The river Rance, a hundred kilometres long, offers a valley of delights and surprises for tourists and hikers. Along the river, lots of beautiful old buildings make the natural scenery even more beautiful.
The dam of the Rance
Once exposed to all the hazards of the high tides, the mouth of the Rance is today blocked by the dam of the tidal power plant. It exploits the resources of strong tides rushing into its estuary to produce electricity. The road linking Dinard to Saint-Malo runs across its top, and has enormously contributed to the development of tourism in the estuary area.
A visitors centre at the Rance tidal power plant is open to the public free of charge. Immersed yourself in the world of energy. A life-size turbine, interactive computer displays, models, and videos help to explain the operation of the plant. Don't miss the view of the engine room! An outdoor tour allows you to enjoy the panorama offered over the estuary and watch the boats in the lock.
The Rance Valley
Start your tour at the village of Saint-Servan, located at the mouth of the estuary. Admire the view from the Solidor Tower, built in the 14th century to watch out for illegal traffic and foreign ships on the Rance. The estuary narrows after the dam and invites you to pursue it upstream.
Make a stop at the boat cemetery on the banks of Rance near Quelmer. This unusual place is a unique site in the region - the wrecks of trawlers, cutters and other coasters have chosen this remote haven to end their days.
Saint-Suliac, ranked among the Most Beautiful Village of France is one of the jewels of the valley. This picturesque little port seems to have popped straight out of a postcard. Strolling in the alleys of the village is a favourite of passing travellers. Climb to the oratory of the Virgin of Grainfollet to take in the view over the bay.
Between Port Saint-Jean and La Ville-Ès-Nonais the lock of the Châtelier marks the limit between the maritime Rance, subjected to the tides and the fluvial Rance, where fresh water predominates.
Navigating on the Rance estuary
What's more magical than pottering around in a boat? Various companies offer excursions from Saint-Malo, enabling you to enjoy a ride of an hour and a half, or even a three-hour cruise to the town of Dinan. Have lunch or dinner on a boat-restaurant along the way to extend your trip that bit further.
The nautical club at Saint-Suliac offers activities and outings with instructors, sea kayaking and stand up paddle. You may come across some local girls in a dugout canoe or on a dragon boat - this group of women sailors, who call themselves the Pink Malovas, raises money for breast cancer research. Why not participate in one of the regattas organized by the club during the summer season?
The eleven locks
The Ille-et-Rance canal is a navigable river path which was created by the channelling of Ille and whose southern end rejoins the channelled part of Vilaine in Rennes. The construction work began in the spring of 1804 and continued until 1832.
48 locks, and thus the same number of lock keepers’ houses, enable the passage of pleasure boats and sometimes barges. You can thus go from Rennes to Saint-Malo.
At Hédé-Bazouges, along the side of the Ille-et-Rance canal, there are eleven locks. Situated at around every 200 metres.
The eleven structures, still in operation, guide pleasure boats on the calm waves of the Ille-et-Rance canal. If a boat is coming, stand in line to enjoy this unusual water show. And you will thus understand how crossing a lock works.
The staircase of successive locks offers a difference in height of 27 metres, and a pleasant stroll or bike ride along the towpath.
The lock keeper era
At each lock there is a lock keeper’s house, all built in the Napoleonic style. Some of these houses are still lived in by lock keepers, who are in charge of the passing of pleasure boaters.
The Maison du Canal d’Ille-et-Rance (The Ille-et-Rance Canal House)
This old lock-keepers’ house, located at the heart of the eleven locks site, narrates two centuries of river history. During the tour, you will discover the life of the men who built and used this remarkable structure. Models, tools, as well as archives, will take you into the daily lives of those who worked on the canal: the bargemen and the lock keepers.
Sail on the Rance estuary
What better change of scenery than sailing on the Rance estuary! You can discover the banks of the Rance in many different ways. Maritime companies offer speedboat excursions departing from Saint-Malo or La Richardais. Enjoy an hour and a half trip or a three hour cruise to reach the town of Dinan. It is possible to have lunch or dinner on a restaurant boat and extend your ride on the estuary.
Saint-Suliac sailing club offers activities and supervised outings, in sea kayaks or on stand up paddle. You may come across some ladies in a dug-out canoe, on their dragon boat. This group of women, known as the Pink Malova’a, row to fight against breast cancer. And why not participate in one of the regattas organised by the club during the summer season?
Along the Ille-et-Rance canal, alone or accompanied, you have the opportunity to discover the canal and its history, the operating of the locks, the plants and wildlife, and the distinctive characteristics of the villages you come across. The Saint-Domineuc water sports centre is located in a remarkable environment, close to the Ille-et-Rance canal. Supervised kayaking day trips are available through reservation. “Moonlight” hikes are also offered during the summer. When romanticism takes to the water!