Experience Brittany: the Rance River —serenity & significance

Experience Brittany: Rance River at low tide
  • I have woken up early, around 5h45, to the sound of light rain falling on the terrace.
  • I open the heavy wooden volets and see a hazy mist lingering just above the river.
  • Tiny droplets fall steadily from the sky and leave ringlets on the water’s surface.
  • Low clouds in countless shades of grey float just above the trees.

Fishermen are seated in worn wooden chairs on the banks of the river, patiently waiting to see what tugs at their lines. Seagulls circle overhead, calling loudly in their secret language, as interested as the fishermen in what lies in the water below.

One of my favorite pastimes here in Brittany is walking along the River Rance. I find that it is a lovely way to enjoy nature’s gifts and decompress. I am not alone as in every walk I see a number of people jogging, parents and their children riding bikes, dogs diving into the water (much to the chagrin of their owners … and the ducks). People drift along in electric boats rented by the hour at the port. Groups of friends in kayaks are often parked along the banks for a little reprieve and a good chat.

The Rance

This morning I am up early as I’m going on a randonnee.

I am headed further up the river near St Suliac, a lovely little town situated near St Malo. I’m happy to be hiking with someone who has made this trek several times over as my sense of direction is not outstanding.

  • I make a strong cup of coffee and get my backpack ready with basic supplies and a good amount of water. 
  • Today will be warm, around 29 C, so it is best to leave early and finish the hike before the sun gets too intense.
  • My friend picks me up at 7h30 and we make the short commute up the river.
The Rance
Walking along the Rance from Dinan to Lehon Viaduc (in Dinan)

The beginning of our hike takes us to a small wooded area that leads us to the trail. Over the years, the trees have grown facing each other, their long branches meeting above the sentier forming a natural chapel. The only sound is our feet on the damp ground, birds singing their morning songs, and the leaves fluttering in the gentle breeze. The sun’s rays create soft patterns of light on the trunks and rocks below.

It is, without a doubt, an incredible way to start the day.

We come out of the wooded area and into a clearing. The river greets us like an old friend. The tide is low presently, and my friend says this is not the best time to see the river. It is the most beautiful when the Rance is at its highest, he says, but I’m not sure that I agree.

I see the striking patterns on the cliffs, left behind when the water receded. I see the sailboats lying on their sides, bellies exposed, seemingly at the ready, waiting to be taken out and set free. They are like the bird or butterfly that is waiting for just the right moment to take off.

The Rance River
Moulin du Prat mill (Rance at low tide)

We spend the better part of 2.5 hours on the trail, a winding path with sharp inclines and rocky terrain. We meandered along the beach with stunning views of the bay, The trail is well-marked but I am happy for my friend and guide who can tell me about various points of interest such as the Pointe du Puits and the Oratoire de la Vierge de Grainfolet.

We come to a special part of the walk where there is a beautiful yet solemn clearing.

The Oratoire de la Vierge de Grainfolet has long been a meeting place for women welcoming their loved ones back home after long days of fishing. Below the statue, in a sort of small cave, was a shrine, where people continue to place flowers, I assume for those who were lost at sea and of gratitude for those who came back.

It was a gentle reminder for us to take a few moments and reflect before heading into the nearby town.

Saint Suliac Oratoire

This hike along the river was so special as I was able to see the estuary from a new vantage point. It was a peaceful and simply beautiful way to spend the morning.

As with every day in Brittany, I feel and hear my heart saying “thank you for this moment”.

Do you enjoy hiking? Would you like to hike along the Rance if and when you visit Brittany? Have you been there before? Please add your comments below

Good to know resources:

The River Rance flows about 100 kms 97 KM (60 miles) leading to the English Channel. While reasonably short in comparison, it has been an important source for trade for centuries.

Additional ways to experience the Rance:
I have ridden the Corsaire twice in the last few years, traveling up the river once to St Malo and the other to Dinard. The leisurely cruise took us past forests and port towns such as the charming Saint-Sucliac.

Map and additional information :

Additional facts about the Rance
“The Rance estuary became famous when the world’s first tidal barrage and hydroelectric power station was built near its mouth in the 1960s.”
Accessed from:

Hiking maps and information:
– Ille-et-vilaine/boucle-de-saint-suliac here
– Hiking-around-saint-suliac here

Additional information here  

All Images copyright Amy Gruber

Experience Brittany
The Ultimate Guide to Brittany
A series of articles with a focus on wellbeing & nature
From the Brittany Coast to Forests and more…
1. Experience Brittany: a hidden gem at the water’s edge 
2. Experience Brittany: Forest Bathing 
3. Experience Brittany: Outdoor activities & natural beauty
4. Experience Brittany: learn French—cooking with Christine Todd – interview
5. Experience Brittany: the Rance River—serenity and significance (this one)

and many more to come…
ALSO don’t miss our LIVE chronicle of EXPERIENCE BRITTANY
BINGE on BRITTANY: The Nature Cocktail

About the Contributor

Amy Gruber

I was first introduced to France as a child during a family trip abroad. I have since studied in Paris, traveled throughout the country, and I fell in love with France and the French.  Brittany is where I call home part of the year. Read more on my blog and Instagram @agruber17.

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  1. Isabelle Gauthier Nov 24, 2021 at 7:56 PM - Reply

    Magnifique, magique,

  2. Heather Campbell Nov 24, 2021 at 10:22 PM - Reply

    Love traveling with you. Thank you for letting us tag along. Definitely adding this region to our bucket list.

  3. Barbara Jean Gruber Nov 25, 2021 at 1:16 AM - Reply

    Great post!

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