By Mark Shaw
The Vélodyssée isn’t just long…it’s so long it stretches all the way to Devon! In fact, this incredible Atlantic coats cycling route extends for a full 1,245km, taking in glorious regions like Brittany, Pays de la Loire, Poitiou-Charentes and Aquitaine along the way. What’s more, with more than 80% of the entire route being closed to traffic, it’s an incredibly enjoyable and safe cycling network the whole family can enjoy.
Regardless of age, ability or the amount of time you have available, the opportunities for adventure and exploration are endless. The English leg of La Vélodyssée runs from Ilfracombe to Plymouth – which just so happens to be where you can jump on the ferry to Roscoff and continue your ride into France!
You can find out more about the route at www.velodyssey.com, or read on for just a few of the highlights and recommended legs of the journey.
Roscoff – Carhaix. Begin your journey in Roscoff and slowly make your way to the Bay of Morlaix through Pays Léonard. A glorious greenway then awaits at the Monts d’Arrée, where you’ll be surrounded by stunning countryside as you edge closer toward Carhaix.
Carhaix – Pontivy. The Glomel Cut and the Coat-Natous double lock represent two unmissable sights along this leg of the journey, which you’ll encounter while riding by the Nantes to Brest canal. Take time out to relax by the stunning Guerlédan Lake with a picnic.
Pontivy – Redon. Head inland along the canal-side and explore some of France’s prettiest countryside villages on your way to Morbihan. Stop off at the Medieval Josseline Fortress along with Malestroit and Rohan, before resuming your ride to Redon.
Redon – Nantes. Continue following the Nantes-Brest canal through the Oust Valley and the Redon river port, encountering a rich tapestry of landscapes along the way. The city of Nantes represents a genuine highlight of the trip and warrants full exploration.
Nantes – St-Brevin-les-Pins. When you’ve had your fill of culture, depart Nantes and set out for the beaches and sand dunes of St-Brevin-les-Pins. On the way, the Loire estuary provides a spectacular all-round backdrop.
St-Brevin-les-Pins – Fromentine. After arriving at St-Brevin-les-Pins, you’ll find the lush countryside you’ve grown accustomed to replaced by seaside resorts, a rugged coastline and a generally maritime feel. La Côte de Jade simply must be explored and savoured, before continuing your journey on to Fromentine.
Fromentine – Les Sables. The popularity of Fiefs Vendéens among French families becomes immediately apparent upon arrival. Beautiful beaches, pretty pine forests and the imposing Vendéenne cliffs make for a truly idyllic spot for a family holiday. More than worth spending a night or two, if you have the time.
Les Sables – La Rochelle. La Rochelle’s Old Port is both another of the trip’s major highlights and your destination after setting off from Les Sables. You’ll follow the Marans canal after passing the Sèvre Niortaise River and travelling through the most glorious fairytale setting along the way.
La Rochelle – Royan. The pine forests of Royan, the oyster farm parks of Marennes and the captivating Seudre Marshes all await during this leg of the Vélodyssée. Be sure to leave ample time to explore the royal city of Rochefort, not to mention the area around the Charente estuary.
Royan – Lacanau-Océan. France’s Aquitaine region is simply bursting at the seams with incredible seaside resorts and holiday destinations. Famed for serving up the most idyllic beach life in the country, you could easily lose a week or two in Soulac-sur-Mer, Montalivet-les-Bains, Hourtin or Carcans.
Lacanau-Océan – Arcachon. On your way to Arachon, you’ll follow the Vélodyssée along the Atlantic coastline through pretty fishing villages, oyster farms, salt marshes and so much more. There’s also the simply stunning sight of the natural Parc des Landes de Gascogne along the way.
Arcachon – Léon. The beautiful resorts of Mimizan, Parentic and Biscarrosse must be taken in as you travel from Archachon to Léon – gem of the Courant d’Huchet river. The region is majestically framed by woodlands and lakes, making it a truly magical setting for a break in your journey.
Léon – Bayonne. Swap your bikes for wetsuits and surfboards at the popular surfing beaches of Hossegor and Seignosse, as you follow the Vélodyssée toward Cap Breton. Or for a more relaxing afternoon, unwind in the quaint and quiet villages of Vieux-Boucau and Messanges.
Bayonne – Hendaye. Take in the sights of the French Basque Country capital, before living it up with France’s elite sun-seekers in Biarritz. The Vélodyssée comes to an end at the Bidasoa River, which represents the end of France’s southeast and the beginning of Spain’s northwest.