We’ve had some absolute cycling nuts stay with us here at La Pommetier. Nuts in a good way. The nuttiest of them all being our great friends from Melbourne Liz and Gav who gave us lots of the information I’m about to share below.
Normandy is a beautiful place to discover by bike with so much to see – D-Day sites, chateaux, beaches, clifftops, open countryside, the spectacular Swiss Normandy area, and the wetlands of the Cotentin Peninsula teaming with birdlife. You can either stick to the sign-posted bike paths and routes, or being such a touristy area cycling on the roads seems to be pretty safe. France is generally quite relaxed about sharing the roads between drivers, cyclists, horses, walkers, tractors… everyone acknowledges everyones right to use the roads at whatever pace.
For those of you who have the option to bring your own bike, we have undercover areas within our walled and gated property here at La Pommetier. There’s a place to hose down your bike and gear if needed and our showers are hot and powerful at the end of a long ride – just ask us for cloths/towels to clean off outdoors stuff.
For those coming longer distances and wanting to hire bikes, we can highly recommend the lovely folk at LocVelo in Bayeux. Their range of bikes is excellent (including top of the line Specialized, Cannondale and Trek bikes) and if you provide your size and preferred models ahead of your stay they will deliver them to La Pommetier the evening before and pick them up when you’re done.
If you’re wanting a ride straight out of the gates from La Pommetier, you can head into Bayeux to see the famous Tapestry, cathedral and medieval streets and buildings (10km), or along the cost to the east to the seaside town of Coursuelles with some great seafood restaurants and the Canadian D-Day memorial at Juno Beach (13km), or along the coast to the west to the working fishing village of Port en Bessin (12km) or further to the American Memorial and Cemetery at Omaha Beach (20km). The roads are small, there are no footpaths and as Arromanches is set in a natural harbour surrounded by hills, you’ll get the heart rate up quickly! Once you’re up the hill, Bayeux and Coursuelles are a fairly flat ride, while heading west will be a little more hilly in parts.
Mountain bikers particularly like the path that leads west out of Arromanches along the cliff top to Longues sur Mer. There are a few short challenging parts with small gullies and the path isn’t wide in many places, but it’s really popular with mountain bikers of all ages.
If this is sounding a bit strenuous, maybe a tour on an electric-bike with Petite Reine might be more your thing. They do a great two hour guided tour of Bayeux at 5pm each day or you can do a half day tour from Bayeux to Arromanches or a full day from Bayeux to Omaha Beach.
For those wanting to avoid the roads, pop the bikes into the car to join the fabulous La Velo Francette. This is a 617km long cycle route from the English Channel (Ouistreham) to the Atlantic Ocean (La Rochelle). Much of it is on dedicated cycle paths known here as “greenways” and its well signposted along the way. The first section (nearest to La Pommetier) is from Ouistreham to Thury-Harcourt at the northern end of the Swiss Normand region along a cycle path. Ouistreham to Caen is 15.6km along a former canal path alongside the Orne river and you’ll pass by the D-Day site of Pegasus Bridge. From Caen on to Thury-Harcourt is just over 29km and continues along the Orne via a disused railway line now cycle path. If you’re super-keen/crazy to do the whole 619km, I’d really recommend going that little further from La Rochelle and crossing over the bridge to the Ile de Re. Il de Re to me is the Hamptons of France… ocean beaches on one side, small fishing villages with portside restaurants on the other. And the best thing is that everyone gets around by bike. The 20km long stretch of islands has over 110km of cycle paths criss-crossing past salt pans, windmills and lighthouses. It’s my favourite French beach holiday. But I digress…. back to cycling.
Another option for the super-keen cyclist is the D-Day Beaches to Mont St Michel 210km cycle way opened in 2013 which starts right here in Arromanches. The cycle route links together a series of cycle routes, much of it is on dedicated greenways for cyclists and some is on shared routes – all of it is well sign-posted but you might want to have your GPS handy with you in case of looking for bad weather options. There are options for getting the train part of the way between Bayeux – Saint Lo – Coutances – Avranches to ease the return journey. There’s a dedicated website for the cycle route with information in English and this super helpful guide also in English.
Here are some other useful links on cycling in Normandy:
Freewheeling France has a great overview page on cycling in Normandy written by expert Richard Peace, author of the guidebook Cycling in Northern France.
Calvados Tourism has several maps for all types of cyclists – families, mountain bikers (VTT in French and they have topographical maps too), and even “rail-bike” (go have a look for yourself on that one – it looks terrific for even non-cyclists).