©Donatienne Guillaudeau

Le Boël and the river Vilaine valley

Towpaths and dramatic cliffs

Peaceful rock-lined riverbanks, excursions that go with the flow, a pause to visit a mill or a lock dripping with flowers…That’s what you’ll find in the river Vilaine valley. This extensive area of unspoilt nature not far from Rennes is covered in oaks and chestnut trees, golden gorse and purple rocks. Are you ready for a walk or a kayak trip?

Discover Le Boël and the river Vilaine valley

One thing’s for sure, the river Vilaine valley is the ideal place for getting out into the fresh air. Whether you’re a walker or a cyclist, this exceptional spot offers a wide choice of routes, all with wonderful viewpoints along the way. Local loops link up with the GR 30 long-distance footpath, so no matter what pace you like to go at, there’s something to suit you. From Pont-Réan, near the slipway and a nine-arch stone bridge that dates back to the 18th century, there’s a circuit of around 10 kilometres that follows winding tracks and towpaths along the bottom of the cliffs. Walkers should allow two and a half hours.

Strolling through the centuries

One of the features of this green valley is the Boël mill, set in a ravine between Pont-Réan and the riverbanks at Guichen. This paddle-wheel watermill, built of red schist, was constructed in 1652, making it one of the oldest in these parts. It has a steeply-sloping roof in order to better withstand rises in the water level. It was restored in the 1960s.

Further south, the winding river has formed a picturesque meander at Bourg-des-Comptes. This peaceful spot, a protected nature reserve, is recognised as one of the most beautiful riverside settings on Brittany’s canals and waterways. The next places of interest are the splendid houses and the Roman remains at Pléchâtel. In the summer, open-air cafés along the banks are buzzing with life.

Paint your days blue, green and white

There’s always something new to discover as you make your way from pine forests to pontoon, on paths that criss-cross the wooded hillsides. From Saint-Senoux, the trail takes you deep into a forest. In Guipry-Messac, a riverside halt provides an opportunity to look round the flourmill and the lovely flower-filled marina that’s been awarded the label ‘Escales d’une rive à l’autre’ (Shore to Shore Riverside Halts). Its quaysides and heritage are a reminder that this is one of the towns on the ‘Route du Sel’ (Salt Route). Salt harvesters and boatmen used this route to bring salt from the salt marshes to Brittany’s big towns. Trade, history and relaxation – you’ll find them all here!

Official website of tourism in Brittany