Unique about this trip
More than 600 km/375 mi long, mainly along rivers
The ‘Vélo Francette’: a new, uninterrupted bike route in West France. The route is completely marked and follows the rivers and other waterways for the greater part. Cycling is going to be lovely along beautiful towns and picturesque villages through an unspoiled part of France, following the five divers stages. This is ‘slow travel’, in its literal sense!
Stage 1: The Orne Valley from Ouistreham to Domfort (126 km)
The ‘Vélo Francette’ starts from the Norman D-Day beaches of WW ll via Caen and Flers to Domfrontais. In the hills, jokingly called ‘La Suisse Normande’ (Norman Switzerland), you follow the winding valleys of the rivers Orne, Noireau and la Varenne and you pass the iconic ‘Roche d’Oetre’. The tracks and deserted country roads often offer a 360 degree view of the typically Norman landscape
Stage 2: The Mayenne Valley from Domfort to Angers via Laval (174 km)
This longer route follows no less than four different, lovely meandering rivers: The Varenne, Mayenne, Oudon and Maine.
You individually travel to the point of departure: Ouistreham or Caen. The sea side resort Ouistreham, situated on the Channel and well known for its D-Day beach ‘Sword’ of WW ll, is the official start of the ‘Vélo Francette’. The choice of historic Caen, situated more than 10 km inland, is rather practical: easier to reach by train and a shorter route the next day.
First follow the old tow path along the canal de l’Orne that connects the coast with Caen. On the way admire the Pegasus bridge, a historic place in WW ll. A track takes you, along the marina, to the town of which the history goes back to the time of William The Conqueror. Caen is well known for its castle, abbeys and ‘Mémorial’, the important war museum. After that you follow a track to the south along the L’Orne that leads you into the green hills of ‘Suisse Normande’. You follow a deserted railway, an Eldorado for nature lovers. After Thury-Harcourt you reach Clécy on the banks of the river L’Orne. When staying in Caen, todays tour is 41 km.
Challenge : 57km or 41km, 176m ascent, 144m descent.
On the way to Flers you follow a beautiful country route straight across the hilly ‘Suisse Normande’. The route first leads you along the winding river L’Orne that later on makes way for the Noireau. Until the Condé-sur-Noirreau the river valley is surrounded by steep hills. You have to climb considerably when you leave the valley. When however the Mont de Cerise comes into sight the route shows more mercy for the calves and you reach Flers with its beautiful castle. 2 options for today.
Challenge : 45km, 395m ascent, 546m descent OR 43km, 495m ascent, 347m descent.
As soon as you leave Flers the route leads you via a relaxed descent to the valley of the river Varenne. You can still see that besides agriculture there used to be mining. A wonderful track, often quite close to the river, takes you along historic places like Moulin de Varenne, Moulin d’Amboise and Pont des Planches. This cyclists’ paradise is heaven. In Ambrière-les-Vallées you take a last look at the Varenne and you continue your way along the bank of the Mayenne to the town of the same name.
Challenge : 65km, 117m ascent, 214m descent.
After a visit to the historic town of Mayenne, with its castle, the history of which goes back to Carolingian times, you go through the Mayenne valley full of splendid scenery. It’s a relaxed and umbrageous route that follows the former tow path along the river . You pass old, characteristic lock houses, monumental mansions and villas. The tour ends in Laval, a ‘Ville d’ Art et d’ Histoire’ where you have plenty of time left for a stroll along all the beautiful historic heritage.
Challenge : 35km, 45m ascent, 120m descent.
The start of this route offers amazing views of Laval with its two castles. The railway bridge with its nine arches, connecting the eastern Mayenne bank with the town centre and its port, has an separate track for cyclists and hikers. Before going further through the scenic beauty of the Mayenne Valley you should admire just south of town the well known Abbey of Port Salut, the name of which is linked to the creamy cheese of the same name.
Challenge : 35km, 60m ascent, 53m descent.
After each bend the Mayenne Valley surprises you again and again; a beautiful castle, somewhat further on an antique water mill. The village ports along the bank invite you to take a short break. Before Le Lion- d’Angers you cycle through the picturesque L ‘Isle Briand with its castle and world famous stud farm. After the confluence of the Mayenne and Oudon you cross a very special swamp. You reach the historic Anjou town Angers via Jean Moulin’s bridge. The country atmosphere is still perceptible/tangible.
Challenge : 58km, 74m ascent, 88m descent.
ou leave Angers through a park along the Maine. Having arrived at Bouchemaine, with its pleasant restaurants, you follow the Loire eastward. After crossing the river a magnificent tour close to the royal river lies ahead of you. After Gennes you stay on the south bank of the Loire. Near Saint-Hillaire-Saint-Florent there is a moderate climb across the system of canals cut out of tuff stone where the ‘Champignons de Paris’ are cultivated. After this you enter Saumur, the pearl of Anjou.
Challenge : 67km,135m ascent, 126m descent
From Saumur you follow a pleasant track along the river Thouet. Along quiet country roads you cycle among sloping vineyards to Montreuil-Bellay situated somewhat higher. This charming fortified little town rightly figures on the list of ‘most beautiful villages of France’. In a very relaxed way you go via Taizon to Thouars, a ‘Ville d’Art’ where travellers once had to pay toll to cross the bridge. Nowadays nothing stands in your way to enter the town free and for nothing and look for a good (outdoor) café.
Challenge : 47km, 127m ascent, 57m descent
You leave town along the river bank and enjoy the splashing rapids, the closely wooded slopes and the picturesque, monumental buildings. You arrive via quiet tracks at the village of Airvault with its monastery, covered market and subterranean well. Somewhat further on you are surprised by St-Loup-sur-Thouet with its moated castle. On Lac du Cébron you can relax comfortably before going on along the river. After a railway viaduct you reach, higher up, the medieval fortified town of Parthenay.
Challenge : 67km, 496m ascent, 419m descent
You travel south west through the somewhat hilly Pays Gatine. After many a bend you are rewarded by beautiful views of the original hedge country. Via quiet roads you go to the surprising Champdeniers-St-denis with its beautiful heritage and excellent facilities. You continue your way and near Ternanteuil you reach again the banks of the Sèvre Niortaise. There is one big bend before Niort comes into sight dominating the horizon with its donjon and two enormous towers.
Challenge : 54km, 300m ascent, 449m descent
You stay close to the side of the winding Sèvre Niortaise, following alternatively footpaths and country roads. On the way Rousille and La Garette offer excellent possibilities to have a break. You can consider to take a somewhat longer break in Marais Poitevin: the beautiful riverside village Coulon, where you find several restaurants. After crossing the vast, surrounding swamp you get, after Irleau, to the river again canalized near Damvix. It’s your guide to the Atlantic Ocean.
Challenge : 63km, 45m ascent, 61m descent
First, on the way to the ocean, you follow the canals of Marans and Rompsey. The destination is La Rochelle, the capital of Charente-Maritime energetic/vibrant and full of character, well known for its mild climate. This relaxed track of course deserves an appropriate grand finale: a dive into the Atlantic Ocean. After all there is enough time left for a walk to the lively Vieux Port full of outdoor cafés, busy shopping streets and many town monuments.
Challenge : 27km, 27m ascent, 30m descent
After breakfast, end of your cycling trip. Some time left? We advise you to extend your stay in order to take the time to visit the beautiful Île de Ré.
All accommodations are carefully selected because of their location, atmosphere and/or unique services.
We choose comfortable 2*/3* hotels or B&Bs where all rooms have private en-suite bathroom and every morning breakfast are included.
For this trip you can choose between Comfort and Comfort +. The accommodations for a Comfort+ trip, will be in 3*/4 * hotels wherever possible (supplement applied).
13 Nights included
2/3 Star Hotels or 3/4 Star Hotels (supplement applied)
Tourist tax included
Breakfast included, Halfboard optional on request
Maps and tourist information on all the places of interest
24/7 Bilingual Emergency hotline
Luggage transport to your next accommodations
Parking informations on request
GPS tracks are available on request
The closest airport is Rennes. This airport is served by both major and low-cost international carriers and can be easily reached by local transport, which is affordable and offers a frequent service. But it is better to arrive in Paris airports. From Paris you will have more train (and faster) for Caen train station.
If you start from Ouistreham, you can take a train to Caen and then a bus to Ouistreham (journey is about 35 min). Check this website for timetable and tickets: https://www.twisto.fr/
From Paris to Ouistreham (approx. 2h45 – 245 km/152 mi). For driving routes see the website ViaMichelin: https://www.viamichelin.co.uk/