Saint-Malo - Mont Saint-Michel Bay

  • Saint-Malo
  • Dinard
  • Dinan

Stretching from Mont Saint Michel – often simply called ‘La Merveille’ or ‘The Wonder’ – to Saint Malo, the Emerald Coast boasts some of the highest tides in Europe. These tides mean you can take long walks in the sea air, on shorelines whose outstanding heritage is handed to you on a plate, garnished with oysters, mussels – and castle fortresses.

Unmissable sites

Destination

Mont-Saint-Michel à vélo

Be amazed!

The eighth wonder of the world needs no introduction. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this gem of nature and architecture is the most visited site in France. But did you know that an exceptionally high spring tide recently caused Mont Saint Michel to become an island again? The high point of its beauty is the abbey, which you can visit at night in summer, set to music and light. But don’t rush straight up there. First take a guided tour of the bay, on foot or on horse-back, at nightfall, when the tide is coming in, accompanied by an ornithologist or shepherd. You’ll see a beautiful postcard image come to life before your eyes.  

Saint-Malo - Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel — Carte
Saint-Malo

Raid Saint Malo’s history

Nicknamed the Corsair City, Saint Malo has a long connection with explorers and long-haul sailors; Jacques-Cartier, Surcouf and Duguay-Trouin all grew up here. The walled town is built like a stone ship facing out to sea, with its ramparts standing proudly over long beaches and a lively port. To relive its turbulent past and the epic saga of its great historical figures, take a walk along the ramparts, climb aboard a unique sailing ship, or go inside one of themalouinières, the impressive homes of former wealthy ship-owners. It’s all part of Saint-Malo’s heritage.

Saint-Cast-le-Guildo

Next stop – the beach

Coves, inlets, tiny strips of sand; the Emerald Coast offers beaches in every shape and form. Why ‘Emerald’? The name comes from the distinctive colour of the sea here. The fine sand, waves and castles are the main attractions of the seaside resorts along the coast, whose elegant Belle Époque villas are much admired. Among the most popular seaside towns are Cancale, Dinard, Saint-Lunaire, Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, Lancieux, Saint-Cast-le-Guildo and Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer. The resorts offer a gentle pace of life and a wide range of activities for all the family.

Dinan

Go medieval in Dinan

Hear ye, good people! Behind the walls of the fortified town of Dinan, the Middle Ages are back! Built on a hill high above the Rance valley, the town still has 3 km of ramparts, four impressive gates, 15 towers and a lattice of cobbled streets lined with beautiful half-timbered houses. Every other summer, the Fête des Remparts brings Dinan’s golden age back to life, with traditional costumes and performances. From Dinan, carry on up to Léhon, designated a Small Town of Character thanks to its rich historical heritage, which includes an abbey-church attached to a former monastery and the ruins of a castle-fortress. The Middle Ages are here in all their glory!

Langrolay-sur-Rance

The Rance, between land and sea

The Rance, which flows into the English Channel, is a tidal river, and the landscapes around it change with the tides. Going from Dinard to Saint Malo, a walk in the Rance valley will take you through picturesque towns and past prettymalouinières(ship-owners houses). Don’t miss the small port of Saint-Suliac, classed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. Then take to the river. From the deck of a cruise boat you can spot tide mills, shipyards, ship cemeteries, and much more. In Dinan, a visit to the Maison de la Rance discovery centre, with activities for all the family, makes for the perfect end to a fascinating trip.

Léhon — Cité de Caractère

History in the heart of town

Step away from the beaches and use the tops of the church steeples as landmarks to guide you to little towns full of character. Their striking civic and religious architecture tells the story of the region’s rich and unusual history. Start your tour at the Gallo-Roman remains in Corseul, travel back in time by crossing the moat of La Hunaudaye castle fortress, the perfect spot for children to play at being knights. Then make a detour to the unfinished Dol-de-Bretagne cathedral, a jewel of Breton Gothic architecture, before stopping for a quiet moment at the romantic fortress of Combourg, the childhood home of the author Châteaubriand.

Cancale

A natural haven

The headlands of Pointe du Grouin and Cap Fréhel, together with Mont Saint Michel Bay, are three sites of exceptional natural beauty carved into Brittany’s coastline. They are wild, invigorating and full of poetry in every season. Colonies of rare birds and a variety of plants have found an ideal refuge here. Off the coast of Cancale, you might see dolphins playing. The best way to appreciate the peace of these vast open landscapes is by bike or on foot; explore via the greenways, the ‘Grande Randonnée’ (GR) long-distance footpaths or the ‘Velodyssey’ or ‘Tour de Manche’ cycle routes. The heritage centres along the way make interesting pit stops. Look out for the Maison des Faluns, the Maison des Polders and the Maison Pêche et Nature discovery centres.

Huîtres de Cancale

A taste of the sea

Order a platter of seafood, with Cancale oysters taking centre stage, and taste the freshness of the sea; all you need is a wedge of lemon on the side, and a drop of white wine to wash it down. Another local culinary treat is thebouchotmussel farmed in Mont Saint Michel Bay, which carries the AOP label (Appellation d'Origine Protégée). Two other local specialities areMouton pré salé(from sheep left to graze in salt marshes) and salted caramel. The local gastronomy, while influenced by the sea, has plenty to offer if you’ve got a sweet tooth, including thecraquelin(a very light wheat cracker) and the Dinangavotte(a crispy, crêpe-like biscuit). Why not take a course and learn how to make Breton biscuits yourself?

Route du Rock — Saint-Malo

Diary dates

Whether you love books, films or music, it’s time to get out your diary. Saint Malo hosts an annual celebration of rock music, the Route du rock festival, and every four years it hosts the Route du Rhum single-handed yacht race. The best of contemporary cartoon artwork is on show at the Quai des Bulles festival. For world literature, drop anchor at the Etonnants Voyageurs festival. The British Film Festival takes place in Dinard and the Mont Saint Michel marathon is run over an exceptionally beautiful route.

Barrage de la Rance

A barrage on the Rance

Fifty years ago, the Rance tidal power station made France home to the world’s first source of green electricity, generated by sea power. The positioning of the plant was quite deliberate; Mont Saint Michel Bay records the highest tides in Europe, and their power is harnessed to provide electricity for 225,000 inhabitants per year! Housed in a 750 metre-long barrage, the power station can’t be visited but a newly refurbished discovery centre brings you pretty close to the real thing, with models, videos and a panoramic view of the inside of the engine room.  

Brittany experiences

Things to see, Things to do

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