A village built on water
Between Vannes and Nantes, the fortified village of La Roche-Bernard has dominated the River Vilaine for a thousand years. These days the village is best known for its Michelin-starred restaurant but most people come to wander around its quaint streets and take boat trips down the river.
A prosperous port
La Roche-Bernard was founded by the Viking Lord Bern-Hart around 1000AD due to its strategic position on the River Vilaine. It was thanks to the river that the village became a prosperous port, which was at its busiest in the 19th century. You can find out all about its maritime history – including its role as a centre for building warships in the 17th century – at the Musée de la Vilaine Maritime. Its 21st-century claim to fame is that it’s the location of the highly regarded Michelin-starred restaurant-with-rooms L’Auberge Bretonne.
Ladies who lunch
The best time to visit La Roche-Bernard is on Thursday morning when the market is in full swing. Later, take a walk around its attractive centre where you can watch a potter at work in his studio, blow some glass in Atelier Verre Tout Horizon or learn about bee keeping (and buy some honey) at the Maison de l’Abeille. Stop for lunch at Le Sarah B, housed in an 18th-century grain warehouse on the quayside; the café is a Café de Pays, a label given to venues with an authentic Breton atmosphere.
La Roche-Bernard is a popular destination for fans of water-based tourism. Les Vedettes Jaunes run regular trips down the river as far as the Arzal Dam, which was built in 1970 to allow navigation of the river at all tides. More independent sorts can hire electric boats or barges (no permit needed) or paddle along in a kayak. The Flotille Traditionnelle de la Basse Vilaine is a group of vintage boat owners who take passengers out in their traditional craft.
There’s plenty here to keep keen walkers happy. The GR39 path, which links Mont St-Michel with the Brière National Park, passes through the village. The Sentier des Ponts (bridge trail) is a 3.5 mile (5.7km) path that takes walkers past the Vilaine’s bridges.
Did you know?
In the 16th century, La Roche-Bernard was one of only four Protestant towns in Brittany.
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