Walking and Cycling in Normandy
Walking in Normandy
Normandy's part in recent history cannot be overstated; the poignancy and drama of events here touch even the most hardened visitor. Yet while the coastline still bears the scars of the Second World War, there's a longer history to discover, stretching back millennia. On a walking holiday in Normandy, visitors are never far from a host of intriguing sites.
June 6, 1944: the day that spelled the end of the Second World War. The pivotal role played by Normandy in Operation Overlord and the Allied landings has gone down in history as one of the most momentous – albeit tragic – events of the 20th century. On a walking tour that crosses flat countryside and descends onto the beaches and seaside towns, imagining the events of that day is undoubtedly emotional. Discover the place where Allied vessels docked on the seafront, walk among the memorials at Arromanches and see landmarks that cannot fail to stir the spirit.
Step back even further in time on a walk through the medieval town of Bayeux. A fascinating destination of timbered houses and Romanesque and Gothic architecture, this is a destination that lends itself to discovery on foot. The 11th century cathedral of Notre-Dame de Bayeaux was the original home of the magnificent Bayeux Tapestry, the 70-metre long embroidered cloth depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The tapestry – which is reputed to be over 900 years old – can today be seen at the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, just a short walk from the cathedral.
In addition to the historic monuments, quaint towns, and evocative war memorials, Normandy offers a host of picturesque scenes, with the gardens at Giverny – immortalised in the works of Monet – among the region’s highlights.
Cycling in Normandy
Though often associated with a history of conflict and strategic importance to the development of France, Normandy offers much to make a cycling holiday memorable. A network of country lanes winds through colourful fields, while charming towns and villages offer a warm welcome and a taste of traditional life.
The southern reaches of Normandy hold the enchanting region of Mayenne, where glorious countryside and the flowing waters of the Mayenne River act as the perfect guide for cyclists. Life is lived at a gentle pace, fishermen relax on the riverbanks and visitors take to the water in sail boats. Rich culture permeates the region; from the megalithic remains near the village of Sainte-Suzanne to the opulent châteaux.
A cycling holiday in Normandy would be incomplete without a ride along the picturesque coastline, where a number of attractive resorts provide the perfect opportunity to experience day-to-day life. Cycle from the major ports of Le Havre and Dieppe to lesser-known charms such as Etretat and Honfleur, and view the superb coastal scenery of plunging cliffs and medieval architecture along the way. There are also, of course, a number of significant historic sites, most notably the evocative Second World War memorials recalling the events of the D-Day landings.