Founded in 1715 by Colbert, this stud farm famous for its breeds, covers an area of more than 1000 hectares and is part of the National Stud Farm Institution.
Apart from horse riding, there are races, processions, competitions in eventing and dressage, a breeding programme and cultural events such as exhibitions and concerts during the year, parkland to picnic in and the possibility to visit stables, saddle rooms and paddocks and also the chateau.
Open every day 1 April to Sept 2011, 1000 – 1800hrs and school holidays. See www.haras-national-du-pin.com or tel (00 33) 2 33 36 68 68 for more information and times.
Contact the visitor centre for the Perche Regional Natural Park in Courboyer - tel: (00 33) 2 33 25 70 10 - for the starting points for carriage rides through part of the Reno-Valdieu forest lasting from 2 hours to a tour of ‘forest panoramas’ taking a whole day. Carriages are drawn by the area’s huge Percheron horses similar to English Shire horses.
The Route du Fromage (cheese route) extends through Orne and Calvados and travels through such famous cheese producing villages as Camembert where the famous soft creamy ripe cheese was ‘invented’ in the late eighteenth century, and Livarot and Pont l’Eveque in neighbouring Calvados.
The tourist office in the cheese museum in Vimoutiers has lots of information on local cheese, tel: (00 33) 2 33 39 07 15, although the museum itself is more concerned with cheese labels. Look out for the statue in Vimoutiers to Marie Harel from Camembert who campaigned in the early nineteenth century to put local cheese on the map. The village of Camembert, 3km south east of Vimoutiers, also has cheese museums at La Ferme President and La Maison du Camembert.
Fromagerie Graindorge in Livarot, Calvados, is open Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings for visits - see cheese making with free samples.
This classic style castle was built in the late eighteenth century by an advisor to Louis XV and stands in grounds of 400 hectares. The castle is surrounded by stables, an orangerie and is a show house for eighteenth century furniture and Aubusson tapestries.
Open 1430 – 1630 weekends and public holidays May, June and early Sept, and daily 1430 – 1730 every day July and Aug..
For more information telephone (00 33) 2 33 36 68
The Grande Randonnee - GR22 - long distance hiking trail from Paris to Avranches and on to Mont-St-Michel crosses the Department of Orne from east to west. You can pick up the red and white GR markers for the return route at Domfront and continue east through Foret des Andaines to Bagnoles de l’Orne. From Carrouges the GR22 again takes a forest route through the Foret d’Ecouves finally leaving Orne at Tourouvre in the Perche Regional Natural Park.
The coast to coast GR36 long distance trail beginning at the Brittany Ferries port of Ouistreham near Caen and ending over 1000km later at Bourg Madame in the Pyrenees Oriental, passes briefly through Orne around Alencon and St Denis-sur-Sarthon. French TopoGuides give details of these routes. Local tourist offices have booklets on easy to follow shorter Petites Randonnes routes.
With over 4000km of fishing waters, Orne is a paradise particularly for trout fishermen although many of these sites are privately owned. The best public areas are in the Perche region, and the higher valleys of the Sarthe and Mayenne along with the River Orne are class 1 category.
Find lake fishing at Ferte Mace leisure lake near Bagnoles-de-l’Orne and Le Merle sur Sarthe. Night fishing for carp at Rabodanges Lake is popular. The valley of the River Huisne in the Perche Regional Natural Park has an excellent fishing reputation as has Margon Lake - also in the Park - where you can barbecue and picnic as well as fish for roach, pike, bream and carp. Don’t forget you will need a fishing permit - available locally.
Note: fishing is forbidden in the Foret d’Ecouves.
Kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities to indulge in their sport on the Rivers Orne and Mayenne, Sarthe and l’Huisne and there are clubs at Alencon (Alencon Canoe-Kayak Club (00 33) 2 33 32 03 06), Argentan and Carrouges.
Le Club de Canoe-Kayak Pecheron in Nogent-le-Rotrou on the River l’Huisne offers guided or unaccompanied river trips from 5 to 24km, tel: (00 33) 2 37 52 78 82.
Cycling is popular throughout Orne and makes a great activity holiday. Local tourist offices can give you literature on the many cycle trails through forests and bocage countryside and tell you places to hire bicycles if necessary, such as Cycles Bayi in Alencon, tel: (00 33) 2 33 29 65 13 and Cycles Sachet in Domfront, tel (00 33) 2 33 38 79 85. Suisse Normande has 16 cycle circuits from 9 - 24km.
Torchamp has a centre for off-road cycling or VTT and you can cycle or walk along an old railway track - now a Voie Vert or green way - from Domfront as far as Mont St Michel.