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Whether you’re on the top of the ramparts of Saint-Malo or on one of the lovely beaches of the seaside resorts which adorn the Emerald Coast, your gaze and thoughts will naturally be drawn towards the sea.
Explore the walled town of Saint-Malo with its imposing ramparts and stroll around the bustling marina. Marvel at the fabulous show provided by the biggest tides in Europe, enjoy walking along fine sandy beaches, treat yourself to some thalassotherapy and soak up the ‘retro’ charm of the seaside resorts of Dinard, Saint-Lunaire and Saint-Briac-sur-Mer.
And why not take a cruise through the heart of the Rance Valley.
The energy and drive of Rennes, the proud capital of Brittany, radiates throughout the entire Region.
The city is well-known for its wealth of art and history. Its elegant, lively, historic districts, its iconic festivals and its environment make it an amazing, attractive place. A carefully orchestrated blend of history, modernity and entertainment…
For a complete change of scenery and pace, take a gentle cruise along the Vilaine. Relax and enjoy the scenery as the boat winds through the countryside past timeless locks, quaint villages and delightful little river ports. Back on dry land, don’t miss discovering the beautiful natural landmarks of Les Corbinières, the Ile-aux-Pies and the Marais de Gannedel.
The historic town and river port of Redon is the capital of this tranquil area, which is a great place to stay.
Fougères is well-known for having the largest medieval fortress in Europe, but it is also home to the Château de Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, which is surrounded by lakes, woodland and meadows. The intrepid path of the river Couesnon leads to the flamboyant artists’ village of Bazouges-la-Pérouse, in contrast to the quiet floral symphony composed by the grounds of the Château de la Ballue and the Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne.
Epic tales and legends of ‘Chouannerie’, the Royalist uprising in the west of France at the end of the 18th century, abound in this area.
Let your imagination run wild in this area which is marked by the memory of Madame de Sévigné, tinged with history and literature, studded with lush scenery and babbling brooks. Its artistic soul is revealed in the magnificent altar pieces and Gothic choir stalls found in the churches of Gennes-sur-Seiche, Domalain, Coësmes and Champeaux.
The wild fragile beauty of the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel wavers between the land and the sea. On one side lies the immense bay, animated by the incessant rise and fall of the tide and studded with mussel farms. On the other side lie fields and moorland, safely tucked behind the shelter of the sea wall known as the ‘Digue de la Duchesse Anne’.
Here the horizon is infinite and the view takes in the outline of Mont-Dol and the spires of the cathedral of Dol-de-Bretagne. Not far from Dol, lies the medieval town of Combourg, dominated by its castle which was once the home of the romantic writer François-René de Chateaubriand.
So, to appreciate the area at its best, make the most of the mild maritime climate and fresh sea air, savour a plate of oysters on the harbourside at Cancale and watch Nature’s spectacular twice daily show across the bay.
Brocéliande Forest is the mythical heart of Brittany and the backdrop to the legend of King Arthur. With its purple moorland, fields and deep valleys, its bewitching charm can be felt throughout Paimpont and neighbouring villages.
The Abbey church at Saint-Méen-le-Grand, the ‘Maison du Patrimoine en Brocéliande’ Heritage Centre at Montfort and the Literary Village of Bécherel are also amazing places to visit.
River trips from the Rance to the Vilaine
The origin of the name Ille-et-Vilaine
The département Ille-et-Vilaine takes its name from the two rivers which run through it : the Ille and the Vilaine which meet in Rennes, the capital of Brittany. From the English Channel to Morbihan on the southern coast of Brittany the waterway presents a wonderful opportunity to discover the châteaux, landmarks, legends and wildlife along its path.
The English Channel to Dinan
Follow the Rance Maritime from the English Channel (Dinard and Saint-Malo) to the lock called ‘L'écluse du Châtelier’ near Dinan, then take the Ille-et-Rance Canal as far as Rennes. Carry on along the river Vilaine through Redon and on to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Rance Valley (La Vallée de la Rance)
A trip through this colourful valley, shaped by the powerful tides, will tell you a lot about the history of this unique area and its inhabitants. Your journey will include spectacular views, tidal mills, fisheries, imposing country houses known as ‘Malouinières’ built by corsairs and ship owners and delightful little fishing villages like Saint-Suliac, voted one of the ‘Loveliest Villages in France’.
The Ille-et-Rance Canal
The construction of the canal, begun in 1832, was one of the most ambitious building projects of the nineteenth century. The 84 kilometre waterway flows through a region rich in chateaux and picturesque villages. At La Magdelaine in Hédé, visitors are treated to the spectacular sight of boats passing through a series of 11 locks in a distance of less than 2 kilometres ! Hédé is also the site of the Maison du Canal d'Ille-et-Rance, a museum and information centre which recounts the history of the canal.
The Vilaine Valley
From Rennes the river Vilaine flows to Redon where several waterways meet. Along the way a wide variety of different landscapes and places of interest can be seen, such as the Boël watermill and lock at Pont-Réan, a popular outing for people from Rennes, Les Corbinières with its tree-lined banks and the charming river marina at Guipry-Messac.
Standing proudly on their natural promontories, the castles of Combourg, Fougères and Vitré, which were the scenes of many battles, jousting tournaments and historic treaties during the great medieval era, remind us that beyond the military architecture beats the heart of Brittany.
The famous castle of Combourg
The romantic author Chateaubriand grew up in the castle of Combourg with its four sturdy towers and impenetrable walls. The Château de Montmuran at Les Iffs with its drawbridge and portcullises was where Du Guesclin was knighted in 1354. The castle at Fougères, which made a great impression on the young adventurer Lawrence of Arabia, has no less than fourteen towers along its ramparts, illustrating the skill and genius of medieval builders.
On your way to visit the castle in Vitré, stop off at the ‘Donjon de Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier’, scene of the famous Battle of la Lande de la Rencontre which marked the end of the Breton struggle for independence from France in 1488.
As you head towards Rennes, the silhouette of the ‘Donjon de Châteaugiron’ invites you to discover the charming character town of Châteaugiron and its magnificent medieval fortress. North-east of Redon, the splendid ‘Tour Du Guesclin’ continues to stand firm against the ravages of time. The impressively high tower with its parapet walk and machicolations is the last intact remains of a fortress which was bitterly fought over during the Hundred Years War. There are many fascinating chapters from medieval history to discover on your travels!
Sources of Romantic inspiration
The castles of Upper Brittany and their sturdy resistance to the passage of time, provided a source of inspiration for authors visiting the region, particularly during the 19th century. Combourg castle remains, of course, inextricably linked to the memory of Chateaubriand, but Fougères and Vitré can also be proud of the fact that they inspired Victor Hugo, Gérard de Nerval and Madame de Sévigné.
Situated at the southern end of the Channel Islands, Jersey enjoys the greatest number of sunshine hours in the British Isles. It lies about 160km south of the British coast, but is only a stone’s throw from Upper Brittany – Ille-et-Vilaine… It has excellent transport links – a 30 minute flight from Dinard or a one hour ferry crossing from Saint-Malo – so it is within easy reach for a day trip or short break during a stay in Upper Brittany, adding a somewhat ‘foreign’ note to your holiday.
For further information, go to www.jersey.com