The official route
We arrived at St Malo on a boat from Dinard. St Malo is a busy ferry port and we enjoyed cycling past the fortifications to the sea front. It was immediately evident that we had left the undulations of Northern Brittany behind us and we were now in flatlands. We detoured off the official route to visit the oyster capital of Cancale which was lined with busy cafes full of people swallowing down oysters.
Voie Verte in the Bay of the Mont St Michel
Ahead we could see the spectacular bay of the Mont St Michel stretching out in front of us. The character of the route changed now and we were to be on off-road gravel cycle-tracks for the majority of the route to Cherbourg.
Early morning mist at the Mont St Michel
Although the idea of cycling on traffic free Voie Vert sounds quite appealing, the reality is actually quite tedious after the first couple of hours. The cycle track follows an old railway line and for hour after hour we had only brief glimpses of any scenery beyond the tree lined route. The route was very flat but cycling on gravel requires a lot of energy,even on slick 28mm tyres, so progress was no quicker than on the hilly paved roads of Northern Brittany.
The endless Voie Vert gravel tracks around Sourdeval on the Contentin Penisular Normandy.
The route tracks up the middle of the peninsular largely following the River Vire and does not go to the coasts.
We had not expected the Voie Verts to be so rough and had only one spare inner tube each so we were delighted on the 7th day in France to came across a bike shop in Vire.
stocking up on spares at Vire
As it turned out we didn’t have any punctures in the 1200km tour. A vote for Continental 4 seasons tyres.
A point of interest to break the tedium of the Voie Vert was a dismantled Viaduct at Souleuvre. It was built in 1891 by Gustav Eiffel as a railway bridge. It has been dismantled leaving 6 pillars to leave a ‘unique work of art’. You can see that this area of Nomandy is short on tourist attractions! Anyway, apparently 10,000 people a year use it for bungee jumping. We didn’t make it 10,002. We did enjoy the steep descent into the valley and the climb out made a change from flat gravel Voie Vert.
The viaduct at Souleuvre
We followed the River Vire towards St Lo and there were some beautiful sections along the River but we also enjoyed a 10km stretch on little lanes with 3 really steep hills between Conde sur Vire and Pont Farcy.
We were making great progress up the Contentin Peninsular and the warm sunny weather helped a lot.
As we approached St Lo, still cycling along the River Vire, we enjoyed several sculptures.
Art along the River Vire
North of St Lo we were very aware that the area saw ferocious action in the Second World war and was close to the Normandy Beaches. We were crossing the marshes on our approach to Carentan and stopped on a bridge dedicated to the 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army. The Battle of Carentan was an engagement which took place between 10 – 15 June 1944 to consolidate the beachheads (Utah beach and Omaha Beach) which had been taken during the Normandy Landings on 6th June 1944. 74 years later there was not much evidence of the carnage from the war.
Dedication on the bridge near Carentan
We continued across the marshes enjoying some excellent single track on our approach to Carentan.
Approaching Carentan across the marshes which had seen fierce fighting in 1944.
Carentan was quiet and peaceful.
After Carentan there was more Voie Vert as we headed west to La Haye du Puits.
Voie Vert near La Haye du Puits
As we got closer to Cherbourg the Voie Vert gave way to paved roads. We enjoyed the downhill run into the city where we easily found the ferry port. We boarded Barfleur in the late afternoon and enjoyed a smooth crossing to Poole.
Sunset in Poole harbour