Brittany is in Northwestern France. It’s history dates to Roman times and it’s Celtic roots from the 6th century. The culture centers around agriculture: dairy and apple product. Seafood also plays an important part of Brittany’s lifestyle. The coastal region around St Malo has a history of pirates, which is celebrated to this day. There are few actual cycle paths, to this day; however, there are some quiet D Roads which are quite pleasant and scenic on which we based our ride.
Our Prologue Stage begins at Heathrow Airport and ends in St Malo 10.3 km of riding.
We had flown with our bikes from the US and landed at Heathrow Airport. After picking up our bikes and bags, we cycled to nearby Feltham Rail Station. This was not far and even though we were jet lagged, we had no problem with this ride. We then caught a train into the heart of London and then onto another train to Portsmouth, in the south. From Portsmouth train station. we rode to the port to catch an overnight ferry to St Malo, Brittany. We had booked a cabin and after hours without sleep, we slept very well. Next morning, we docked at St Malo and it was just a short ride from the ferry landing to the walled city.
Since it was too early to check in, we just left our bags and did some sight seeing, as well as enjoying a leisurely breakfast. St. Malo was known as the home of the Corsairs, pirates who were granted licenses by the king of France to plunder merchant ships on the ocean. Fortifications surround the old city, displaying the protection made necessary by hundreds of years of invasions. Today, tourists roam the ramparts and the beaches.
Stage One: St Malo to Cancale 26,3 km
We leave through on of St Malo’s gates and are on a bike lane around the harbor, then join the D201. No major climbs today; but, there are hills. These are nice, fairly quiet roads. We are following signs to Cancale and Rotheneuf. The sea is to our let. This is a “D” road but it’s also known as Avenue President Kennedy. We decided to make a stop at Rochers Sculptes. The outdoor beachside statuary was carved between 1893 and 1909. The artist, Abbot Adolphe Fouéré, who was deaf and dumb, spent the last years of his life carving nearly 300 statues from the granite overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Tourists are treated to gallery of totems, saints, birds of prey and the abbot himself sitting on a engraved armchair.
After a visit, we head on for a stop at Pointe du Grouen. This promontory offers quite the panorama, as well as being a nationally protected area and bird sancturary. This was a good picnic area and we found lots of great photo opportunities.
Then we doubled back to the D201 for the final leg into Cancale. This is a nice downhill to the town center and beach. Here you can stop by the stalls selling freshly harvested oysters from just off shore. Cancale has been famous for its oysters since the time of Julius Caesar.
Stage Two: Cancale to Dol de Bretagne 22,1 km
We start the day with a climb back up to the D201. What did we expect? It was such a nice downhill into town, we knew we would pay for this. There are rolling hills today; but, this is really the only big climb. Once we join the D201, there was quite a lot of traffic; but we were off to the side. After only a few kilometers, we get to turn off on quieter D roads. We need to watch carefully for signs along these roads as they can be easily missed. When we see the Le Clos sign, we make a left, instead of going up the steep hill. We ride on through St Benoit des Onde. At the main street, along the beach in St Benoit, we make a right. Soon we are turning away from the beach. There are several roundabouts and we continue through Hirel on the D7. When we reach a junction with lots of options, we follow the sign to Mont Dol and make a right. There is a little incline to pass the church and then under some rail tracks, then up to a junction and under rail tracks once again. A bit convoluted. We’ve reached Dol de Bretagne. And we’re working our way toward the rail station because the place we’re staying is near there. A few more intersections and a roundabout and we are there. Dol de Bretagne was built around a monastery founded by one the seven monks who brought Christianity to the region in the sixth Century. The town is still surrounded by part of its Medieval wall. And a walk through the old streets gives you a glimpse of Medieval Dol. A short ride from Dol de Bretagne is the tallest standing stone in Brittany. It’s called the Menhir du Champ Dolent, nearly 10 meters high and made of solid granite, it weighs about 50 tons. Many local legends surround its origin, but it most surely was somehow transported 4 kilometers to its present site. After checking in and leaving our bags, we couldn’t resist riding out to take a look.
Stage Three: Dol de Bretagne to Mont St Michel 31,2 km
Mostly a lowland ride today. Yesterday we were treated to sunny skies and hot weather; but, today we awoke to rain. We were not in a big hurry to slog through it, so we got a later start and retraced our steps to Mont Dol, where we stopped for a cup of hot coffee. Leaving Mont Dol, we headed out in a different direction, folowwing signs to Cherreuix. We pass by little clusters of stone farm buildings & houses. We meet the D85 and then turn left onto the D797. We ride through St-Broladre to the “T” junction…and make a left; still on the D-797
This incline is our only climb of the day, but it’s hardly a challenge. This puts us in farmland and polders. We ride through Colombel and past Le Petite St Michel and keep moving past La Poultiere and some campgrounds. We turn left to go into the polders at La Quatre Salines and a quiet road. We cross a the junction ahead and then over a little bridge. This is Beauvoir. And here we enter a cycle path. The skies had cleared and we stopped to pick up some picnic supplies and take advantage of one of the thoughtfully provided tables along the cycle path. Then we’re on our way for the final stretch into Mont St Michel. We enter the causeway that leads across the bay to the monument that is Mont St Michel. What a fantastic view!
After the parking lot and just before the town, we dismount to walk our bike up and up through the narrow and crowded streets to our hotel. We checked in and used the afternoon to tour the Monastery and roam the streets, taking pictures. Mont St-Michel has been a pilgrimage destination for a millennium. Construction began in the 10th century and the views from the top of this “rock” are astounding. From here, you can look out over the Bay of St-Michel and view the Cuesnon River and the famous tides. The salt marshes are also noted for treacherous quicksands. There are hoards of tourists during the day; but, we found it very pleasant and quiet in the evening, after nearly all the tourists had left.
Stage Four: Mont St Michel to Combourg 43,8 km
We retraced you ride on the causeway and the cycle path. Today’s ride will include some short, but challenging, hills. We are heading toward Ponterson. We ride past the mill of Moidrey and the town of the same name. We are beside a busy highway and then up an incline on a path that takes us over the hightway. Then we continue on, through a roundabout and then into and through Ponterson. We pass through another larger roundabout and then cross a bridge over the Cuesnon river; after which we turn and ride beside the river, to our left. Now we’re going to Vieux Veil…on the D83 and then the D91. Mostly undulating hills so far. The church steeple in pretty Vieux Veil is our guide. Behind the church we continue on the D83. We see our first direction sigh for Combourg. Ahead is our hill challenge for today. At the summit of this quiet hill climb, we turn on the D91 and head toward Bazouges-la-Pérouse. Much of this road is straight on and through woods. We climb up into Bazouges-la-Pérouse. Shortly after, there’s a standing stone with a cross. Then another incline to Le Trois Criox. Next, we will be riding through Noyal-sous-Bazouges on the D87. It is during the lovely extended lunch that the French enjoy and the town is quiet. We exit on a downhill. More hills and farms. We ride on till we meet a busy roadway, where we cross carefully at the stop sign. Combourg is not far now. And as soon as we enter Combourg, there’s a green striped bike lane picks up, so that’s a welcome sight.
We enter town and turn left to go directly in front of the pretty church. The Château is on the hill up ahead. Our hotel was right beside Lac Tranquille.
This quiet little town has only one main street. We explored the chateau and grounds and the lakeside and were introduced to what a delight a Breton crepe and cider can be.
Stage Five: Combourg to Hédé 18,3 km
This is a short ride today with only a couple hills into towns. We cross over the bridge, leaving the Combourg Centre Ville and then take a left, and then immediately, a right. Right away, we’re in the countryside; treated to birdsong. We continue on the roadway through Dingé on the D82. It was a non challenging incline to Dingé, and then a downhill, after. We continue on toward Bazouges-sous-Hédé. There’s farmland with rolled hay to our left… and woods to our right. We ride through Bazouges-sous-Hédé and then on toward Hédé on the D87. We cross a pretty little bridge and we are heading toward one of France’s canals. There was a sign pointing toward Magdalene, which is one of the ecluses. An ecluse being a Lock. We reach the ecluse de la Parfrere, ecluse number 24. This is the area of the Onze Ecluses, eleven ecluses. From the bridge you can look both ways up and down the Ile de la Rance canal and count the locks. The old towpath has been upgraded for hiking and cycling. We paused for a photo op at the Lock, before the climb into Hédé. Our route was a back way into Hédé, and has little traffic; but you’ll need your climbing legs. After the Col Verte, the lake, a pub, restaurant, we come to the stop sign and make a hard right and it takes you kind of double-back and downhill. You can see the ruin up on the hill and a pond on our right. After a downhill ride, we arrive at our hotel, le Vieux Moulin; built on the site of an ancient Mill. We checked in an then headed out on foot to explore the 13th Century ruins,perched on a hill overlooking the valley.
Once a Roman fortification, the castle was demolished in the 15th by Henry IV. Today, these ruins and the view of the valley are all that remain. The small town of Hédé grew up around the town square with a church dating back to the 11th Century.
Stage Six: Hédé to Pleugueneuc 42,2 km
Next morning, we climb up the hill, turn right, pass over a bridge that goes over the autoroute and take the first curving right. We will be making several side trips today. We follow quiet roads through St. Symphorien. We pass the church and then a bit of a downhill on the D221. We pass through some woods and soon we’re entering St. Brieuc-des-Iffs and then on D81 toward Les Iffs. At St. Brieuc we pass the church and make a right, for a side trip. We have a bit of a climb to reach Château Montmoran. There has been a Château on this hill since 1032. The original was destroyed in 1168, but was rebuilt to its present state later in the 12th Century. After a stop by this photogenic Château, we retrace our way down the lane. Our next stop is at Les Iffs. A friendly local told us where to pick up the massive keys which gave us a private entry to the Church. Tiny Les Iffs was nearly deserted. It’s well worth the stop to see the spectacular 16th century stained glass in the old church.
We then headed out again through Cardroc and then on toward Becherel and Miniac. A few more ups and downs, before making a right on to the D27 toward Dinan and Becherel. We turn off left toward Miniac and Bécherel on the D220 and a steady incline. We keep going; bypassing both Miniac and Becherel and heading through Miniac-sous-Becherel. Then it’s on to the Park du Château de Caradeuc. Built in the 18th Century, the Château has an elegant regency façade and is set in one of the largest classical park settings in France. We made a short stop to visit the Château grounds and then headed up the hill to St-Pern, Plousne. Then we ride on through St-Pern on the D62. Soon we’re heading into Plouasne on the D12. We have another climb into the wind and then another descent. We ride the road and not the trail through Le Quiou. Then straight through Evran, on the D39. Then it is onward to ride over the Canal Ile de Rance on a little bridge. We have some pleasant riding on quiet roads, past stone farmhouses toward Château Bourbansais. We ride through Pleugueneuc, and we pause for a wonderful view of the Château Bourbansais. We turn toward La Croix Juhal. We had picked a quiet B&B off a D road. This was complete with many antiques. We settled in and later road to the nearby town of for dinner. The biggest, and only, tourist attraction here in Pleugueneuc is the Château Bourbansais: a zoological garden, a park, and a Château. With pointed turrets and tent-roofed pavilions, the grounds are the main attraction. The garden opens out onto 250 acres of parkland and a zoo that is home to several endangered species. We chose to view from afar.
Stage Seven: La Bruyere to Dinan 14,2 km
We planned an early start; right after we had petite dejeuner(breakfast). Our goal is to get to Lanvallay before they shut the roads for Tour de France. So we want to get across, to our hotel, leave our bags and come back to watch the Tour events. We’re taking the direct “D” road just to save time. We head out on the D794 and continue straight on this road, past the turnoff to St. Malo. After that turnoff we go up a small incline which takes us up over the top of a autoroute. There’s no bike lane on this busy “D” road but there is a white line at the side and a tiny shoulder, but we’re sticking to that. And the cars have been very accommodating. We enter Lanvallay and ride to the main street. Continue out of town to the big roundabout. And follow the sign on the D795 to Dinan. At the first “Y”, we take the right downhill and there looms Dinan up on the hill. The Port of Dinan is to our right on the river.
There’s the tall bridge and a lower bridge. This is very picturesque. We took the lower bridge at the Port. This is the most direct & scenic route to our hotel; but the most arduous. The cobbles were slippery and wet. It is nearly straight up and difficult enough to walk without slipping; let alone ride. What a relief to finally reach the central square and catch our breath. Our hotel was just down a side street. We had time to check in and then look for a good vantage point for the Tour de France entourage. The first riders in a breakaway appear and then all the brilliant colors of the riders in the peloton stream over the high bridge. The color and spectacle were quite the sight to see. It was all over so quickly.
We then took the time to leisurely start again at the birthplace of Dinan, the Port, and wander the roads between the Port and the Old Town, which are lined with half-timbered buildings, medieval dwellings and shops. The town is surrounded by a medieval wall and ruins of a 13th Century Chateau. A walk on the ramparts gives a great view of the Rance Valley.
Stage Eight: Dinan to St Malo 28,1 km
We left Dinan on a wonderful sunny morning and took the more less direct non-cobbled route down the hill out of town. It takes us past the town square where they have a wonderful market every Thursday. Soon we reach the Port of Dinan and pass the lovely stone bridge that we crossed when we originally entered town. We’re riding beside the River Rance. The Piste Cyclable should be up ahead here. This is one of the rare cycle paths we encountered in Brittany. This one had both paved and dirt sections and was very pleasant riding this morning and had several tables for picnics. We pass by St-Samson-sur-Rance. Up ahead is a marina and then a harbor. We pass by a modern ecluse (lock) and a modern ecluse keeper’s house before diverting from the river for a little climb. We are on the D57 until we reach a stoplight, where we make a right turn toward Plouer-sur Rance, where we ride through, then cross a bridge over the auto route. From here there are a few more ups and downs along the way. At the top of another hill we turn right, joining the D12 and have another descent. Then it is on through Langrolay-sur-Rance. We leave the D12 when we enter Le Minihic-sur-Rance on the D114 and pass the church. Then we see our first signpost for St Malo. We leave Le Minihic with orchards to our right and left. Then cross over Le Richardais on the D114 and the river is down below us. Just ahead is a major road. We cross with the light and are officially in Dinard, where we ride down to the beach and we make a right turn and ride along this promenade. The ferry office is just a few meters off the road. We were just in time for the next crossing. This is a passenger/bike only ferry. The crossing only takes about fifteen minutes, dropping us off right next to the St-Malo ramparts.