Normandy’s own ‘Little Switzerland’ south of Caen, takes its name from the deep gorges and rocky crags of the River Orne Valley.
In sharp contrast to the gentler surrounding landscape, this quiet place of lush green wooded valleys and hillsides is ideal for outdoor pursuits - on the river, walking and climbing.
Enjoying beautiful scenery and explore attractive towns and villages. You can follow a signed route if travelling by car passing through villages such as Thury Harcourt and Pont d’Ouilly.
The small town of Clecy, ‘capital’ of Swiss Normandy, has narrow streets, eighteenth century houses, a church with beautiful old bell tower and model train museum.
Clecy is a lively place in summer, a good base with plenty of leisure activities on the river such as kayaking and canoe hire and lessons and local rock climbing, mountain biking and walking. An exhilarating climb takes you to the ‘Pain de Sucre’ (Sugarloaf) a magnificent viewpoint high on cliffs overlooking the River Orne.
The Routes des Cretes begins at St Omer and offers magnificent panoramic views across crags and rolling hills including ‘Pain de Sucre’ and ‘Rochers des Parcs’. Find good picnic spots along the way from which to watch the many paragliders.
The lush patchwork of fields around Vire bordered by hedges grown on earthy mounds sometimes over a metre high, is known as the Bocage. This landscape dotted with small farms and villages is typical of many areas in west France.
The original Norman word, meaning a pleasant small wood, was taken by allied soldiers in WWII to describe the hedges and trees topping high banked lanes - similar to those found in Devon, England - which made the Allied advance in 1944 during the Battle of Normandy so difficult.
Originally a thriving trade and agricultural centre, the town of Vire was badly damaged during WWII. However, the church of Notre Dame and clocktower built over the thirteenth century gateway to the old town have survived. Climb the clocktower’s spiral staircase for lovely views of the surrounding countryside.
There are more fantastic views over the Vire Valley if you climb to the castle ruins. Learn about Vire in the local museum housed in what used to be a medieval hospital and sample the specialities for which the town is famous - andouille sausages and fresh trout and salmon from the local river.