Head to the most western part of France for relaxed riding and superb food
Imagine all the best things about Cornwall – the beaches, the rolling hills and quiet lanes, the summers that are bathed in golden warmth without being oppressively hot. Then add all the things we like about touring in France – from fresh croissants to ancient châteaux. That’s Brittany, basically, right there.
It’s a wonderful destination for the first-time French tourist, as it’s so easy to get to – if not on a ferry to Roskoff or St Malo, then one to Caen along the coast. The riding is as relaxed as you could want and there’s plenty to see and do off the bike, from exploring old market towns and seeing the sights to spending a day soaking up rays beside the sea.
The only caveat is that, like Cornwall, the costal resort towns do get busy at the height of holiday season – which in France is all of August. To get the best from Brittany, it’s better to take an earlier or later break.
WHERE TO STAY
Lovely old fishing village that’s become a holiday destination. Beaches, boats, a lighthouse… everything you need.
Hotel tip: Hotel sur la plage St Girec
Is Quimper a small city or a large town? As friendly as a town, with city facilities. Ideal for exploring the far west of Brittany.
Hotel tip: Hotel Oceania
Why stay in a big city like Rennes when you could stay in a small town with a big chateau? Fougères is full of character.
Hotel tip: Brit Hotel du Parc
OFF THE BIKE
MONT ST MICHEL
It’s no longer possible to get within a mile of Mont St Michel by bike or car. You have to get a shuttle bus, which takes time – and allow a good half day (at least) for a visit.
Cancale is a fishing port near St Malo, the seafood capital of Brittany, maybe of France. Stop for lunch, order a plateau de fruits de mer, leave hours later, stuffed.
LES MACHINES DE L’ILE
A park of huge mechanical animals, Les Machines de L’ile is like a giant elephant, and fairground carousels in Nantes, Jules Verne’s home city
MEGALITHS OF CARNAC
Brittany is dotted with megalithic sites but the most impressive is the huge ‘Alignments of Carnac’, north west of St Nazaire.
PONT DU RAZ
France’s version of Land’s End is this beautiful, windswept peninsula to the west of Quimper.
At Saint-Nazaire the German U-boat pens are ugly and imposing with the 1950s French sub Espadon giving the submariners’ experience and the Escal’Atlantic, the ocean liner.
It’s a decent ride to Fontevraud Abbey, the largest in Europe until the Revolution. The surprise is a soap museum to charm you.
A decent-sized town obsessed by flowers. The 14th-century Apocalypse tapestry in the massive château is worth a look.
Château Plessis-Bourre avoided damage from the Religious wars and French Revolution and still has working drawbridges, a moat and dungeons.
If a St Malo or Roskoff ferry isn’t practical, we’d sail to Caen. You can quickly get into Brittany on the A84 to Rennes, picking up one of the other major dual carriageways. But that’s pretty dull… better to take a bit more time and enjoy all the riding.
CAEN TO FOUGERES: Distance: 150 miles. Riding time: 1 day
CAEN TO QUIMPER: Distance: 265 miles. Riding time: 1 day
Our motorcycle tour routes in North West France
FOUGERES AND MONT ST MICHEL
Start/finish: Fougères. Distance: 95 miles. Riding time: 3 hours
This route is really short morning’s ride to allow an afternoon exploring Mont St Michel. We’d pack alternative footware: it’s not one you’ll want to walk round in bike boots.
Fougeres and Mont St Michel map Download the GPX file
FOUGERES AND THE THREE-CASTLE LOOP
Start/finish: Fougères. Distance: 165 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours
Mont St Michel is far from the only great castle in the area. Fougères has its own magnificent château – and so do Châteaugiron and Château Gontier. They’re all on this route.
Fougeres and Three Castle map Download the GPX file
QUIBERON, CARNAC AND ROCHEFORT
Start/finish: Quiberon. Distance:180 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours
This relaxed ride heads from the coastal resort of Quiberon to the beautiful village of Rocheforten-Terre. For sightseeing, it detours past the megaliths at Carnac: highly recommended.
Quiberon, Carnac and Rochefort map Download the GPX file
COMING TO ARMORICA
Start/finish: Huelgoat. Distance: 170 miles. Riding time: 5 hours
With miles of quiet roads through stunning countryside, the Amorica national park is Brittany at its unspoilt best. This ride flows links all our favourite roads, with stops in quiet villages and the historic town of Guingamp.
Coming to Amorica map Download the GPX file
QUIMPER: WAY OUT WEST
Start/finish: Quimper. Distance: 175 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
A coastal treat: this route heads to Pointe du Raz (France’s Land’s End), and then to the beautiful Crozon peninsula. It loops pack to Quimper through the unspoilt Arree Hills.
Quimper: Way out West map Download the GPX file
PLOUMANAC’H AND GUINGAMP
Start/finish: Ploumanac’h. Distance: 180 miles. Riding time: 6 hours
From the sleepy seaside village of Ploumanac’h on the Pink Granite Coast, head around the coast then inland to historic Guingamp and back again.
Ploumanac’h and Guingamp map Download the GPX file
Please note: This page contains the routes for The RiDE Guide To France which came free with RiDE magazine in July 2017. These website pages are not regularly updated, so please check all critical information before you travel. All route files are in .gpx format. Garmin and BMW users can download the main file, which contains all the routes. TomTom users can either download the individual routes or use the MyRouteApp (depending on the age of your device). For many routes we also have Google Map links. However, as Google Maps will not plot routes over seasonally closed roads, such as high Alpine passes when they’re shut, so these may not work for every route all year round.