Ille Et Vilaine Geography and Natural Beauty

The River Rance, the Rance Barrage and the Village of St-Suliac

The Rance at St Suliac, Ille et Vilaine, Brittany, France

The River Rance, one of Brittany’s main rivers, is linked to the River Vilaine by the Ille-Rance Canal flowing out to the English Channel between Dinard and St-Malo via the Rance Barrage.

This dam across the Rance Estuary, completed in 1966, was the world’s first tidal power station using water power to generate electricity.

The road from St Malo to Dinard crosses the dam which is now a well-known local landmark open to the public at certain times (check with local Tourist Office for up-to-date information). Part of the 750m long barrage lifts hourly to allow boats to pass via a lock.

Use of the River Rance and development along its banks is legally controlled and consequently the area is a great refuge for wildlife. You’ll find plenty of riverside spots to walk, watch kingfishers and moorhens, and take a picnic.

Take a stroll around St Suliac - a chocolate box pretty village on a hill sloping down to the river. The village is at its most picturesque during the fete of St Suliac during the first weekend in August when houses are draped with fishing nets and flowers and the population indulges in a feast of traditional food, music and dance.

Cross the Rance by ‘Vedette’ from Dinard to St-Malo or hire a boat up river in Dinan. Vistors in September should watch out for the ‘Route du Cidre’ regatta where traditionally attired crews and their vessels travel from place to place tasting the new cider.

Foret de Paimpont

Deep in the lush countryside west of Rennes, you reach the Foret de Paimpont, also known by its ancient name, Broceliande. According to song and legend, Broceliande is the forest of Merlin from Arthurian legend and Viviane the fairy.

Located in a tranquil part of Brittany with few tourists it’s the ideal location for a ramble away from it all. Just south of Mauron in the hamlet of Folle Pensee begin a walk to La Fontaine de Barenton or ‘Merlin’s Spring’ as it is sometimes known. The Fountain of Eternal Youth is hidden nearby - said in legend to be accessible only to those pure of heart.

Why not take a walk into ‘The Valley of No Return’ (thankfully not true) and discover a steep valley from which exits are barred by thickets of gorse and furze on the rocks above you. Serious hikers should look for the red and yellow signs indicating a GR de Pays or local long distance route, covering a complete tour of the forest.

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