Brittany Challenge

Pack your bucket and spade!

We’re off to Brittany - for its craggy shoreline, its rolling countryside, its forests, its history and of course its cuisine. As ever, we’ve scoured the landscape to devise a strikingly beautiful route. It will show you Brittany at its most glorious.

 

The allure that has made Brittany popular with British visitors is rooted in history. Prehistoric standing-stones abound, while mighty Gothic cathedral spires soar above its mediaeval cities. From Dark Ages to Middle Ages, extensive immigration from our shores forged cultural and ethnic ties with Cornwall, Wales and Ireland. Even the Breton language has much in common with Cornish and Welsh. Brittany is a land of art and architecture, of song and of magic.

Other features include:

  • Many Brittany churches with a variety of different tower designs
  • A few chateaux en route
  • Some great views of the English Channel and some of the north coast bays of France
  • Very few drives in and out of cities to reduce cycling in busy towns
  • Two nights in Rennes and an opportunity to look around the city
  • A much shorter drive back to Calais than in previous years.

Day Zero

We get the Channel Tunnel late morning and then have a 214 mile drive to Chartres – our recommended route is via Rouen, not Paris. The striking cathedral can be seen for many miles before we get to Chartres. The journey should take approximately 4 hours and you should be in the hotel bar well before dinner timed for 7.45pm. Dinner will be followed by our mandatory safety briefing.

Friday - Day 1 171 miles – 9886ft elevation gains

Our route starts further south-east at Chartres, famed for its magnificent 13th century cathedral, visible from miles around. It owes its survival to US Col WB Griffith who in 1944 challenged orders from superiors to destroy the spires that they thought housed a German observation post. Griffith personally searched the cathedral, establishing that it was void of the enemy, only to be tragically killed in action elsewhere the self-same day.

We travel due west today and cycle through many forests to provide a little protection (either from the hot sun or perhaps a westerly breeze). We spend many miles in the Commune du Parc du Peche – look out for chateaux, ruins and fish lakes. By choosing the best roads to cycle, we finish short of Rennes in a square by a cafe in the village of Port Brillet. We then have a 40 minute drive to our hotel.

  View the route on Ride with GPS

Saturday - Day 2 174 miles – 7388ft elevation gains

Two nights at Rennes will let us strike out through Brittany’s varied landscape to explore its coastline. In 1491 Rennes, alone in all Brittany, withstood the army of King Charles VIII of France. Nonetheless, surrounded and with eventual defeat inevitable, the Duchess Anne of independent Brittany contracted a diplomatic marriage with Charles. Thus Brittany became part of France and has stayed so ever since.

We have a 35 minute drive to our cycle start at Caulnes (west north-west of Rennes). We head north to the Brittany coast (our first picture above is at the start of the climb to the cliff top at Cap Frehel). This is Extra Mile’s first ever trip to the seaside. We drop inland and cross the river Rance south of Dinard/St Malo before we return to the Emerald Coast and the Bay of Mont St Michel. Then it’s back to Rennes for dinner in town.

  View the route on Ride with GPS

Sunday - Day 3 165 miles – 8,948ft elevation gains

Our tour ends in Normandy at Caen, last resting place of William the Conqueror. His 11th century Château de Caen is one of the largest mediaeval complexes in Europe. Fish and seafood from the nearby Channel port fleets, sweet crêpes and salt-marsh lamb from the surrounds of neighbouring World Heritage Site, Mont St Michel are among Caen’s gastronomic favourites. Will they all be on the menu for our everpopular final night’s Gala Dinner?

We cycle out of Rennes early Sunday morning and again head north – this time towards the Normandy D-Day Landing beaches. On the way we have an interesting 12% climb from the bottom to the top of the Barrage de Vezins (see pictures).

Our last 30 miles take us past “Omaha”, “Gold” and “Juno” beaches, past many monuments, a few tanks, pontoon bridges, the Arromanches caissons and a few interesting buildings.

We finish in the coastal town of Courseulles adjacent to the Juno Museum which pays tribute to the Canadian troops who fell in June 1944. It is then a short drive into the north side of Caen.

A quick story to put the last 30 miles into context. On the Monday morning at the hotel we chatted to two 91-year old war veterans proudly displaying their many medals having been just 17 when they first landed on the Normandy beaches.

  View the route on Ride with GPS

Alongside its beauty, the impact of war on the region cannot be avoided. Our journey will allow for some moments of reflection 100 years on from WW1, and as we pass by the 1944 D-Day landing beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Return

The drive back to Calais is just 210 miles, about 3 ½ hours driving time. Channel crossings are booked for late afternoon allowing a couple of hours sightseeing in Caen (castle, cathedral, port), back to the landing beaches or a quick stop at Honfleur on the return journey, returning across the Pont de Normandie.