Mayenne’s 4,500km of rivers and many natural and man-made lakes, make it a fisherman’s paradise with hundreds of first class fishing locations.
Mayenne encourages fishing tourism and has taken measures to welcome not only fishermen but also their families.
You will find sign-posted areas - Mayenne Peche - indicating fishing spots with parking close by and often including picnic areas and disabled access.
Many holiday properties are near a well-stocked lake or river and some even have private lakes on-site. Others offer the use of fishing equipment.
In general, the category 1 locations are to the north of the department where the fast flowing currents produce trout and salmon. In the centre and to the south of Mayenne, the larger, deeper river courses with slower flowing currents mean category 2 locations dominate.
Find fishing on Rivers Jouanne, Oudon, Ouette and Colmont and on lakes such as la Courbe at Nuilles-sur-Vicoin and Sain-Fraimbault-de-Prieres. Catch pike-perch, trout and pike (a popular dish in local restaurants) along the River Mayenne.
For a guide to fishing in Mayenne, including night fishing, tel: (00 33) 2 43 69 12 13 or go to www.fedepeche53.com
You will need a fishing licence unless fishing on a privately owned river or lake. These are usually obtainable at a local tabac or fishing tackle shop. Local tourist offices should have maps etc.
The French trail system is made up of 3 types of path: long distance (GRs) marked in red and white, regional (GRPs) marked in red and yellow and local (PRs) marked in a single colour - usually yellow.
The GR37 crosses Mayenne from east to west from Sille-le-Guillaume in Sarthe to Jublains, Andouille and La Gravelle through to Vitre in Ille-et-Vilaine where it connects with the GR34 for Brittany.
At Andouille, the GR374 branches off towards Ernee and Pontmain and eventually, in the Normandy Maine Regional Park, it connects to the GR22-C leading to Pre-en-Pail. Between Andouille and La Gravelle, the forests and lakes around Port Brillet are a place of mystery and legend, where charcoal burners still ply their trade and where you’ll hear the sound of living water and come across banked hedges and shale cliffs.
Other marked walking trails and circular routes can be found around Ambrieres-les-Vallees, Meslay-du-Maine, Pontmain, Saint-Pierre-des-Nids and Champfremont in the Normandy Maine Regional Natural Park. There are also trails in the Foret de Charnie around Sainte-Suzanne and Villaines-la-Juhel. Ask at local tourist offices for details of routes or buy the relevant French TopoGuide.
Ambrieres-les-Vallees stands on the River Mayenne at the gateway to the Normandy Maine Regional Natural Park at a point close to the confluence of the Rivers Varenne, Mayenne and Colmont making it an ideal spot for watersports.
The Parc de Loisirs de Vaux in Ambrieres-les-Vallees has a canoe and kayak club with beginners and improvers courses, equipment hire and guides. Tel: (00 33) 2 43 08 84 90. Boats can also be hired at Ambrieres-les-Vallees and nearby, at La Haie-Traversaine, there is sailing and windsurfing and a departmental sailing school. Tel: (00 33) 2 42 04 00 68.
A club at Laval has similar canoeing courses: tel (00 33) 2 43 67 03 27, and at Chateau-Gontier beginners can rent a canoe or kayak. They also cater for those at competition level. Tel: (00 33) 2 43 70 99 67.
The horse is popular in Mayenne. The department has 11 racecourses and a large number of stud farms. and most paths open to ramblers are also open to horse riders. Associations organise treks and events throughout the year which are open to beginners as well as more experienced riders.
Riding is available throughout the department and the Equestrian Centre at Ambrieres-les-Vallees has over 30 horses available where you can ride for pleasure or train for the Gallops certificate levels 1-7; tel: (00 33) 6 09 75 70 29. Pony Club du Guede Selle in Mezanges teaches children about horses and horsemanship. Ponies live free in the fields. Tel: (00 33) 2 43 90 62 80.
A current project has already begun to create 600 miles of bridleways in Mayenne with facilities for horses and their riders along the way. Contact the Departmental Committee for Riding in Mayenne at Laval for details. Tel: (00 33) 2 43 53 63 88 or the Regional Horseback Riding Tourist Board (00 33) 2 40 48 12 27.
The mysterious and magical pre-historic caves of Rochefort and Margot in the Saulges Canyon - home to bats and legends - are a wonderful place to see stalactites and stalagmites.
Take a walk through the glacial valley - free and open all year - and enjoy the scenery from the gorge restaurant. Caves are open every day mid-Mar-mid-Nov. Under 3s are not allowed in la grotte a Margot and under 6s are not allowed in la Grotte de Rochfort.
Cave visits are by guided tour only and, as space is limited, it is advisable to book in advance in July and Aug and on Sundays and holidays. Tel: (00 33) 2 43 90 51 30 for more information.
La Fleche Zoo in neighbouring Sarthe is open all year.
Visitors can encounter sea lions, black panthers, lions, parrots, chimpanzees and many more species. For more information, contact Zoo de La Fleche, 72200 La Fleche, 72200 La Fleche or telephone (00 33) 2 43 48 19 19.
Visitors can view cider-making processes. For more information, contact GAEC Rouland, Le Theil, 53240 Andouille or tel: (00 33) 2 43 69 70 04.