With D-Day beaches, the floating abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, and a coastal-countryside terrain, the neighbouring regions of Brittany and Normandy are seemingly tailormade for a culture-filled cycling adventure. This easy-going route tracks the essential stops in northern France, encompassing medieval villages and pretty port towns, moving Second World War history, and a host of standout landmarks, including the 12th-century seaside fortifications of Saint-Malo.
Did you know you can travel by train to this trip? Find out more here.
Tour the 12th-century seaside fortifications in Saint-Malo
Enjoy oyster tasting in Cancale, a renowned destination for shellfish
Visit the floating abbey on Mont Saint-Michel island
Relive the D-Day Landings with a visit to Omaha Beach
Take in the poignant Normandy American Cemetery
Start In Rennes; Welcome Dinner Of Breton Favourites
The adventure starts in Rennes, the beautiful capital of Brittany. If you have time, make sure to explore the old town, home to pretty half-timbered houses from the 15th century and the 17th-century Cathédrale Saint-Pierre.
Our hotel rooms are available from 3pm and there will be a welcome briefing in the evening, where we meet each other for the first time. The day ends with a group dinner of Breton specialities: crêpes and cider.
We stay overnight in Rennes.
Cycle From St Germain To Dinan; Shellfish-Tasting Session In The Evening
Leaving Rennes, we transfer to the town of St Germain to pick up our bikes. We then descend to the first lock of the Ille et Rance canal to begin cycling along the towpath, taking the flat route through an otherwise hilly landscape.
Our ride takes us through villages and towns, including peaceful Léhon where we visit the ancient abbey, and past a series of 11 flower-decorated locks. These villages, along with their unique characteristics and attractions, provide a glimpse into the rich cultural and historical heritage of northern France. We end at the medieval port town of Dinan, where we enjoy a shellfish-tasting session at the port with a local supplier.
We stay overnight in Dinan.
Ascent: 655ft (200m); descent: 655ft (200m)
Ride From Dinan To Dinard, Shuttle Boat To Saint-Malo; City Tour
Dinan, Dinard, Saint-Malo
We enjoy a little walk around Dinan this morning. Nestled along the River Rance, Dinan features well-preserved medieval architecture, including ramparts, half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets, plus a delightful blend of art galleries, boutiques and cafes.
We then collect our bikes and set off, following the River Rance estuary, a greenery-lined waterway, towards the coast. On our gentle cycle, we can admire the boats sailing along the river and the tranquillity of the landscape. We pass granite cliffs and sandy beaches punctuated by traditional fishing ports and villages, before arriving in the pretty seaside town of Dinard. Here we catch the shuttle boat across the Rance estuary to Saint-Malo.
We then have time for a guided tour of this spectacular historic port city, taking in the expansive 12th-century fortified ramparts and a statue of local maritime explorer Jacques Cartier.
Overnight in Saint-Malo.
Ascent: 490ft (150m); descent: 490ft (150m)
Explore The Emerald Coast; Oyster Tasting In Cancale; End In Mont Saint-Michel
Cancale, Mont Saint-Michel
We begin with a short transfer, before hopping on our bikes for a day exploring the best of the Emerald Coast – a beautiful mix of classic European shorelines and Breton countryside.
Along the way, we stop for a seaside picnic and to visit the harbour town of Cancale, where shellfish has been a delicacy since the Roman age. We take the opportunity to try some oysters .
After Cancale, it’s an easy, flat ride. We pass Mont-Dol, a 215ft (65m) high rock in the middle of the marshes where, legend has it, Saint Michael met the devil. We finish in Mont Saint-Michel, where a Unesco-listed island is crowned by a magnificent Benedictine abbey, which appears to float when the highest tides surround the island with seawater.
Overnight in Pontorson, near Mont Saint-Michel
Ascent: 920ft (280m); descent: 855ft (260m)
Visit Bayeux; Cycle To Omaha Beach And Tour The American Cemetery In Colleville-Sur-Mer
We leave Mont-Saint-Michel early, taking a minibus transfer to medieval Bayeux. There is time to see the architectural wonders of the town, including the 11th-century cathedral, narrow cobbled streets and half-timbered houses.
It’s then back on the bikes as we cycle through the countryside to Omaha Beach, one of the five beaches on which Allied forces landed during the D-Day invasions of the Second World War. That is followed by a moving visit to the clifftop Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, where more than 9,300 American soldiers were laid to rest. After, we head back to Bayeux .
Overnight in Bayeux.
Ascent: 330ft (100m); descent: 330ft (100m)
Option To See Bayeux Tapestry; Cycle Through Norman Countryside And Villages; Finish In Cabourg
Before we get back on the bike, we have the option to visit the Bayeux Tapestry, a 230ft (70m) long embroidery depicting the Norman victory over Harold’s English army in 1066 (entrance fee not included).
We then cycle across the Normandy countryside to Longues-sur-Mer, where we can see an imposing German artillery battery from the Second World War, and Arromanches, where we see the remains of an artificial port commissioned by Winston Churchill.
We then take small country roads through typical Norman villages to the pretty port town of Courseulles-sur-Mer. In the late afternoon, we have a 20-minute transfer to Cabourg, home to the longest beach in Europe, where we enjoy our final dinner as a group.
Overnight in Cabourg.
Ascent: 330ft (100m); descent: 330ft (100m)
Our cycling adventure across northern France ends after breakfast. If you’d like to spend more time exploring this beautiful part of Europe, speak to your sales representative about extending your stay.
All breakfasts, four lunches and two dinners are included .
There is a wealth of local cuisine to explore too, including: agneau de pré sale, a salty lamb dish from Mont Saint-Michel; marmite dieppoise, a creamy seafood dish from Dieppe but served across northern France; and poulet au cidre, a creamy chicken dish made with local cider.
Vegetarians can be fairly easily accommodated in this area of France; however, vegans may find the variety of dishes available is rather limited.
Each hotel has a unique character, with many close to historic town centres and local landmarks. The accommodations we usually use are listed below.
Rennes: Hotel le Nemours (night 1)
Immerse yourself in Rennes at Hotel le Nemours. Near the historic centre, this 41-room, nine-apartment hotel occupies a traditional townhouse and provides a comfortable base for exploring the city.
Dinan: Hotel du Château (night 2)
Experience the medieval beauty of Dinan with a stay at Hotel du Château, which is just a two-minute walk from the historic centre and pedestrian streets. Post-exploration, head to the bar-lounge for a nightcap and a chance to sample Breton aperitifs.
St Malo: Hotel de l’Univers or Hotel Maison des Amateurs (night 3)
Discover the captivating coastal town of St Malo from the comfort of Hotel de l'Univers (above) or Hotel Maison des Amateurs. Both provide a delightful stay near the picturesque old town and beaches.
Pontorson, near Mont Saint-Michel: Hotel Victor Hugo (night 4)
Just 6mi (9.5km) from the Unesco-listed Mont St-Michel, Hotel Victor Hugo offers a tranquil retreat in the picturesque town of Pontorson. Here, 15 traditionally styled rooms occupy a 17th-century residence plus there's a bar and gardens should you wish to relax.
Bayeux: Hotel de Brunville & Spa (night 5)
Immerse yourself in stories of old with a stay in the heart of this historic town. It is the perfect base for exploring the rich heritage of the region while providing an opportunity to relax and unwind in the hotel spa, including an outdoor pool, hot tub and steam room.
Houlgate, near Cabourg: Hotel les Cabines (night 6)
In the scenic coastal town of Houlgate, which is 2.5mi (4km) from Cabourg, Hotel les Cabines offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere. It's just 330ft (100m) from the sea, taking over a 1900s building on the shopping street of Houlgate. There's also a French brasserie-styled bar and living room with a fireplace.