There are two kinds of oysters grown in France: the indigenous flat oyster and the imported hollow oyster. The majority of oysters cultivated in Cancale are of the hollow variety as flat oysters have been dying out since the 1970s due to being infected by parasites. The shellfish are grown by individual farmers in a park, whose beds can be seen at low tide; more than 15,000 tonnes are produced each year.
To find out more about the history and production of oyster farming head to La Ferme Marine, a family company where you can see the farmers at work and visit an exhibition of shellfish from around the world; there’s also some very nice shell-inspired jewellery in the on-site shop.
Cook and eat
As you’d imagine, Cancale has a wide range of restaurants where you can sample the ‘king of shellfish’ and the best ones are situated around the port, La Houle; if you’re short on time or cash, buy a tray from a stallholder to take away. Keen cooks should book a cookery lesson at the culinary school of Olivier Roellinger, the now-retired three-star Michelin chef, where you’ll learn how to turn humble seafood into a gastronomic feast.
The old town of Cancale is above the port and here you’ll find the Église Saint-Méen, named after the Welsh saint who settled here in the 6th century. Inside the church is the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires, which recounts the town’s history; it’s from here that the town’s main festival takes place on 15th August, Les Reposoirs, which celebrates the Virgin Mary, the protector of sailors.
Cancale has plenty to offer walkers as the GR34 old customs officer’s path runs along the coast, whether you want to head north around the wild headland of the Pointe de Grouin or west along the Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel. There’s also a choice of beaches.