Our cycling trip began with an overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo, and after this sleepy start, we began in earnest – cycling off the ferry onto French soil where we’d spend the following week pedalling past the beautiful coastline, canals and villages of north-east Britanny.
But that early morning start in St Malo took us by surprise – believing we were invincible, we suddenly realised that we had taken a wrong turning at a roundabout and were heading north rather than our intended south. So, for the remainder of our trip, we decided we would make full use of a map and the IGN cycling map for this area was a godsend, helping us to plot our route each day and plan where we would pitch our tents and buy our food and locally produced cider.
Leaving St Malo, we headed due south to follow the course of the Ille et Rance Canal, visiting the grey, yet pretty Dinan and small towns such as Tinténiac and Hédé, where we set up camp alongside a lock-keeper’s cottage. The next day, heading north-east through forests and agricultural land, we reached the hilly town of Combourg, which had a resplendent palace and fine French cuisine.
After refuelling in Combourg, we headed in the direction of Mont St Michel. Prior to our arrival, the steep slopes downhill allowed us to rest our legs and take in the magnificent views of Mont St Michel in the distance. The place is beautiful, full of history and definitely worth a visit – but I wouldn’t recommend taking your bike there, unless you want to push it all the way up to the cathedral, through groups of British schoolchildren, along the steep, narrow streets of the island.
The remainder of our cycling adventure followed the coastline back to the ferry terminal, taking in Dol-de-Bretagne (where there is a hill-top belvédère, or viewpoint, from where you can take in the sights of the surrounding villages and countryside), Cancale (excellent beaches and seafood) and St Malo, which is definitely worth visiting for its port atmosphere, old streets and shops and restaurants. You could even try the town’s specialist absinthe bar, if you really want to derange your senses.
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Author: Tim Cleary