On The Road: All gain and no pain on the Green Ways of Brittany

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Here in Brittany, getting out on two feet or two wheels is an irresistible urge. In any weather conditions, hundreds of miles of Green Ways are accessible and free of the mud that clogs up more undulating country tracks. They are based on canal towpaths and disused railway lines, forming a network of long-distance routes. No cars allowed, and there's plenty of nearby accommodation for the traveller and his bike or horse.

From the ferry port of St-Malo, once regarded by the English as a wasps' nest of corsairs, linked trails lead to the lively capital, Rennes. This route continues right down to the Gulf of Morbihan for a spot of sailing, or a visit to the unparalleled megaliths of Carnac. Across the heart of Brittany, the Nantes-Brest Canal is mostly made up of wide and sinuous rivers. It passes through historic towns such as Redon and Josselin, where the formidable château looms over the water.

You would think that this could only be a good thing, but there are downsides. Serious walkers may come to dread the buzz word aménagement, and all the potential for distortion that development brings. Do we need toilets right on the towpath, lavish signage or garish information boards?

The Green Ways experience is certainly tame, with maintained surfacing, a lack of significant gradient and frequently narrow perspectives dictated by geography. On these paths a traveller measures himself against man-made structures rather than the full scale of nature. What's a long walk without that unbeatable feeling of breasting a steep hill to a wide-ranging view?

Maybe Brittany's Monts d'Arrée are just big hills, but the eerie landscape of schist peaks is impressive. Part of the fun of trekking the justly celebrated GR34 coastal path is to look back at your conquered headlands stretching behind into the far distance.

But the Green Ways are all about connection, providing the opportunity to move swiftly and safely between points of interest. For many, their limitations are positive benefits for ease of transit. Undoubtedly an invaluable resource for active visitors, these routes offer the explorer of Brittany's remarkable history and heritage a journey that is all gain and no pain.



See brittanyheritage services.com



Footprint Brittany by Wendy Mewes is available now (£13.99)

Comments