Walking by the Rance

Few pleasanter waterside walks can be imagined than alongside the Rance in eastern Brittany. Many people are familiar with crossing this wide estuary, via the barrage en route to or from the ferry at St-Malo. Pausing for a stroll at any point along its banks will be well rewarded, but here BWs suggests a full day’s leisurely walk (c16kms in total) out and back further south between Port de Lyvet and Léhon, just beyond the historic town of Dinan. This is an easy walk with a great variety of things to see and admire on the way.

The canalised river is a bird-watchers delight, with a well-made tow-path accommodating walkers, cyclists and joggers on this popular recreational stretch. There’s plenty of action on the water too, with colourful boats flashing by and kayaks enjoying a more sedate outing.

Our starting point is at Port de Lyvet, with its pleasure craft and turning bridge which straddles the Rance, still wide at this point. It’s a pretty little port with ducks and boats bobbing on the water, a spot where swallows returning from Africa swoop down for their first beak-full of freshwater in spring.

Walking south, wide bends lead to rougher scenery as the river plies through steep cliffs on both sides. An exposed rock-face opposite makes the perfect haunt for a colony of noisy cormorants. A restaurant boat, ready for spring and summer cruises, is currently moored as the river reaches the territory of Taden - a little bourg 800m inland, well worth a look for its 14th century Manoir de la Grand’Cour. There are many good picnic spots and toilets by the water here.

The river begins to narrow further on, as a slightly quieter part of the route leads south, passing the campsite La Hallerais, towards the port of Dinan, with the well-preserved walls of the medieval town high above. Here you will find many bars and restaurants all year round, and the Maison de la Rance where you can find out more about this impressive river and all its forms of life. A short walk up the steep cobbled rue du Jerzual gives access to the many charms of the old city.

The towpath now changes banks of the Rance and continues down to Léhon, a petite cité de caractère that deserves to be better known for its fabulous old houses around the abbey (open for visitors in summer) and the ruins of one of the earliest chateaux in Brittany perched on a hill-top. This is a great place for a picnic lunch (if you have resisted the temptation of eating out in Dinan) before a leisurely afternoon walk retracing your steps, with the chance to enjoy new views and perspectives with the changing light.

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