Cycling in Brittany: The V4 from Morlaix to Mont-Saint-Michel

Cycling Brittany’s north coast

In a recent post, I wrote about the highlights of our 3.5 week independent cycling trip along France’s North Brittany and Normandy coasts. This post features an overview of the Brittany portion of our trip—from Morlaix to Mont-Saint-Michel—focussing on logistics: our route, itinerary, accommodations, and helpful resources. If you’re thinking about an independent cycling trip, hopefully this will give you a few pointers. If not, enjoy the photos. Brittany makes a great travel destination whatever your mode of transportation.

Our Route: The EuroVelo 4 (V4)

Brittany, and indeed all of France, have many cycling options. A great resource that got us started is the website freewheelingfrance.com. We were drawn to the coast, and eventually decided on an itinerary that followed a section of the EuroVelo 4 or V4 , a 5100 km (3169 mi) long-distance cycle route through Central Europe—the whole thing being just a tad too long for us!

We selected a stretch of the V4 along Brittany’s north coast from Morlaix to Mont-Saint-Michel (the later is technically just in Normandy). The route is about 400 km (250 mi), but we made several detours resulting in 540 km (335 mi). At present, it is the only part of the French V4 that is continuously waymarked. In an upcoming post, I’ll write about the section we did in Normandy, from Mont-St-Michel to Fécamp.

Our Brittany cycle route: The V4 from Morlaix to Mont-St.-Michel (V4 a Brittany Cycle Route)

Note: The V4 in France is also called La Vélomaritime. It runs about 1500 km (932 mi) from Roscoff to Dunkerque. Another long distance cycling route, The Tour de Manche—a loop connecting the British Coast with Normandy and Brittany via ferry—also follows the V4 from Roscoff to Cherbourg.

The French portion of the V4 cycle route: Roscoff to Dunkerque (lavelomaritime.fr)

As the prevailing winds are from the west, we decided to cycle from west to east. In Paris, we loaded ourselves and our bikes onto a train for the 3-hour trip to Morlaix. We could have started at the official beginning of the V4 in Roscoff but the train only stops in Morlaix and we didn’t feel like taking the bus to Roscoff (in retrospect it wouldn’t have been a big deal).

It is quite easy to take bikes on French trains, but different rules apply for TER (local/regional) trains and TGV (fast) trains. The former takes bikes for free but space is limited and you can’t reserve. Many TGV trains allow bikes for a modest fee (10 Euros) but bike spots must be reserved at time of booking. For detailed information refer to freewheelingfrance.com.

Pretty Morlaix in Brittany, France: Perfect departure point for our cycle tour.

Our itinerary: Morlaix to Mont-Saint-Michel

We spent 16 days on the route between Morlaix and Mont-Saint-Michel (this includes four non-cycling days). We averaged about 45 km (28 mi)/day. The route can be covered more quickly, but we’re not the fastest riders, and why rush when there’s so much to see. I’ve listed our overnight stops below. There are many other options but this itinerary worked well for us. The mileage is approximate as it includes some detours.

  • Morlaix to Locquirec: 44 km
  • Locquirec to Trébeurden: 49 km
  • Trébeurden to Perros-Guirec (2 night stay): 29 km
  • Perros Guirec to Paimpol: 46 km
  • Paimpol to Sant-Quay-Portrieux: 51 km
  • Saint-Quay-Portrieux to Saint-Brieuc: 52 km
  • Saint-Brieuc to Erquy (2 night stay): 51 km
  • Erquy to Saint-Cast-le-Guildo (a detour off V4): 50 km
  • Saint-Cast-le-Guildo to Dinan (a detour on the V2): 48 km
  • Dinan to Saint-Malo (2 night stay): 28 km
  • Saint-Malo to Cancale: 27 km
  • Cancale to Pontorson- Mont-St-Michel (2 night stay): 64 km

How did we decide on these stops? Online research and the Moon guide to Normandy and Brittany helped us learn about the areas’s attractions. But for actually nailing down a travel plan, much thanks goes to Abicylette Voyages, a company that arranges cycling holidays in France and other European countries. While we didn’t use their services, the online descriptions of their tours helped me immensely in mapping out our itinerary. If you like the idea of cycling in France but don’t want to do it independently, Abicyclette may be a good company to contact.

We were very happy with our decision to spend extra nights in Perros-Guirec, Erquy, Saint-Malo and Mont-Saint-Michel. The first two have awesome coastal hiking, while the later are stunning cultural and historic places. Our detour to Dinan—an exquisitely preserved medieval town—on the V2 cycling greenway (which intersects the V4) was also well worth the extra few hours of easy pedalling.

There are two itinerary changes I might consider. First, I’d avoid the hill into Saint-Brieuc (a town I did not find particularly nice) and stay instead in its charming port at Le Légué. Second, Saint-Cast-le-Guildo, although a lovely place, was a longish detour after a day packed with many interesting stops. I would either add an additional night there or eliminate it and stay in a town along the V4.

What’s it like cycling on the V4?

The V4 between Morlaix and Mont-Saint-Michel is primarily on quiet minor roads with some greenways and forested paths. Our hybrid bikes worked well for this terrain. It is not a difficult cycling route but it has its share of hills. They’re never too long though and we managed to huff and puff our way up all of them. Plus, we had no guilt about feasting on all the delicious French food and wine.

The route is generally well-signed but we’re glad we had a backup. The handbook V4 a Brittany Cycle Route by Janet Moss and Pete Martin is invaluable for providing detailed descriptions of the route and assistance on tricky sections or where signage is lacking. I bought it through Amazon. We also purchased a few Michelin regional maps, but these were more helpful for the big picture versus route finding.

I expected to enjoy the coastal scenery, but ended up equally appreciating the V4’s routing through rural, agricultural communities. We didn’t have to stress about traffic and were lulled into contemplative states passing by stone farmhouses, old churches and fields of potatoes, artichokes and hydrangeas. The entire journey has a diverse mix of gorgeous landscapes, pretty towns and historical sites. The collage below shows some typical cycling terrain and scenery.

Where did we stay?

We stayed primarily in small guesthouses and B&Bs. Some we booked in advance on Booking.com, but most of our favourites were the ones we found enroute through very helpful local tourism information offices and on a website called Gîtes de France. The hosts at these places were so kind and friendly, and despite their limited English and our poor French, we managed to have wonderful conversations. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, this is the way to go. The photo below is at our guesthouse in Paimpol where the charming Miguelle and Jean-Marie rent rooms in their house above her art studio (Atelier Di-Miguelle). They serve a killer breakfast!

Mike with Miguelle and Jean-Marie at their guesthouse in Paimpol

A few more tips:

  • September is a lovely month to travel to Brittany/Normandy. The main summer crowd has left and the weather is generally pleasant. However, it’s still a busy area, particularly places like St-Malo, Mont-St-Michel and the Pink Granite Coast. It’s a good idea to book these spots in advance, especially if arriving on a weekend.
  • Unlike our German cycling experience the year before, not all French guesthouses include breakfast.
  • When selecting accommodations, check the proximity of restaurants. It’s no fun to walk/ride lengthy distances in the dark after a long day of exploring.
  • Many restaurants are closed on Sunday and Monday. Other services, even Tourism Information offices, are closed on Sunday or have shorter hours, especially in smaller centers.
  • Buy snacks and picnic fixings as you pass through larger towns. Sections of the V4 travel through rural areas with limited places to eat.
  • We brought our own bicycles but there are options to rent. Freewheelingfrance.com and the V4 handbook by Moss/Martin (mentioned above) provide good information.
  • For information about transporting bikes on airplanes and what gear and clothing to bring, read my post: Do it yourself cycle tour. Although the information relates to our German Rhine and Mosel trip, much of it is applicable to France as well.

Next posts: I’ll write about some of my favourite spots in Brittany, like Cap d’Erquy, St-Malo and more. I’ll also post about our continued cycling journey in Normandy, from Mont-St-Michel to Fécamp.

Categories: Biking, France | Tags: , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “Cycling in Brittany: The V4 from Morlaix to Mont-Saint-Michel

  1. Pingback: The grand cycling approach to Normandy’s Mont-Saint-Michel | Writes of Passage

  2. Pingback: 20 views from our bikes on Brittany’s V4 cycling route | Writes of Passage

  3. Pingback: Oyster extravaganza and medieval splendours in Brittany | Writes of Passage

  4. Pingback: Wanderings along Brittany’s north coast | Writes of Passage

  5. Honestly, your incredible imagery has motivated me to add a ‘cycling tour of Brittany’ to my bucket list. Of course, that is easy to say as I admire your efforts from the comfort of my salon couch rather than join the Captain for a 2.8 km cycle to the pharmacy. I could use the excuse that Mexico has just announced that only one person from a household may go to the shops, but really, it just gave me an excellent reason to stay home after I’d already decided to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Saint-Malo: My most anticipated stop in Brittany | Writes of Passage

  7. Sounds like an amazing trip Caroline 👌

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s interesting to know that you planned the start and end points of your cycling route based on the direction of the wind, which makes sense. The weather does look nice, which makes those small towns look even prettier. Did you try kouign-amann? I just learned about this Breton pastry a few weeks ago when I found it at a small cake shop in Jakarta, and it was really good!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are such an astute foodie Bama! I can’t believe you found this little-known Breton specialty in Jakarta. I tried it several times on our trip and except for one time, really liked it (I think the exception was a poor quality mass-produced version in a very touristy spot). My favourite Breton dish was galette—a savoury buckwheat crêpe usually topped with egg, meat, cheese (and desert version with sliced apples etc). It’s a very simple dish but I found it incredibly satisfying and was always happy when we found a crêperie along our route.
      The wind wasn’t a big issue when we were there but I’m sure it can make a difference. The handbook we were using described the route from west to east (that was also a deciding factor). Locals told us we were lucky with all the sunny weather. It can be rainy there (but not as rainy as Vancouver!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • It only started after I began traveling with James. Before that, food was not really an important part of my travel — when I went to Cambodia in 2011, I only tried a few local dishes.

        Galette sounds really good! I’ll certainly try that when I go to Brittany one day, or if I find a place in Jakarta that serves it.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve been yakking about a European bike trip with my husband ever since your first post! This one looks as amazing as the German one. We have spent time In Brittany in the past, but it would be so much fun to return on two wheels!

    Liked by 2 people

    • We’re in. Caroline can come and do it again with us 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    • The two trips are quite different in terms of terrain and sights, but we loved them both. The Rhine and Mosel have dedicated bike paths, are very flat and it’s difficult to get lost. I’m kind of glad we started there….an easy introduction. Brittany is a bit hilly and the biking is mostly on roads (though not difficult) and the coastal scenery is awesome. I loved Alsace too (the most enchanting towns and best wine IMO). You can’t go wrong cycling in any of these places.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WP is acting up or I’m technically challenged once again🤪. My original reply to you shows up under Pam’s comment. Oh well, looks like you’re both in anyway!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. OMG! Cycling through Europe…That’s a fantastic idea. Loved the itinerary and the tips. Wishing you a great trip! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the idea of cycling through Europe. The slow pace allows you to take in the scenery. I’m always enticed to do one after your posts. Regardless how we travel, you’ve sold me on this French coastline

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are hooked on European cycling holidays. The infrastructure is so great for cycling in France and Germany (and others I’m sure). And, we like the slow pace and immersing ourselves in a region. The Normandy/Brittany coasts are gorgeous. I’d like to return and explore Brittany’s west coast…apparently even more ruggedly beautiful, though less developed for cycling.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What a great post. It looks like a fantastic ride. We will have to look into this when we are based in Spain. Saving this in out France file. Thanks so much. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a great trip Caroline! Sean would love to do something like this.

    Liked by 2 people

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