Brittany is a jewel in France's coastal crown, as the soubriquet 'Emerald Coast' suggests. The Breton coast is a wonderland of cliffs and seascapes, magical islands and estuaries, beaches and coves, fishing villages and ports ... and a gastronomic delight for lovers of seafood and rich regional cuisine. It's possible to spend a lifetime exploring this endless coastline but an excellent introduction to the sort of delights to be found is provided by a round-trip cycle ride from Saint Malo via Dinan to Dinard and back. This offers excellent seascapes, sandy coves, fishing villages and (as a bonus) some lush Breton countryside.
The easy journey (no steep hills!) starts beside the River Rance at Saint Malo (cycle hire available), setting off in an easterly direction along the D201 coast road that hangs above the sea, through Rotheneuf to Cancale - the picturesque fishing village famed for its delicious oysters. From there, head south to Les Portes Rouges and pick up the D155 - the spectacular Rue du Bord de Mer that hugs the coast to Le-Vivier-sur-Mer. Stay with the D155 as it turns south to Dol-de-Bretagne, then turn onto the D676 and ride to the walled town of Dinan, high above the River Rance. This last stretch provides an opportunity to enjoy rolling Breton countryside, as does the next.
From Dinan, take the D2 through La Hamonais to Ploubalay, where the D786 returns you to the coast at Lancleuc, from whence the road follows the sea to the Belle Epoque resort of Dinard, the 'Cannes of the north', via the charming fishing villages of La Chapelie and Saint-Lunaire. A ferry across the mouth of the Rance completes the scenic circuit to Saint Malo. Appetite whetted, you'll surely be back to see more of the Emerald Coast next year!
WHEN TO GO
April to October
TIME IT TAKES
It can be done in a day, if you're not tempted to linger along the way (you will be).
Saint Malo - this dramatic walled port City is worth a day of anyone's time, with many splendid sights to see, including Chateau Saint Malo, Cathedral de st Vincent and the Solidor Tower.
Dinan - for historic attractions including the Chateau Dinan, Duchess Anne's Tower, the 13th-century Jacobins Theatre. St Saviour's Basilica and the flamboyant Gothic I'eglise de St Malo.
A side-trip from Dinan to the grand Chateau de la Bourbansais with its wonderful garden and appealing zoo that nurtures endangered species.
A treacherous skip across from Brittany into Normandy to visit one of France's most famous attractions - the Benedictine abbey and medieval dwellings of Mont St Michel.