Best of Normandy and Brittany: readers’ travel tips

Northern France is known for beaches, cider, cheese and seafood but our readers also pick out some less obvious delights on the coast and inland
Send us a tip and you could win a £200 hotel voucher


Winning tip: La Vallée des Saints, Carnoët

This is a hill in central Brittany, topped with a tree-crowned motte, and all around are three- and four-metre granite statues of Breton saints. There are currently 63, individually carved on site by a team of sculptors. Come September there will be 80. The founders plan, eventually, to erect 1,000. It’s magical, like witnessing the beginnings of Easter Island.

Ile de Bréhat

The Paon lighthouse, Ile de Bréhat island
The Paon lighthouse, Ile de Bréhat. Photograph: Alamy

The Ile de Bréhat lies just a mile off Brittany’s north coast, reached by ferry from Paimpol. This car-free island has sub-tropical plants growing in profusion and miles of rugged coast to explore. You may meet a circus of puffins as you hike to the lighthouse with views of the Breton mainland. For an overnight stay, there’s a fine municipal campsite and some charming chambres d’hotes, and the reward is magical: the setting sun turns the pink granite rocks an even deeper shade of rose.

Yannick Berthe B&B, Cancale

Yannick Berthe B&B

Unexpected discoveries often prove the most rewarding, and so it was when we stayed at this charming B&B in the fishing port of Cancale, 10 miles east of Saint-Malo. The house takes its name from its friendly and attentive owner, who serves a delicious breakfast in your room while you look across the bay towards the medieval towers of Mont Saint-Michel.
• 13 rue Ernest Lamort, +33 2 99 89 64 72

Fresh oysters from Cancale

Oysters for sale in harbour fish market, Cancale

Walk past Cancale’s seafront restaurants selling expensive fruits de mer and buy oysters at the small market on the quay for around 50 cents each. Sit on the sea wall with a plateful and half a lemon, and afterwards throw your shells on to the beach to join the thousands already there – perfect!

Wandering Brittany’s waterways

The canal d’Ille et Rance near Dinan.
Canal d’Ille et Rance near Dinan. Photograph: Alamy

The towpaths on Brittany’s 600km of canals are part of the Voies Vertes (Green Ways) network, and cycling or walking them is a delight. Lock houses and bridges are festooned with flowers; kingfishers and otters abound. Our favourite is the Canal d’Ille et Rance. Medieval Dinan and Léhon are close by and there is the lively Jazz aux Ecluses festival every September at the Hédé Bazouges flight of 11 locks. A a houseboat is a good alternative to a gîte or tent.

Sunsets, cycling and galettes on Belle-Ile

Les Grands Sables beach, Belle-Ile
Les Grands Sables beach, Belle-Ile. Photograph: Alamy

My son and I spent a week on this beautiful and unspoilt island last year and saw it all on hired bicycles. We stayed at the hotel La Désirade, where the food was exquisite, but too extravagant for every evening, so we also enjoyed a few galettes and beers at the nearby crêpérie. No wonder artists such as Claude Monet and Sarah Bernhardt flocked here and some decided to stay. The light, space and natural beauty are irresistible.


Erik Satie Museum, Honfleur

Is it a church, or a bar? Bisected room in the Erik Satie Museum, Honfleur
Is it a church, or a bar? Bisected room in the Erik Satie Museum, Honfleur. Photograph: Alamy

A wonderful example of how museums can bring their subjects to life. This is an enjoyable interactive tribute to the composer. One room is bisected by a trail of “wine”, spilt from a chalice. Step on one side and church music plays, illustrating his religious bent; step to the other, and you are surrounded by the sounds of a boisterous cafe. The whole museum is full of secret drawers and strange machines, and is a compelling way of spending a couple of hours.

Le Logis du Roc, Granville

Driving round the 15th-century ramparts of Granville, the satnav tells you to go over the narrow eastern drawbridge. “Surely we can’t fit through there?” But we do, and find ourselves in a maze of tiny 18th-century houses, with Le Logis du Roc B&B in the middle. It’s a narrow, sloping house, full of objects collected by owners Eric and Natalie on their travels to West Africa, Australia, Indonesia and India. Eric is a professional skipper and entertainingly talks of his adventures, while we shared whisky in his living room and watched their TV. We were also welcomed into the tiny bar next door – honorary Welsh guests for the Wales/Portugal, Euro quarter-final.
doubles from €57,
Annette Hames

Coastal walking, Etretat

Walkers on the GR21 near Etretat.

The cliff top path from Etretat to Fécamp via Yport (where you can stop for a bowl of mussels and a glass of cider) is an amazingly beautiful walk. In June there were wild flowers to enjoy, fields of flax just coming into bloom, gardens full of roses, bird song, and views. French footpaths are very well-maintained and signposted, so you can’t get lost and there are buses for your return journey. The whole walk is 17km, but can be shortened.
The walk is on the GR21 from Le Havre:

The 3 Cs – Clécy, Calvados and Caen

The Orne valley near Clécy.
The Orne valley near Clécy. Photograph: Alamy

In 1974 I went to study at Caen University and my memories of that time are of brown and white timbered farmhouses, orchards filled with apple blossom and the taste of fresh baguettes eaten with pont l’évêque cheese and washed down with calvados. I discovered the coast and the D-Day landing beaches, and joined in with the 30th anniversary celebrations on 6 June 1974, dancing the night away. William the Conqueror’s birthplace at Falaise is worth a visit, as is his final resting place in L’Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen, but for a corner of tranquillity head south of Caen to Clécy in La Suisse Normande, to walk, kayak and climb the high rocks in the beautiful Orne valley.
T Sanders


Guardian readers

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Readers' tips: Best holidays in Brittany and Normandy

See contemporary art in the chapels of Morbihan or drawn on Disney appeal to introduce the kids to Mont St Michel – our Been there readers give their top tips for holidays in Brittany and Normandy

25, Jul, 2011 @8:43 AM

Article image
Where to buy fresh food and drink in Normandy and Brittany
The sheer abundance of regional specialities in north-west France makes for a thrilling foodie road trip. We sniff out the best local produce, plus great places to eat, drink – and sleep it off

Carolyn Boyd

22, Jul, 2016 @5:30 AM

Article image
10 of the best beach bars and cafes in Europe: readers’ tips
Our tipsters pick beach bars for lazy summer days, fantastic seafood and one last cold beer near the airport before flying home

Guardian readers

08, Mar, 2019 @1:00 PM

Article image
Best beaches in the UK and Europe: readers’ travel tips
Recently, Bournemouth was rated the UK’s best beach by TripAdvisor but our tipsters prefer quieter sands, picking favourites from Ireland to southern Italy

Guardian readers

07, Mar, 2018 @10:30 AM

Article image
The best walks in northern France: readers' travel tips
Canals, wetlands and amazing coastline in Normandy and Picardy offer great hiking – plus excellent fish cafes and crêperies for refuelling in afterwards

Guardian readers

07, Sep, 2017 @10:45 AM

Article image
Great Brittany: exploring the Emerald Coast
With its belle époque resorts, long empty beaches and medieval castles, the Emerald Coast is big on laid-back charm – and perfect for a family adventure

Carolyn Boyd

13, Jul, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
10 of the best early summer breaks in France: readers' tips
Our tipsters love a pre-season jaunt across the Channel – it’s the perfect time to visit Mediterranean villages and idyllic Atlantic resorts, or to go walking in the French Alps

Guardian readers

10, May, 2018 @11:37 AM

Article image
Readers' travel tips: the best of coastal Italy

Secluded beaches, the best family-run trattoria and welcoming places to stay … Been there readers suggest their favourite places around Italy's coast

16, Apr, 2012 @9:37 AM

Article image
Family campsites in Europe: readers’ tips
Italy’s coast, lakes and mountains are popular among Guardian readers for family camping holidays, but sites in France, Portugal and Switzerland get a look-in too

Guardian readers

26, Jan, 2017 @12:30 PM

Article image
Sicily's best beaches: chosen by readers
From popular beaches where cafes serve fish straight off the boat to nature reserves and hidden coves, our readers pick their favourite places on Sicily’s dramatic coast

Guardian readers

22, Jun, 2017 @11:14 AM