Explore the Stunning Landscape of Normandy’s National Parks

August 11, 2017

Normandy’s stunning landscapes are indisputable. A large region, Normandy boasts terrains from wide coasts to abundant forestry. Make sure to sample local delicacies as you go, from Calvados apple brandy, to seafood and cheese. With four main nature parks which collectively span across more than 450,000 hectares, Normandy is a haven for nature-lovers.

 

Normandy-Maine Regional Nature Park

Situated in lower Normandy, this enchanted park boasts tales of myth and legend, with fairies and elves just two of the local inhabitants.

La Fosse Arthour, home to one of these well-known legends, is a 70m gorge comprised of jagged formations, with greenery spouting sporadically from its cracks. It is here that, according to folktales, the famous King Arthur met his death, with both he and Queen Guinevere buried here. Immerse yourself in Arthurian mystery with a walk along the gorge.

Further enchantment can be found on a wander into the Forest of Andaines, including the tales of the restorative powers of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne. The only thermal spa in western France, this beautiful resort allegedly repaired the ailments of a medieval knight’s horse, as well as restoring the knight’s vitality. Try it for yourself and see how revitalised you feel afterwards. While you’re there, why not try out the archery, horse-riding and Nordic walking activities? You can even stay in your own gîte, surrounded by the town’s fin-de-siècle architecture.

Get lost in the forest and you may find yourself at the doorstep of the Chapelle Saint-Antoine, a small 17th century chapel nestled in a narrow glade, between overhanging trees and well-kept grass.

Waterfalls, chateaus, bogland and pastoral hills, the features of this regional park are never ending.

 

Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin Natural Regional Park

Resting on the Normandy coastline of the Cotentin peninsula, this park can be typified by vast unspoilt landscapes, with quiet seaside resorts and atmospheric cliff sides. This enormous park has 30,000 hectares of wetland, meaning significant sections are made up of waterways, marshes and moors so the greenery here is incredibly rich and fertile.

Head to the eastern side of the park for La Baie des Veys, or the Bay of Veys. Many come here for the spectacular birdwatching opportunities. It is also populated with a number of protected plants including orchids and marsh helleborine. If you like your seafood, stick around for the oyster farming and experience some of the freshest and finest shellfish you’ll ever taste.

You will also find the historically famous Utah beach here, a stretch of coast that was part of the D-Day landings in 1944. The picturesque shoreline, with long beach grass and a gentle surf, is ideal for a long stroll. Commemorate the brave soldiers with a visit to the museum which provides a chronological retelling of the events of D-Day. The museum has a range of interesting and sobering exhibitions, as well as an original B26 bomber and tanks.

 

Perche Natural Regional Park

Covered in dense woodland, forests make up over one fifth of this park. Head into the woods before sunrise or sunset and catch the local wildlife in their natural habitat, including deer. Be careful not to stray from the path, though…

Rolling hills follow the river Huisne, with castles and manors interspersed between them.

There are countless hiking trails, so you’re sure to be looking for some respite. The Maison du Parc is Courboyer Manor House. The 15th century estate covers 65 hectares and makes for the perfect picnic stop. Wander the nearby meadows and see the local Percheron horse, Conentin donkey and Norman cow in their natural habitat.

The ruins of the Castle of the Ferté-Vidame should also be on your list. Once a proud, aristocratic estate, the now roofless ruin is a reminder of the decadent pre-Revolutionary court culture. Yet it remains eerily beautiful, almost transfixing.

 

Boucles de la Seine Natural Regional Park

As the name suggests, the Seine conducts itself in a serpentine manner across the 81,000 hectare park, with the mouth of the river feeding into the English Channel to the west of the park.

Ételan Castle, a 500 year old gothic and renaissance abode, is an absolutely magnificent structure. Set amongst the trees, the striped, candy cane brickwork, as well as the pure white turrets, give it an entirely magical feel.

Saint-Sulpice-de-Grimbouville, in the southern part of the park, is a rural commune that dates back to the middle ages. Of particular note is the town hall, a half-timbered cottage with a thatched roof, which was constructed around 1420. The use of jettying is what makes the building so interesting, as the upper storey sits wider than the lower.

The park’s fruit route is famous for its charm. It’s perfect for cycling, though can be discovered by car or on foot. You’ll pass rows of pear, plum and cherry trees, as well as the apples that are used to make the famous cider.

 

 

Image Credit: isamiga76

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