With its coast, forests, and countryside, Normandy is a paradise of opportunity for outdoor activities. Whether by bike, canoe, kite-surf, parachute, on horseback or with your running shoes, experience the varied beauty of this region, beckoning from just across the Channel.
Hiking, cycling and running
Rambling and hiking are popular pastimes as Normandy provides hundreds of miles of trails. Numerous footpaths meander through changing landscapes and often link with other routes leading into other regions. Suggested itineraries can be found in tourist offices. With four Regional Natural Parks to choose from in Normandy, you’re spoilt for choice of space and scenery. The natural environments are protected and preserved in these splendid parks, with fabulous views of forests, valleys and extensive wildlife.
Quiet country roads, forest tracks and cycle paths make cycling an absolute pleasure in Normandy. There are many bike hire centres throughout the region for those who prefer not to take their own. Whether you decide to head south to Barfleur along Pilgrims Way, or travel along the Avenue Verte to Dieppe, you can explore hidden corners of the region at your own pace.
Rouen and the Seine Valley have lovely places for enjoying outdoor activity, particularly running. Leaving from Le Trait, the 4 Sapins, the Château d'Eau or La Haye de Yainville, the Grand Tour of Le Trait offers three equipped jogging trails of 2, 3.5 and 5.5 kilometres in the heart of the Le Trait-Maulévrier Forest. You can also run along the Cotentin coastal trails or the vast D-Day Landing beaches. If you really fancy a challenge, you can even sign up for Run at the Mont St-Michel and tackle one of the Mont-Saint-Michel marathons, starting from Granville, Avranches or Cancale and finishing at the mighty Abbey itself.
Normandy has a distinct passion for horses – the department of Orne is known as horse country due to the many equestrian centres, stables and stud farms, most notably the Haras du Pin. Tourists are welcome to attend the numerous horse shows there or visit Deauville with its two race tracks and annual yearling auctions. You can enjoy riding in the region’s forests or crossing the Mont-Sait-Michel bay on horseback – a truly memorable experience.
Fishing & golf
Blessed with its fair share of rivers, Normandy is considered one of the best in France for salmon and sea-trout fishing, whilst brown trout are multiplying faster here then elsewhere in the country. British golfers have been flocking to Normandy for years, attracted by its easy accessibility and the stunning views many of the courses offer. There are around 40 golf courses in the region, 12 of which are by the sea and boast a long history. Deauville is well known for its upscale, luxury courses while those along the coast of Seine-Maritime are more traditional and scenic like Etretat and Dieppe. The courses are all open to non-members and offer short breaks. Plus, don’t forget France is due to host the 2018 Ryder Cup at the Golf National just outside Paris, within easy striking distance of Normandy.
Normandy’s dramatic coastline and clean, safe beaches make for some excellent watersporting opportunities too. Try stand-up paddle under the Étretat arches, or stay on dry land and sand-yacht on Gold or Utah Beach, two famous sites of the D-Day Landings. Those looking for a slower pace on the water can enjoy kayaking in Mulberry Harbour, Arromanches or in Suisse Normande – you can rent canoes or kayaks and book courses, and it’s yet another way to soak up Normandy’s beautiful scenery.
Finally, for a real adrenaline rush… why not psyche yourself up for a bungee jump at Souleuvre? Find out more here!