Le Grand Tour: Day 23 – Morlaix To Gouarec (98km)

CURRENT LOCATION: Camping de Gouarec

Today was planned to be a short cycle of 50km. In ended up being the second longest cycle yet at 98km. If nothing else, it will work wonders on the daily average which had dipped down to 75km. I need to get it back up to 80km+ to be in with a realistic chance of making it back to Rotterdam before the return ferry sets off on September 3rd. 

After an initial short, sharp climb out of Morlaix to the disused railway line that heads south (to Concarneau on the west coast if you were to follow it all the way), it was back to the familiar landscape of the Voie Verte, albeit with some deeper cuttings and more frequent bridges than had been the case as I made my was across the relatively flat Veloscenie a couple of weeks ago. Bearing on mind the hilly terrain of Brittany, that came as no surprise. I cracked on with the cycling thinking ahead to tomorrow when I would be able to experience something different, beside the Nantes-Brest Canal. 

Arriving at my ‘destination’ at around 1:30pm, I headed off to the Leclerc supermarket to buy some lunch, receiving a reprimand in the process from the woman supervising the self-checkouts for having brought my bike into the building. I had noticed her being torn between running after me and staying at her post to discover any local self-bagging pilferers but I wandered off in the direction of the fruit and veg ignoring her calls of ‘Monsieur! Monsieur!’. When I got back to the self-checkouts she pounced telling me that next time I couldn’t put my bike there. I did point out to her that as a travelling cyclist, it was unlikely I would ever come back to that branch of Leclerc in the future. She smiled rather than call for security. Phew!

Outside the supermarket I bumped into two friendly Dutch people. They noticed I was cycling a Koga bike and we quickly fell into conversation comparing our respective machines. Hers was a 2017 model but his was a 20 year-old Koga-Miyata. I nodded in respect. We all agreed that they were the Porches of the cycling world, only bettered by the Van Nicholas bikes which were the Rolls Royces (although probably more expensive…). I asked where they had travelled from and they said they had stayed at a good campsite about 50km along the Nantes-Brest Canal at a place called Gouarec. Bearing in mind it was barely afternoon, it made sense to continue and I abandoned all plans of staying out in Carlaix. Off I set again… 

“The Nantes to Brest Canal is a summit level junction canal that throughout its course uses stretches of canalised rivers or artificially constructed canals. It is 364 km long and has 238 locks allowing vessels to be raised or lowered over a level culminating at 184m at the Glomel trench. To connect the various river basins through which the canal de Nantes à Brest passes, 3 summit levels are required: from Nantes, at Bout de Bois in Loire-Atlantique, at Hilvern in Morbihan and at Glomel in Côtes d’Armor. Work on the construction of the canal began in 1806 and the entire length of the canal was inaugurated in 1858. The construction of the Guerlédan dam in 1930 submerged 17 locks and interrupted navigation on that stretch of the canal.”

Fascinating, no? It was also built by convicts who had been sentenced to hard labour (for parking their bikes inside the local supermarkets, presumably). One hundred of them lost their lives in the process. But here’s the curious thing… Aside from a few kids who were out on kayaks in one of the basins, I didn’t pass one boat in the 50km stretch of canal. Not one. Zero. Zilch. All the locks appeared to be in good working order but in vain… I wonder why. 

Cycling wise it was similar to the disused railways; 80% good surface with gradual inclines. But no boats… Why is that? I need to investigate in the next few days. I have around 240km worth of canal thinking to go before I arrive in Nantes.

Arriving at the very cycling-friendly Camping de Gouarec tonight I was asked to fill in my name and number on a list: ”Just in case of a flood…” was the reason why. Gulp.


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1 reply »

  1. The canal is only navigable west of Chateaulin, then there are a few pleasure boats at Chateauneuf. Then no boats can successfully navigate the canal east of there. It’s very shallow and though some of the locks are well maintained, they are rarely used unless they are draining parts of the canal to clear it. There are plans in motion to fully restore its use though. There are more boats and useable locks towards Nantes.

What do you think?