Discover often overlooked landscapes, hidden treasures, places that will not leave you indifferent, towns that will mark you, starting with Saint-Lô : such is the valley of the Vire. True red thread – or blue – the river gives rhythm to the discovery of these magical places. And the greenway that runs along the Vire is certainly the best way to enjoy it.
La Vire, a Norman river
It weaves its way from its source, located at an altitude of over 300 meters on the hills of the southern English Channel, to the Baie des Veys, between two of the most famous beaches in the world for the landing of June 6, 1944, Utah -Beachand Omaha-Beach: the Vire marries the green lands of the department, but also Calvados, and its route allows you to discover, along its route, many wonders. 128 kilometers long, its flow varies with the seasons: never dry, it oscillates between softness and – sometimes – anger between summer and winter, allowing fishing in all seasons. In the past, the function of the river was essentially industrial and economic: mills used the force of the currents, barges transported materials and local productions, mainly between Saint-Lô and the sea. Today, its function is essentially tourist and recreational. , allowing to better know this natural heritage until now very little known. The towpath, which runs along the Vire along its entire length, is the best way to survey it. From its mouth, it passes successively Carentan-les-Marais, plunges like the river into the Norman grove, waters Saint-Lô, then Condé and Tessy, runs along the breathtaking Roches de Ham, before continuing in multiple curves towards the eponymous town, and returns to the Channel to climb to the heights.
The entire towpath, in the territory of Saint-Lois, is proud to be a greenway, a real tourist backbone, it is used by many hiking trails. Also called Véloroute “Landing beaches – Mont-Saint-Michel”, this route offers a journey through history from the Landing beaches of the Bessin or Cotentin coasts to the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel. By further widening the focal length, the towpath here is part of the “Vélomaritime”, namely 1,500 kilometers to be traveled by bicycle between the North Sea and the English Channel. With a majority of shared lanes, this is an ideal cycling route for cyclists looking to get away from it all.
Saint-Lô, famous ramparts and a horse capital
Without a doubt, Saint-Lô is indeed the most important urban center that you will discover on your itinerary. From the top of its ramparts, the prefectural city, reputed “capital of the horse”, shelters its prestigious national stud farm and farms from which world-famous horses come from. A comeback that erases the other nickname of the city, inherited from the bombings of 1944: that of “capital of ruins”. And it is true that today, if Saint-Lô does not turn its back on its history, it is very difficult to imagine what it was 75 years ago, as life has obviously resumed its rights. Commercial, active, dynamic, the city is much more than a simple stopover, it is a destination in its own right: markets, activities for children or festivals, multiple concerts, guided tours or exhibitions, Saint-Lô – and, beyond, the Saint-Lô Agglo urban community, with a territory of more than 800 km² and 75,000 inhabitants – offers you a thousand possibilities. Here, the tourist office is more than a simple place of information, it is a place where you will be literally pampered: obviously, we will give you advice and tips, but we will take the time to see your route with you and your desires. It must be said that the exceptional wealth of Norman heritage stands out here: in addition to the city itself and its famous ramparts, the castle of Canisy, recognized as one of the 7 wonders of the Channel or the abbey of Cerisy- la-Forêt, built under the will of William the Conqueror, are very close. Within the office,
Les Roches de Ham, another Swiss Normandy
At an altitude of 105 meters, the Roches de Ham dominate the Vire Valley and its meanders that meander below. From the path along the Vire, the view is breathtaking: the impression of being in an (almost) mountainous landscape is breathtaking. Conversely, from the heights of these rocks, the view of the river and its meanders is magnificent. This natural site, the first in the department, has richly wooded shores, wet meadows, cavities, cracks, streams that are teeming with abundant and varied flora and fauna. As you will have understood, it is also an ideal site for hiking and horseback riding.
How did such landscapes come to bloom? It’s simple: the patient work of eroding the waters of the Vire has not succeeded in overcoming these ancient sedimentary massifs, giving rise to a succession of steep cliffs which overhang the meanders of the watercourse. It was only after the French Revolution that the site came out of its isolation: meadows, farms, vast expanses of grass and, later, the railway line arrived. Today, many hiking trails are available for Sunday walkers or seasoned hikers.
La Chapelle-sur-Vire, religious heritage and children’s kingdom
This pilgrimage site is famous since the XII th century. Built in red stones, Notre-Dame-sur-Vire contains statues miraculously discovered the XIV th and XVI th centuries, countless votive offerings and alabaster of the XV th century altar classified as historical monuments. Very interesting, the permanent exhibition in the heart of the building is made up of many quality photographs dating back to the oldest of the late XIX th century.
Here, fishing spots including pontoons for accessibility to fishermen with reduced mobility are installed upstream of the dam, towards the playground. The latter, vast of 3000 m², is obviously the kingdom of children.