The Nantes-Brest canal has 360 km of tow paths. Some experienced cycle-tourists cover it in one go but amateurs usually do it in several stages. My friends and I chose the second option. We started our trip at Châteauneuf-du-Faou with the aim of covering the 111 km which separate the town from Pontivy.
It was the small village of Penn ar Pont, where the church of Notre-Dame-des-Portes overlooks the canal, which was our starting point. We left early in the morning, our trailers firmly attached to the rear of the bikes. Luckily, the weather was on our side and the forecast was clement.
For the first night, we stopped over in Carhaix after having cycled 31 km. A short stretch but we had set our hearts on spending the night in a gîte located just next to the canal at Port de Carhaix.
Reinvigorated by a good night’s sleep, we set off on the tow path again. After several kilometres, we were surprised by the number of British people we met. After a quick look at the map of the Voies Vertes in Brittany (the Green Ways), we quickly realised that Voie Verte trail number 7 which starts near the ferry port in Roscoff, joins the Nantes-Brest canal in Carhaix. These two sections make up what is known as the “Vélodyssée”, the bike odyssey.
Just like us, they chose the beginning of October for their trip. Apart from fewer tourists, we chose this period of year to see the canal in its autumn apparel. The leaves on the trees reflect the superb autumn shades of orange.
Once in les Côtes d’Armor, we reached Glomel quite quickly and rode along the famous “Grande tranchée des Bagnards”, the section of the canal dug out by convicts. This is the point where history and nature meet. In fact, this section of the canal is a reminder of the hard labour the men who were forced to dig out the canal under Napoleon endured. Another thing about this section is that over just a few kilometres, there is an increasing number of locks from where you come to the point where the waters of the Rivers Blavet and Aulne meet. After a picnic by the water’s edge, we reached Gouarec, then the extremely beautiful Abbey at Bon Repos, nestling in its haven of greenery. We spent our second night there.
The next morning we leapt astride our bikes with the intention of going round le Lac de Guerlédan. The view over the lake along the waterside path is mystical. Once the morning mist had lifted, we could make out a densely forested landscape, a view worthy of an Indian summer in Quebec. Our third and last day took us to Pontivy, the last stage in our trip. More than just a little proud of ourselves for having managed to finish our first cycle trip along the canal, we took our time the following day to visit Pontivy, the capital of the Duchy of the Rohan family, also once known as Napoleonville.