a Scottish island. In 2007 Ushant hosted a Scottish book festival and subsequently created their own tartan. Rob Gibson, an MSP for the Highlands and Islands welcomed the opportunity.[5]


Ushant is connected to the French mainland by both air and sea. Passenger ferries of the Penn Ar Bed company operate from Brest and Le Conquet year-round, and also from Camaret in summer, stopping at the island of Molène en route.[6] The airline Finistair operates flights on Cessna 208 planes from Brest Bretagne Airport.[7]


Ouessant sheep

The Ouessant sheep is a rare breed originating from Ushant. It is one of the northern European short-tailed sheep group of breeds, a type ubiquitous in northern Europe up to Roman times, but which now survives only in a few places. Apart from Ushant, these are remote islands and mountains of Britain and Scandinavia and some places around the Baltic Sea. The Ouessant is one of the smallest breeds of domestic sheep. It is usually black or dark brown (a few are white), and it is now kept elsewhere in the world as a heritage breed.

Literary references[edit]


"Lord Ushant" is the title given the heir to the Duchy of Tintagel (Cornwall) in Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers (1938).

Ushant is also the title of the autobiography of the American poet and novelist Conrad Aiken, published in 1952.

Ushant is mentioned in George Orwell's diaries, in passing.[8]

Ushant is also a character briefly appearing in Herman Melville's White-Jacket. Ushant is highly admired for his beard. See chapter 84 of the book for further information.

Ushant is mentioned repeatedly in the works of Patrick O'Brian in reference to the maritime activities and position of various ships and characters in the series.

Ushant appears occasionally as a landfall in C. S. Forester's novels about Horatio Hornblower.

Ushant is one of the locations in the mystery "Act of Mercy" by Peter Tremayne. The book is set in 666 A.D.

Father Truitard, a character in Bruce Chatwin's novel "The Viceroy of Ouidah", spent "years communing with the waves and petrels on the island of Ushant".

Ushant is mentioned in Dmitry Lukhmanov's narrative 20 000 miles under sail.[9]

A ship from Ushant (Ouessant in French) is mentioned in the poem "Barbara" by French poet Jacques Prévert.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Entry in Collins
  2. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2011. Celtic Sea. eds. P.saundry & C.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the /environment. Washington DC.
  3. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition + corrections". International Hydrographic Organization. 1971. pp. 42 [corrections to page 13]. Retrieved 25 September 2010. 
  4. ^ pp. 70-71 Slaughter, John Robert Omaha Beach and Beyond: The Long March of Sergeant Bob Slaughter MBI Publishing Company, 08/11/2009
  5. ^ "Islanders Seek Scots Friends" (16 August 2010). Glasgow: The Herald.
  6. ^ Penn Ar Bed website
  7. ^ Finistair website
  8. ^
  9. ^

External links[edit]