It is not, a priori, the first place we think of to go on vacation. And yet! The English Channel offers an exceptional coastline of 360 kilometers, bordered by long crowded beaches, superb and often wild. A wonderful family playground, invigorating and multi-activity, backed by the famous Normandy hedgerow, green, authentic and which contains delicious products very appreciated by gourmets.
And here and there, emerging from this beautiful variety of preserved landscapes, a few small towns of character, witnesses of a rich history and delivering prestigious monuments, sometimes classified as World Heritage by Unesco.
Read also: Our most beautiful guesthouses 2020 in the northwest of France
Move in the great outdoors
Stand-up paddle with view of Granville. Granville Terre et Mer Tourist Office / Philippe Fauvel
Maritime department par excellence, the Channel delivers its most beautiful beaches on its western facade, with a crush on Vauville: 11 km of fine sand highlighted by the dunes of a natural reserve. This charming village is also renowned for its Botanical Garden, a jewel of greenery facing the sea, coupled with an educational farm to discover - with children - local domestic animals. A little further south, Siouville-Hague is THE essential surf spot in the department.
While sand yachting - a recurring leisure activity on the beaches of Manchuria - takes its ease at the large and superb supervised beach of Sciotot aux Pieux . Still to the south, facing the Channel Islands, Barneville-Carteret , dominated by its old lighthouse, is a seaside resort born in the 19th century and strewn with elegant villas. Its beach as far as the eye can see lends itself well to windsurfing, dinghy sailing, kitesurfing, sea kayaking, paddle boarding, sea rowing and shore fishing.
Then, up to Granville takes place the astonishing coast of Le Havres, an immense expanse of fine sand, bordered by dunes and interrupted by a few river estuaries, forming natural micro-ports. There are a few small family seaside resorts, offering the range of classic beach activities, such as Saint-Germain-sur-Ay , Gouville-sur-Mer , Blainville-sur-Mer , Agon-Coutainville , the oldest seaside resort in La Manche, Regnéville-sur-Mer , an old village full of character… While Granville - a “sailing” bastion renowned for its carnival - is distinguished by its sea trips aboard old ships, a unique experience.
The Norman archipelago of Chausey, in the Manche, deserves to be sailed there during the high tides. Granville Terre et Mer Tourist Office / Philippe Fauvel
From there, shuttle boats set sail for the Chausey Islands , wild and romantic in their granite setting. A true natural paradise where seals, dolphins and birds live, to explore by kayak; just like the bay of Mont Saint-Michel - a must for nautical strolls in the region - which you can also fly over in an ULM to discover the hidden face of "la Merveille".
- Our recommendation: enjoy the beaches equipped with a seawater swimming pool, such as in Granville , Donville-les-Bains and Saint-Pair-sur-Mer , ideal at low tide ... While the historic Utah Beach , a major of the Landing of 1944 on the east coast of Cotentin , is a Mecca for sand yachting in a protected natural environment.
Read also: Discover Chausey during a tide
Le Nez de Jobourg is, after Mont-Saint-Michel, the most visited place in the Manche. Its cliffs are among the highest cliffs in continental Europe. Nicolas Rottiers / CDT50
With almost 7,000 km of paths, greenways, circuits and itineraries of all kinds, the English Channel is ideal for green leisure activities. A highlight of the hike, the 446 km of the " Sentier des Douaniers " (GR 223) goes around the department by the coast with superb wild escapes at Cap de la Hague , between the high cliffs of Nez de Jobourg , several old villages, coves at the end of the world with turquoise waters and the charming micro-ports of Goury and Port-Racine . There reigns here a little taste of Ireland which had seduced Jacques Prévert, whose house can be visited in passing.
Renowned for its racing horse breeding, the Manche also has several equestrian trekking routes covering hedged farmland and the seaside - including in a horse-drawn carriage - culminating in the "Heritage on horseback in Mont-Saint-Michel bay" path. », With sublime landscapes.
Finally, the 1,200 km of signposted cycle routes and 285 km of greenways offer beautiful cycling tours, at the crossroads of several national and international circuits.
- Our recommendation : if you are a mountain biker (and sporty), take the superb route " Tatihou - Mont-Saint-Michel ". 285 km long, it crosses the department from East to West, flirting with its most beautiful monuments and crisscrossing the Marais du Cotentin and Bessin Regional Natural Park, a wonderful wetland with varied bocage landscapes and dense vegetation, refuge many migratory birds, but also otters and seals.
Read also: A short guide to prepare for your first cycling adventure
Discover a rich historical and architectural heritage
The fort of Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue, imagined by Vauban. Cotentin Unique
From the Celtic tribes of the first millennium BCE to the Allied Landing on June 6, 1944, the English Channel - a strategic peninsula - has a rich history that has shaped its heritage over the centuries. Jewels of French monuments, the sublime Mont-Saint-Michel can be gained barefoot by crossing the bay at low tide, an old pilgrim tradition today supervised by a certified guide.
Built in the 10th century and surmounted by a Gothic abbey, this rock, emblematic of Normandy, is listed as World Heritage by Unesco, just like the fort of Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue , imagined by Vauban in the 17th century on a background of ancestral Franco-English rivalry. A defensive structure that extends over the lovely and peaceful Tatihou Island, to be discovered with an unusual amphibious boat that looks like a big toy. Every year in August, the unmissable Festival les Traversées Tatihou is held there, dedicated to "offshore music" ...
The Cornille-Havard foundry in Villedieu-les-Poêles. Sabina Lorkin / Anibas Photography
A short distance further north, the charming little port of Barfleur - classified among the most beautiful villages in France - was very active in the Middle Ages, before inspiring painters and writers at the turn of the 20th century, under the guidance of the lighthouse of Gatteville . Emerging from the central bocage, the elegant Notre-Dame-de-Coutances cathedral - from the 11th-13th centuries - remains the other great Gothic masterpiece of Normandy. This old medieval capital of Cotentin is also famous for its Jazz sous les Pommiers festival in May.
Another stopover of choice in the heart of the lush Manche, Villedieu-les-Poêles has specialized since the 13th century in the work of copper, tin and the foundry of bells. It is also here, at the Cornille-Havard foundry, that the nine new bells of Notre-Dame de Paris were melted in 2013. And on site, take your children to the Zoological Park of Champrépus, an amazing exotic enclave in full Norman hedgerow.
Read also: From Mont-Saint-Michel to Granville, iodized getaway in six stages
Entrance of a sailboat in the port of Granville. Marc Lerouge / CDT50
If Cherbourg was nicknamed the "door of the Americas", its old transatlantic Art Deco ferry station now houses the spectacular Cité de la Mer, complete with aquariums, an exhibition on the Titanic and even a… nuclear submarine, the famous Redoutable, reopened to visitors since June 20 (information and prices on the Cité de la mer website).
Then, head for Granville, which explores the charming historic village of the 15th century, nestled on a promontory overlooking the sea. Corsair town and base of the Newfoundlanders, Granville surfed from the 19th century on the fashion of sea bathing. tourism then transformed the small fishing ports in Manchester into seaside resorts, dotted with villas and casinos with picturesque architecture; the elegant "seaside style" was born. On June 6, 1944, part of the Landing took place in the English Channel, at Utah Beach, a wild beach adjoining the Cotentin marshes which harbor several memorial museums.
- Our recommendation: take the opportunity to visit the Landing beaches.
Read also: Our guide to prepare your visit to the D-Day landing beaches
Taste local products
Normandy is par excellence a land of apples and cider. Established since 1946 in Auvers in the Manche, the cider house of the Hérout family is no exception to the rule. Estelle Hertault / CDT50
The Norman grove is a generous and gourmet terroir, a true paradise for epicureans. Countless apple trees, apple juice , Cotentin AOP cider , Calvados AOC (born in the Manche, even if it bears the name of the neighboring department) and AOC pommel ; without forgetting the PDO perry , another pear-based alcohol. The generous Manchese milk cows contribute to producing the classic Norman cheeses: Camembert AOP and Pont-l'Évêque AOP, without forgetting the butter and creams of Isigny AOP with a good rustic taste!
To read also: On the Norman lands of the Pays d'Auge, stroll in the land of camembert
The Granville market. Granville Terre et Mer Tourist Office / Philippe Fauvel
The Villedieu-les-Poêles and Gavray andouille is well worth that of Vire, in Calvados. And the English Channel also produces its own smoked ham, not forgetting the Mont-Saint-Michel PDO lamb with exquisite flavor; hyphen with the formidable fish and seafood which the invigorating coasts of the English Channel abound. Wild, the Barfleur mussel is a must , as is the Saint-Jacques shell and the PDO whelk from Granville, France's leading shell port.
And if the oysters of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and Blainville-sur-Mer have the iodized flavor of the open sea, sometimes flavored with a little nutty taste, they have nothing to envy the succulent Cotentin lobster , caught in the wild waters of the Chausey Islands. And go to the opulent vintage markets, such as Saint-Hilaire-du-Harcouët , where all these succulent products are displayed with insolence; then carefully worked in Manchois restaurants - on classic or modern variants -.
For its part, “Made in Manche” craftsmanship invites you into your shopping, like the famous Cherbourg Umbrella, Mauviel kitchen utensils, produced in Villedieu-les-Poêles, and the famous Saint- James, knitted in Saint-James, near Mont-Saint-Michel.
Manche Tourist Office, www.manchetourisme.com.
Tide times : maree.info.
Road book: Road Trip on the Cotentin coast , by Claire Larquemain and Alice Bertrand (Big Red 1 Editions, 2019).
BAY OF MONT-SAINT-MICHEL
The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. Alice Bertrand / Latitude Manche
Hôtel L'Ermitage Mont Saint-Michel : elegant, spacious and cozy 5-star suites, just 4 km from "la Merveille". Restaurant (14, route du Mont-Saint-Michel, 50170 Beauvoir; tel .: 02 33 50 60 00; lemsm.com; double rooms 280-460 €).
B & B La Cotentine : near the beach, charming family suites and cottages in a vintage style, very modern (26, rue de la Chapelle Sainte-Anne, 50380 Saint-Pair-sur-Mer; tel: 02 33 69 98 49; chambres-lacotentine-manche.com; double rooms 150 €).
Mercure Granville Le Grand Large hotel : overlooking the sea, 4-star, modern and functional rooms (5, rue de la Falaise, 50400 Granville; tel: 02 33 91 19 19; all.accor.com; double rooms 105-160 € ).
B & B Château de Chantore : nestled in a landscaped park in the heart of the bocage, delightful 18th century castle with spacious and comfortable rooms, classic and picturesque decor (Chantore, 50530 Bacilly; tel: 06 74 30 66 64; chateaudechantore .com; double rooms 215-295 €).
Auberge du Terroir : near the Mont, tasty traditional cuisine connected to the local terroir and served in the old presbytery school of the 18th century (3, place Saint-Martin, 50170 Servon; tel: 02 33 60 17 92; meal 25- € 50).
Manoir de l'Archerie : 2 km from Villedieu-les-Poêles, countryside table that shines with its simply gourmet local specialties (37, rue Michel de l'Epiney, 50870 Sainte-Cécile; tel.: 02-33- 51-13-87; manoir-acherie.fr; menus 19-52 €, à la carte 40-50 €).
Le Pont Bleu : a stone's throw from the beach, the sea is here in the spotlight in fine and careful recipes, supplied daily by small local fishermen (6, rue du Pont-Bleu, 50380 Saint-Pair-sur- Sea; tel: 02 33 51 88 30; lepontbleu.com; menus 22-50 €).
L'Edulis : modern and inspired chef cuisine, with so many surprising flavors (8, rue de l'Abreuvoir, 50400 Granville; tel.: 02 14 13 45 88; www.restaurantledulis.com; menus 15-65 €).
Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel Tourist Office, ot-montsaintmichel.com.
COUNTRY OF COUTANCES
B & B Hôtel Tanquerey de la Rochaisière : in the historic center, private mansion from the 17th-18th centuries with beautiful suites in style, charming and cozy (13, rue Saint-Martin, 50200 Coutances; tel.: 06 50 57 22 55; bandb-hotel-coutances.fr; double rooms € 155).
Auberge de l'Abbaye : close to the famous 12th-century Hambye abbey, a subtle terroir table which allows for some daring detours in terms of flavors (5, route de l'Abbaye, 50450 Hambye; tel: 02 33 61 42 19; aubergedelabbayehambye.com; menus 18-78 €, à la carte 35-60 €).
Pays de Coutances Tourist Office (tourisme-coutances.fr).
PAYS DE SAINT-LÔ
Château de Canisy Hotel : the beautiful charming address. Superb suites of classic style, housed in a huge family castle from the 13th-16th centuries, in the heart of a 300 hectare park. Restaurant, horse riding and mountain biking (8, rue de Kergolay, 50860 Canisy; tel .: 06-75-82-08-30; chateaudecanisy.com; double rooms € 320).
Intuition : Michelin-starred chef Mickaël Marion picks plants and wild flowers in the Cotentin marshes, in search of original pairings in his modern and delicate cuisine of flavors, served at fair prices. On the ground floor, its Brasserie les Capucines is also renowned for its simple, well-crafted market cuisine (1, rue Alsace-Lorraine, 50000 Saint-Lô; tel .: 0233051491; restaurant-intuition.com; menus 25 -67 €).
Tourist Office of the Pays de Saint-Lô, ot-saintloagglo.fr.
B & B Manoir de la Fieffe : surrounded by a botanical garden, 4 km from the center of Cherbourg, 16th century residence with some charming elegant and cozy suites, with classic intonations (La Fieffe, La Glacerie, 50470 Cherbourg; tel. : 02 33 20 81 45; manoirdelafieffe.com; double room € 125-170).
Mercure Cherbourg Center Port hotel : beautiful contemporary and functional 4-star rooms on the port (13, quai de l'Entrepôt, 50100 Cherbourg; tel: 02 33 44 01 11; all.accor.com; double room 90-160 €).
Hotel L'Erguillère : opposite the tiny Port-Racine, on the fierce Cap de la Hague, a small, romantic and cozy 3-star hotel (Port-Racine, 50440 Saint-Germain-des-Vaux; tel: 0233527531; hotel-lerguillere. com; double rooms 110-160 €).
Hotel Le Landemer : ideal for lovers, a small 3-star hotel at the end of the world with "rooms with a view", modern and neat, anchored by the beach of Cap de la Hague. Good table in tone, delicious and creative, led by a young Dutch chef passionate about local products (2, rue des Douanes, 50200 Urville-Nacqueville; tel .: 02 33 04 05 10; le-landemer.com; double rooms 120 -170 €; menus 30-70 €, à la carte 40-60 €).
B & B Domaine Saint-Michel & Spa : large house of character lost in the bocage (but the sea is never far away) and equipped with pretty comfortable rooms, arranged on a discreet and warm modern note. Cottage and studio for families (4, chemin des Monts, 50700 Tamerville; tel: 06 61 55 82 96; domaineaintmichel.fr; double room € 130-150).
B & B Château de Pont-Rilly : elegant charming suites in the countryside, nestled in a harmonious 18th century castle, kept in style. Cottages for families (route de Sottevast, 50260 Nègreville; tel .: 0233404750; chateau-pont-rilly.com; double room € 150).
Hôtel La Marine : opposite the port, pleasant, contemporary, bright 4-star rooms. Well-being space and Michelin-starred restaurant by chef Damien Goguet, who cooks up fine, revisited cuisine, largely turned towards the sea (11, de rue Paris, 50270 Barneville-Carteret; tel: 02 33 53 83 31; hotelmarine.com; double room € 125-315, menus € 46-94).
B & B La Maison Gervaiserie : near Barfleur and Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, beautiful modern and neat rooms, furnished in a venerable house. Independent cottages for families. Garden, pétanque area and the beach 300 m away (7, route du Martinet, 50760 Réville; tel. 06 58 85 67 71; lamaisongervaiserie.com; double room 100-165 €).
Le Patio : simple market cuisine full of tastes; the right compromise for the family after visiting the Cité de la Mer (5, rue Christine, 50100 Cherbourg; tel .: 0233524910; restaurant-lepatio-cherbourg.fr; à la carte € 35-45).
Le Pily : THE good table from Cherbourg. The star Pierre Marion runs the countryside in search of the best seasonal products, which he sublimates with flavors in creative, refined and always rooted recipes (39, Grand Rue, 50100 Cherbourg; tel .: 02 33 10 19 29; restaurant-le-pily.com; menu € 69).
The Panoramic : beautiful terrace with a view of the towers of Saint-Vaast for this traditional family table, which magnifies the local products chosen with care (1, Village de l'Eglise, 50630 La Pernelle; tel .: 02 33 54 13 79 ; le-panoramique.fr; menus 20-52 €).
Salicorne : tasty local specialties with original flights, for an excellent value for money (38, rue de l'Amiral Tourlaville, 50230 Agon-Coutainville; tel: 09 73 21 29 29; restaurant-salicorne.fr; menus 19-33 €, à la carte € 30-45).
Le Mascaret : inventive cuisine largely inspired by the sea, cooked by star chef Philippe Hardy, for excellent value for money (1, rue de Bas, 50560 Blainville-sur-Mer; tel: 02 33 45 86 09; lemascaret .fr; menus 24-106 €).
Athome : close to the sea, this 18th century presbytery conceals this amazing table, held by a chef open to exotic horizons without ever losing sight of the Manchese terroir (16, rue de la Sienne, 50200 Heugueville-sur-Sienne; tel .: 02 33 47 19 41; facebook.com/L-Athome; meal 20-60 €).
Cotentin tourist office, encotentin.fr.