This canal, the inland waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean and English Channel, passes through the bucolic, romantic Brittany countryside between Rennes and the Rance estuary. Whether by bike, on foot, or on horseback, you’ll enjoy these peaceful journeys stopping occasionally at locks or to take a break in one of the picturesque villages.
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Discover The Ille-et-Rance Canal and the 11 locks at Hédé-Bazouges
How do you move a boat 27 metres uphill? With the aid of 11 locks spread over a little more than 2 km – a technical marvel. Watching boats go up or down this watery staircase is an amazing spectacle. In Hédé-Bazouges, the sight of the locks lining up one after the other is really something To find out more about the site, and canal engineering in general, you can visit the ‘Maison du Canal’ discovery centre in a nearby lock-keeper’s cottage. Inside, models and exhibits illustrate the human and technical challenges faced by the builders of this waterway.
Following the water
On foot or by bike, greenways and cycle paths allow you to travel along beside the canal and admire moorings and footbridges covered in flowers. There are also paths leading away from the canal that you can follow into the countryside if you fancy. The circular footpath to ‘la Rigole de Boulet’ (the Boulet channel) will take you to see this former canal feeder channel that offers much in the way of natural and historical interest. Starting from Saint Domineuc, a cycle path leads you between houses built of clay and beautiful country homes, and, from the same stopping place, you can hire a kayak and paddle your way to Dinan or, if you prefer, just take a short trip to exercise your biceps for a change.
Did you know
The locks are alive and well!
Napoleon ordered the construction of the Ille-et-Rance canal in 1804. Many locks are still manually operated and several lock-keepers’ cottages, with their flower-filled gardens, remain occupied to this day.
Prestigious residences and pretty houses
South of Dinard and Saint-Malo, on each side of the River Rance, beautiful ‘malouinières’, or ship-owners’ mansions, nestle in attractive grounds and gardens. Some of these properties, like the ‘Domaine de Montmarin‘ for example, are open to the public. Further to the south, you’ll be charmed by Léhon, a ‘Petite Cité de Caractère’ (Small Town of Character). Sitting on the banks of the Rance, with its medieval 12th century castle, old stone bridge and Benedictine abbey, dedicated to Saint Magloire, Léhon is picture postcard beautiful. Regular events bring the area’s well-preserved heritage to life. Each year, in mid-September, the ‘Jazz aux écluses‘ (Jazz at the locks) festival in Hédé-Bazouges creates an exciting atmosphere along the banks of the canal.