Orne shares with Calvados, Normandy’s own ‘Little Switzerland’ south of Caen.
The area takes its name from the deep gorges and rocky crags of the upper River Orne Valley, in sharp contrast to the gentler surrounding landscape.
This quiet place of lush green wooded valleys and wilder hillsides is ideal for outdoor pursuits like kayaking on the fast flowing River Orne, walking and mountain biking in the hills or climbing the high cliffs.
Go fishing and boating on the areas’ lakes such as Lac de Rabodanges. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and explore attractive towns and villages.
The Routes des Cretes, beginning at St Omer in Calvados, offers magnificent panoramic views across cliffs 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 department of Orne takes its name from a river which has it source at Aunou-sur-Orne, east of the town of Sees,and winds its way across to neighbouring Calvados reaching the English Channel at the Brittany Ferries port of Ouistreham.
Part of the Orne Valley lies within the Normandie-Maine Regional Natural Park created in 1975 and the middle and upper section of the valley with its deep gorges and rocky crags is known as Suisse Normande.
It is a beautiful place to visit with spectacular scenery, pretty villages and a wealth of outdoor activities. Whether you enjoy fishing, kayaking, riding, climbing or walking there’s something for everyone in the Orne Valley.
The Forest d’Ecouves north of Alencon, between Carrouges and Sees, covers 12,000 hectares. This forested area of hills, rocky crests and valleys is partly state owned.
Enjoy hundreds of km of walking tracks and bridleways, edged with bracken and heather, weaving amongst chestnut, beech and pine trees. (A 13km walk starts at Des Rochers du Vignage going north to Alencon.) Look for the huge sculpture of a sequoia tree standing at the Chene-au-Verdier crossroads in the forest.
The high point of Signal d’Ecouves rises to 417m and for climbers there is a school at the Vignage rocks. (There is another climbing school at La Fosse Arthour in the Domfrontais area). Be aware the forest is a favourite haunt of deer hunters in autumn with the occasional wild boar.