The Heart

From Combourg to the Ille et Rance canal

The Ille-et-Rance canal as a breadcrumb trail... Stroll along the banks or sail on the deck of a pleasure boat.

Along the waterside...

Did you know? During its construction, to allow boats to cross a 27 metre drop, a staircase of 11 locks was built. Here, you have to enjoy taking your time...

The canal has paced the life of the area for a long time: due to the maritime blockade imposed by England, it was necessary to find an alternative supply to military ports, using a network of inland waterways. And so the canal was constructed, linking the cities of Rennes and Saint-Malo from 1804. It was open to sailing from the 28th October 1832. Several channels, including that of Boulet in Dingé, were dug to supply the canal with water. This 17 km long channel meant that water from the Etang du Boulet could be brought towards the canal with the help of aqueducts and siphons. Today, only pleasure boats sail on the canal.

It is during the ride that you discover the pretty nautical stops. Hédé-Bazouges, Tinténiac, Québriac, La Chapelle-aux-Filtzméens, Saint-Domineuc and Trévérien all offer true moments of relaxation and well-being. Here, everything is calm and peaceful. Nature calls to you...

For even more enjoyment, and to the delight of the whole family, the towpath from Hédé - Bazouges to Trévérien has been adapted into a greenway to share, by foot or bike, the discovery of local treasures! Eight promenades® cycling routes allow you to traverse the surrounding areas. And don’t miss the canoe-kayak sailing trip at Saint-Domineuc: another way to discover the waterside of the canal...

Nature side

It is here, in Romantic Brittany, that you will find one of the “green lungs” of the country: the Mesnil Forest which extends through the towns of Tronchet and Mesnil Roc’h.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, this regional forest, which extends for 552 hectares, was the property of Robert Surcouf, Saint Malo privateer, who travelled the seas of Europe and India. In 1933 the State took ownership, and so it became a regional forest. This is where the navy used to source wood for the shipyards in Saint-Malo. The Office National des Forets (O.N.F, National Office of Forests) maintains it. It is made up of three quarters of deciduous trees and one quarter of resinous trees. The forest invites you to walk on its many pedestrian and cycle paths with evocative names: “Les Bateaux Naissent En Foret (The Forest Boats)”, “Le Sentier Du Corsaire (The Privateer’s Trail)”, “La Rive Du Lac (The River Bank)”, “La Maison Des Freins (The Fairy House)”...

At Mesnil Roc’h, in the heart of the forest, the covered alley called Maison des Feins or des Fées (fairies) stands. Located on the property of Baron Surcouf, it was excavated and restored during the 1930s, by Miss Collum and Sir Robert Mond. The work revealed the presence of many Gallic ceramics. A human skeleton crouching and lying on its right side was uncovered with vases, beads, cutlass...

Not far from there, a local peculiarity will not fail to amaze you: the town of Mesnil Roc'h contains granite deposits, one of which is still exploited today. It is unique due to its colour. We call it blue granite: it gives a unique tint to the habitats. For a better understanding, go and visit the Jardin de Granit (Granite Garden) at Lanhélin, where a dozen monumental granite sculptures from around the world are exhibited.

Finally, many hiking, equestrian, cycling and mountain biking trails are available, and mark out the towns of Trémeheuc with, for example, the “Circuit des Éoliennes (Wind Turbine Circuit)”, Bonneman, Plesder, Cuguen, Lourmais, and Meillac. Available to all levels, young and old, go outdoors... Hiking guides are on sale at the Tourist Office and in its Tourist Information Centres.

A country and men

Romantic Brittany, land of writers.

The most famous of them all, François-René de Chateaubriand (19th century), spent part of his childhood at Combourg, in the castle which looks down on the Lac Tranquille below.  The young Chateaubriand was influenced by these places. He recounts in his Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe (Memoirs from Beyond the Grave): “It is here, in the woods of Combourg, that I became who I am”. His presence still strongly impregnates the feudal castle (11th  - 15th centuries), still lived in by his descendants. It is open for visits from February to November.

Combourg is classed as a “Petite Cité de Caractère (Small Town of Character)”® due to its charm and heritage. It is an unmissable step: named the birthplace of Romanticism (cf. Chateaubriand below), the city has pretty Middle Age houses, small winding streets and a central pedestrianised square where it’s nice to stop. Things to do: the walk around the Lac Tranquille, interspersed with information panels about the local heritage and history.


Wealth and diversity: these are the main words which evoke the heritage of Romantic Brittany.

The Région de Trimer, Saint-Thual, Longaulnay, La Baussaine still have many mud houses, built from cob (a mixture of earth and straw). Some have been admirably restored. Also included in the remarkable heritage of the area, the Saint-Léon church, dating back to the 15th century, has been part of the Monuments Historiques list since 1926. It was dedicated to Saint-Léon, the great Pope.

Romantic Brittany is at the heart of a group of medieval castles, which were mostly used for defensive purposes: the Montmuran castle (12th century) at Iffs, which still has a working drawbridge, Combourg, from La Bourbansais (16th century) to Pleugueneuc, or even Lanrigan (15th century) ... The majority of them are open to the public.

Finally, you should stop at Tinténiac to appreciate its rich architectural history by strolling down the discovery route. The Saint Trinité church, constructed by the architect Regnault at the start of the 20th century, is a major part of the town’s heritage. In the Roman-Byzantine style, it has very unique characteristics: pinnacles, cupolas, lanterns. Dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, the houses with porches in the city centre, the Grand’Maison, are not to be missed.

Not far from here, other charming churches can be found: the church in Iffs, from the 16th century, is still surrounded by its cemetery. Remarkable porch with 3 arches. Not to be missed: a very beautiful group of nine stained-glass windows from the 16th century, with the names of the generous donors. The Saint-Fiacre fountain - patron saint of gardeners - at Iffs is the only covered fountain in the region. Close by, at Saint-Brieuc-des-Iffs, there is a charming church also from the 16th century, where the frame and heads of animals are painted with vibrant colours, a unique case in the region! To see: the two yew trees, of which the oldest has a 6 metre circumference and is more than 900 years old! At Cardroc, the current church was progressively reconstructed on the antique medieval church during the 16th and 17th centuries, and was prettily restored in 2002. La Tour-Proche still has the ossuary on the first floor.

Other architectural curiosities: the Saint-Léger des Prés church, close to Combourg, has a vault in the shape of an overturned ship's hull and a beautiful parish enclosure.

The local history has also been very touched by the linen and hemp cultures. Three trails and discovery themes to go around with the family, interactive walk with GPS: the labour of farmers, the trade of textile workers and that of merchants.