©Grégory Mignard

The Nantes to Brest canal

From the city of the Dukes up to North Finistère, the Nantes to Brest canal crosses right in the centre of Brittany. Sailing from locks to locks through a natural reserve, this itinerary will take you to the heart of small picturesque towns as well as to the foot of small harbours and their imposing castles. Dive right into the heart of Brittany!

Waterways peppered with priceless nuggets

Along the blue ribbon of water which spreads over 360 kilometres, the 236 locks – and not one less – set the rhythm for the passing of light water crafts. Tamed by engineering genius, the waterway meanders in some of the most beautiful river valleys of Brittany from the Erdre to the Aulne through to the Vilaine, the Oust and the Blavet. It unravels along the Petites Cités de Caractère® (small picturesque towns), brush against secular abbeys fronted by Bon-Repos as well as against medieval fortresses with Josselin as its crown jewel. The sportiest cyclists will cover the sinuous circuit in a week. Others will tackle this green paradise without haste, stopping according to their whims in the numerous hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts scattered along the way.

Discovering the Nantes to Brest canal on a bike

Distance : 390 km – duration : 1 week

Riding your bike along the canal; the ideal travel solution to enjoy a gentle journey whilst soaking the atmosphere of inland Brittany. Not many highs on this water course… so it is particularly well suited to families. From Nantes to Châteaulin where the tow path ends, you will enjoy a shaded route with little wind and be surrounded by flowers including those adorning the lock houses windows. With the engine switched off, you will be enthralled by the vibrant greenery of the abers and the dales as you sail along as well as by the views over the valleys, the mounts and the coves in the distance. Getting bored? No time for that! The canal undulates like an eel on those contrasting landscapes along charming stopovers such as Malestroit, Josselin, Rohan with Pontivy at its helm. The setting metamorphoses from pastoral one minute to somewhat wilder the next. Prestigious castles, lakes – out of which Guerlédan is the largest in Brittany – as well as a rich heritage of schist and granite provide an unrivalled tableau! Among the lucky few, freshwater mariners, walkers, anglers greet each other, seek the latest news and watch each other hard at work. And far from mundane distractions, they reconnect with the true essence of life.

Want to see the route

Choose the “one way” service

To avoid a fastidious return, specialised agencies offer you bike hire at the point of departure together with a drop off service at the point of arrival.  A gentle train ride and you will eventually be reunited with your car. Wandering spirit: when you have us in your hold! *Please note: this is only available in the direction of Brest-Nantes towards Canal Loisirs (Leisure Canal).

Bikes       Canal Loisirs*

River cruising on the Nantes to Brest canal

Crossing Brittany from North to South? Yes, it is possible. From Nantes to Brest also… but with some adjustments! Sailing from Nantes to Pontivy in a hire boat could not be easier. The next stretch from Pontivy to Carhaix, however, is not navigable. So why not escape to the Blavet river then and sail up to the bay of Lorient? If you have your own boat, however, you can navigate through the Finistère part of the canal, starting in Port-Launay and sailing down to Carhaix.

Sailing could not be easier!

If you have never rowed, rowed, rowed your boat, gently down the stream, it does not matter! From early April to late October, you can sail safety by hiring a permit-free leisure boat, an electric boat or a small barge; the boat hire company will teach you everything you need to know before you start your journey. Your will then confidently raise anchor for a weekend, a week or even longer (the main boat hire companies can be found in St Martin sur Oust, Glénac, Redon and Sucé-sur-Erdre).

Canal boating in Brittany

Suggested itineraries

Over a weekend

  • From Glénac to Malestroit – 55 km – 11 hours of sailing – 10 locks
  • From Messac to La Gacilly via Redon, Ile-aux-Pies, La Gacilly and return – 18 hours of sailing – 120 km – 6 locks

 Over 4 to 5 days:

from Glénac to Josselin – 105 km – 23h of sailing – 30 locks

 Over a week:

  • From Guipry-Messac to Nantes via Redon, La Roche Bernard, Guenrouët, Blain, Nort-sur-Edre, Sucé-sur-Erdre, Nantes and return : 280 km – 44 hours of sailing – 36 locks 
  • One way from the Nantes to Brest canal to the Ille-et-Rance canal: Saint-Martin-sur-Oust, l’île aux Pies, Redon, Langon, Messac, le Boël/Pont Réan, Rennes, Melesse – 140 km – 27 locks

Paddling and rowing straight ahead!

Canoe, kayak and stand-up paddle enthusiasts will be able to indulge their passion on the canal. Between Saint-Péran and la Pie for example, in the Armorican Coast area of the canal, an active journey with thrilling sensations awaits canoe-kayakers. Adapted glides enable users to quickly cross locks and hop! Here it is…a clever combination of sporting activity and fun.

Looking for ideas? Why not discover Finistére on your canoe-kayak!

Start your journey in Châteauneuf-du-Faou and plan a stopover in Pont-Coblant. From there, head for Châteaulin, where, in the Observatory situated in the middle of town, you will be privileged enough to encounter the natural heritage and migratory fishes of the region. Salmon, shad, sea lamprey…be careful, they all have their own season to swim up the stream!

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Official website of tourism in Brittany