ENCHANTING NORMANDY

Fascinatingly different, Normandy is the perfect holiday destination with its great tourist attractions such as Mont-St Michel, its historic towns like Rouen & Bayeux taking you back to a bygone era, its astounding variety of picturesque landscapes and its wonderful coastline boasting magnificent cliff scenery, sandy beaches, fashionable seaside resorts and bustling fishing ports such as Honfleur. There is even a Safari Park near Lisieux (find out more >>). Plus, who could forget Monets Gardens at Giverny or the poignant landing beaches? There is so much to see it can’t be taken in within the space of one weeks visit and you’ll want to return time and time again to soak up its magic

We have taken a little poetic licence and split the whole of Normandy into the following regions to help you discover the charm and delights and select the area most suitable for your visit.

UPPER NORMANDY

Laying to the north and south of the River Seine this area holds many attractions. The principal town is ROUEN which may justifiably be called a living museum, its medieval quarters positively bristling with more than 700 half-timbered houses.

The coastline from Le Havre to Dieppe is most impressive and the cliffs between Etretat and Fecamp are truly awesome, sometimes 100 metres high. This is known as the Cote d’Albatre (the alabaster coast) with its pebble beaches and at 130 km long it constitutes the largest line of cliffs in France. Dotted along the coast are many traditional resorts and fishing ports.

rouenThe valley of the Seine ranks as one of the most fascinating scenic areas in Normandy. In medieval times the lush water meadows and mild climate attracted monks who built some of the great abbeys of Europe: Jumieges, St-Wandrille and St-Martine-de-Boscherville. On the banks of the Seine the riverside village of Giverny has been immortalised by the painter Claude Monet and his house and beautiful gardens attract thousands of tourists each year. A highlight of the surrounding woodlands is Lyons-la-Foret, a well preserved village full of half timbered house.

COTENTIN

The Cherbourg peninsula, known as Cotentin, possesses over 200 miles of coastline with a mixture of cliff scenery and fine sandy beaches. The north-western tip, La Hague, has breathtaking wild majestic granite cliffs which give way to a succession of small holiday resorts extending all the way down the west coast.

mont-st-michelSt-Vaast-la-Hougue and Barfleur are both charming small holiday resorts with beaches on the east coast. Carteret, a holiday resort famed for its fishing and sailing facilities, has two large sandy beaches sheltered by a headland. Picturesque Portbail has a colourful harbour and superb sandy beach. Coutances, dominated by a Gothic cathedral, has many small seaside resorts within easy reach. Granville, with a walled and picturesque High Town is a resort with many special summer events, good shops and restaurants and the resorts south of here, St.-Pair-sur-Mer, Jullouville, Carolles and St –Jean-le-Thomas offer some stunning beaches ideal for a good “old fashioned” bucket and spade holiday. The shops in Villedieu-les-Poeles are crammed with locally made, decorative copperware. From the botanical gardens at Avranches there is a most spectacular view of Mont-St Michel, one of the most prestigious historical sites in the whole of France

BOCAGE

Gorges-VireFor a truly relaxing stay in rural Normandy this region must be a serious consideration when planning a holiday. It derives its name from the Norman word “bosc” meaning wood and is characterised by a multitude of flower-decked hedgerows, sheltering meadows where Normandy cows graze peacefully. However, this is not a uniform pattern – far from it, for everywhere you may see gently undulating ground clothed with rich woodland. The main river of the region, the Vire, fed by no fewer than 214 rivulets and streams, is renowned for its salmon fishing. On its meandering course to the sea it has cut through the granite landscape to form numerous picturesque gorges. There are many interesting market towns in the area. 

St-Lo, whose walls rise on a craggy rock overlooking the River Vire, has beautiful gardens to be seen along the Promenade des Remparts. The centre of the lively town of Vire is dominated by the former main gate, the Porte-Horloge. The nearby lake of La Dathee provides opportunities for water sports of all kinds amd Sourdevall, alive with floral displays, is a small welcoming town with a bustling weekly cattle market.

BESSIN

Bessin is a rich coastal plain lying between the river Orne and the River Vire and reaching inland to Caen, Bayeaux and a little beyond.  The area is dotted with picturesque county houses, old manors and villages which owe their prosperity to the fine pasturelands where the famous Normandy cows take advantage of the lush green grass.

BayeuxCaen has vestiges of the past evident in the 11th century Abbaye-aux-Hommes and Abbaye-aux-Dames built respectively by William the Conqueror and his queen Matilda. Bayeux is a delightful old town with many well preserved historic buildings. Notre-Dame cathedral, completed in 1077, typifies the Norman Gothic style of church architecture. Not to be missed is the Bayeux Tapestry which depicts the Norman Conquest in 58 different scenes.

The coast is know as the Cote de Nacre meaning the “Pearly Coast” so named because of its steep white cliffs and wide flat sandy beaches which stretch for miles with fascinating rock pools exposed at low tide. It is along this coast where history was made during the D-day landing and where you will find many tributes to the men who lost their lives during the Second World War. The museum at Arromanches should not be missed.

PAYS D’AUGE

This is a delightful region of rolling green and wooded hills ,interspersed with picturesque thatched cottages, orchards with the apple trees in full bloom in Spring and laden with fruit in Autumn.  One of the most charming features of the area lies in the diversity of its timber framed farmhouses and moated manor houses with their wooden gables and pink tiles.  The largest town of the area is Lisieux with its 13th century cathedral standing majestic at one corner of the busy market squareand by contras a Safari Park with self catering lodges find out more >>St-Germain-de-Livet 5 miles to the south has an imposing chateau set in delightful sylvan surroundings.

trouville the portThe coastal area, known as the Cote Fleurie (Blossom Coast) due to the profusion of flowering trees and shrubs, has an abundance of seaside resorts with sandy beaches including internationally famous Deauville where the world “likes to be seen”, Trouville its near neighbour has a charming fishing port, Houlgate with sumptuous houses from the late 19th and early 20th century and Cabourb a pretty resort once the haunt of Marcel Proust.  Honfleur, much loved by the impressionist school of artists, is a very picturesque fishing and sailing port and from here you can view the impressive Pont de Normandie’

SUISSE NORMANDE

The visitor must not expect to find here any dazzling Swiss type mountains!  The relief of the area is largely due to the deep valleys eroded by the Orne and other smaller rivers which meander through forges, steep rocky cliffs and fine wooded scenery.  With such a variety of landscape the region is greatly appreciated by canoeist, rock climbers and anglers who may indulge in their favourite sport.  For walkers and cyclist there are many waymarked paths.

ClecyThere are no large towns in the Suisse Normande.  Thury-Harcourt (pop.1615) has been substantially rebuilt since 1944 but the church has managed to retain the 13th century façade.  Clecy(pop. 1197) is situated in a particularly picturesque part of the Orne valley.  Here the river sweeps round in a wide curve and is dominated by its sloping wooded banks leading up to vertical craggy heights.  Near Conde-sur-Noireu is the Chateau de Pontecoulant where there is a fine collection of antique furniture and objects d’art.  For those with an interest in history Falaise, with its fortified castle is where William the Conqueror was born and spent his childhood.