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Greenways of France # 7: The Nantes to Brest canal by bike

From Nantes to Roscoff, a portion of the Vélodyssée crosses the land along the Nantes-Brest canal. A unique opportunity to discover Loire-Atlantique and inland Brittany by bike.

Along the Nantes to Brest canal, over nearly 400 kilometers, a portion of the Vélodyssée crisscrosses through the countryside. This greenway offers an immersion in the heart of natural and cultural heritage of Loire-Atlantique and Brittany. For ten days, cyclists follow the canal and its towpath. The canal structures, the lock trays and the surrounding residences offer a sumptuous journey through time, through unspoiled nature. Simple pleasures, bucolic landscapes and gastronomy await cycling enthusiasts on this green lane of France signposted in both directions.

The Nantes-Brest canal

From Nantes, the City of the Dukes in Loire-Atlantique, to Brest, the City of Ponant located in Finistère, the Nantes-Brest canal crosses the countryside. Marked by 236 locks, the 360 ​​kilometers of the canal meander through valleys, hillsides, marshes and groves. This waterway has the particularity of being fed by a set of weir basins. Only 20% of its layout is artificial. The rest comes from the canalization and development of eight watercourses. This inland waterway, driven by Napoleon, once made it possible to open up central Brittany. Today it has become a marvelous site for walks to be explored by bicycle, on foot or by boat. For discover the Nantes-Brest canal in its entirety, no less than nine steps are necessary.

Flight of locks on the canal
Flight of locks on the canal

The stages of Loire-Atlantique

The first stages of Nantes to Bres canalt train cyclists across the Loire-Atlantique. As soon as you leave the urban area, the cycle route alternates between small roads and sections of greenways. The castles and manors of the Erdre valley loom on the horizon. A stop is essential at the small port of Sucé-sur-Erdre, nicknamed "the pearl of the Erdre". Then the route follows the towpath of the Nantes-Brest canal. Among the locks and lock houses, do not miss that of Quiheix. When you arrive in Blain, contemplate the Château de la Groulais and its magnificent garden. Then place the groves, hillsides and groves which constitute magnificent panoramas. At the gates of Brière, in Guenrouët, the Port-Saint-Clair offers a refreshing break for cyclists. From Guenrouët to Redon, the canal becomes wider in places, until it runs alongside the Redon marsh.

Brière Regional Park
Brière regional natural park

The crossing of Morbihan

Five steps are required to cross Morbihan along the Nantes-Brest canal by bike. Malestroit, Josselin, Rohan, Pontivy and Guerlédan then followed one another. The towns and villages of character are so many charming stages along the canal. A real immersion in the medieval history of this magnificent territory ... Straddling Morbihan and Côtes-d'Armor, nestled in the heart of the Quénécan forest, treat yourself to a break at Lake Guerlédan. With its 12 kilometers in length and 400 hectares in area, it is the largest lake in Brittany. The place is ideal for a swim or a nautical break.

In Pontivy, reflection of the bridge in the Nantes-Brest canal
In Pontivy, reflection of the bridge in the Nantes-Brest canal

The stages of Côtes-d'Armor

In the Côtes-d'Armor, from Guerlédan to Gouarce and Créharer, the Nantes-Brest canal offers a journey between heritage, rurality and industry. The Quénécan forest is indeed home to the Salles forges, witnesses of the region's iron and steel past. As for nature, it is impossible to resist the call of the forests, the region's true green lung. In the heart of the Black Mountains, Lan Bern and Magoar Landes Nature Reserve allows you to discover the biodiversity and preserved species of wet and peaty moors. In Créharer, the leisure center offers sporting challenges and peaceful activities on the water.

Plelauff in the Côtes-d'Armor
The Nantes-Brest canal, at Plelauff in the Côtes-d'Armor

Arrival in Finistère

In Finistère, the Nantes-Brest canal crosses Carhaix, which hosts the Festival des Vieilles Charrues every year. Located at the foot of the Monts d'Arrhée and the Black Mountains, this town has a rich history that goes back thousands of years. Then place in Châteauneuf-du Faou, which overlooks one of the most beautiful meanders of the Aulne. Arriving at Port-Launay, we perceive that the course is soon coming to an end, and that the ocean is not very far. It ends further on in the harbor of Brest, in Landévennec. This small town on the Crozon peninsula is located at the mouth of the Aulne. She is the end point of this wonderful cycling trip along the canal from Nantes to Brest, across Loire-Atlantique and Brittany.

The Nantes-Brest canal passes through Châteauneuf-de-Faou
The Nantes-Brest canal passes through Châteauneuf-de-Faou