Between the ports and beaches, the rocky points, the castles and manors sheltered from the winds, Saint-Malo & the Mont-Saint-Michel in the sea mist, North Brittany looks good along the Emerald Coast. And what can we say about the golf courses of the Network which embellish these lands, what good of course !
The Domaine des Ormes is not just 18 holes, far from it. With a golf course, but also a campsite, a hotel, swimming pools, a riding school, tree houses, a tree climbing park and, since 2019, the Dôme – a water bubble -, Yvonnick de La Chesnais’ farmland has evolved over forty years. On about sixty hectares, often in the forest, the course designed around the castle by Antoine d’Ormesson in 1988, played flat between the ponds, is very playful even if the small greens must be earned. Here, the whole family can have fun, relax, enjoy the site as well as the surroundings, from Combourg to the sea.
Born in 1926 between the beach and the pines, the Saint-Cast Golf Club grew in size in 1995 by extending onto the plateau. Since 2016, under the impetus of its director Philippe Lefeuvre, the club has undergone a major programme of works, beyond cosmetics. New tees, new greens, new holes including a pretty par 3 facing the sea, a revamped driving range, a redesigned clubhouse, almost a new golf course. If the greens remain complicated, what could be more pleasant than a lunch on the terrace in front of this still young course, which is approaching its hundredth birthday !
Between Cap d’Erquy and Cap Fréhel, set back from the beaches of Sables d’Or, popular with the British, nine holes were created in 1925. The following year, the Golf Club de Frehel – Sables d’Or Les Pins was extended to 18 holes. After the war, a new design emerged on the moor, between trees, gorse bushes, heather and water features. On sandy ground, the course is playable all year round. The greens are impeccable even in summer. A few granite boulders protrude from the grass and are a haven for rabbits. Recently, the clubhouse has also been given a facelift. So it shines like an emerald…
As in Les Ormes, the agricultural land has given way to green leisure on the Dinan-la Corbinais golf course. In 1993, the 9 holes were completed, the trees planted, the grass cut, the rough cleaned. Henri and Odile Beaupère had succeeded in their gamble. Thirty years later, they have passed the baton, their baby has grown up nicely, hilly, varied, lined with water holes – the one on the 9th may compromise the map… In 2020, a pitch & putt course was added to the Corbinais offer.
Where to stay ?
At the Domaine des Ormes, there is something for everyone, from the hotel with its 45 rooms and 10 suites, to the 29 fully-equipped flats in the hotel residence.
Not forgetting the campsite, which has evolved considerably since the 1980s, the tree houses or the water huts – Tarzan or Robinson, you have to choose! – or, the latest creation, the all-wooden and comfortable cottage-huts, perfect for entertaining the family. At meal time, between the club-house, Madeleine’s, the bar of the Mill, the bar of the Hotel, the Pink Cabin and the Cellar, there again, the embarrassment of choice allows to vary the pleasures according to the plates. The whole place, managed by Arnaud, Sonia and Séverine, the 2nd generation of La Chesnais, looks great from spring to autumn.
About fifteen kilometres from the Saint-Cast golf course and two minutes from the Sables d’Or golf course, the Hôtel de Diane with its 48 recently renovated rooms is ideally placed to relax after the game. A hundred metres from the beach, three kilometres from Cap Fréhel, there is no shortage of windy walks. The rooms are beautiful, the wifi efficient, the breakfast buffet copious, the table gourmet between the flavors of land and sea, the efficient and always smiling reception.
When you say privateer, you think of Saint-Malo ! Behind its granite ramparts whipped by the winds and the sea spray since time immemorial, the architecture of the old town has stood the test of time. In the 17th century, the discovery of the Americas, of new lands, created wealth while shipowners developed commercial exchanges across the seas. At the same time, privateers in the service of Her Majesty harassed enemy ships and pillaged at will. Duguay-Trouin, then Surcouf, were the terror of the English and the Spanish, and contributed to the wealth of the city of Saint Malo.
Today, in the random cobbled streets, in the estaminets where so many sailors have re-discovered the world to their heart’s content, the town can be discovered on foot, by looking up, by walking on the ramparts facing the beach of the Môle where the tide lets the islands and their forts appear while the seagulls and gulls take up in chorus their incessant refrain, hovering at the mercy of the ascending currents.
Opposite the town of Malouin, on the left bank of the Rance estuary, Dinard has a proud appearance. Its Art Nouveau and Arts Deco architecture helps it to do so. The Villa les Roches brunes is emblematic of the end of the 19th century, the Greystones villa of the 1930s. After the Second Empire, the British discovered the charm of this port, its gentle way of life and enriched it. The city experienced a new boom during the Roaring Twenties before the 1929 crisis compromised many projects. Today, the climate has hardly changed, the wind, the tides, the beautiful residences built along the coast are still there, you only have to walk along the guard road to see their elegance and opulence, before lounging on the beach of the Écluse.
Further inland, Dinan dominates the Rance which flows towards Dinard and Saint-Malo. This fortified town, built on two levels, has always been a crossing point between Brittany and Normandy. From the Middle Ages, the town has preserved its half-timbered houses on the Place des Cordeliers and its cobbled streets such as the Rue de l’Horloge and the Rue Jerzual. On the quays of the lower town, where the pleasure boats have replaced the barges with rings, the terraces attract visitors over a galette, a bolée or a slice of far.
Between the bay of Saint-Malo and that of Saint-Brieuc, Cap Fréhel is beaten by the winds. At the end of this pink sandstone headland, the lighthouse offers a landmark to sailors and a viewpoint towards the Fort la Latte to walkers. Between the moor and the steep cliffs, the birds have a field day. Cormorants, guillemots, gulls, seagulls, fulmars and even a few pairs of penguins come to nest here, sheltered from danger, in an incessant din in all weathers. As the site is classified, the footpaths are marked out, while a few sheep graze and reduce the invasive maritime cineraria.
Wind in the nose, tasting some oysters on the port of Cancale is a must. On he port of La Houle, the oyster farmers’ stalls are all close together, eight families share the sale, and the gouaille attracts the customers. The parks are in front of you, uncovered at low tide. Freshly caught hollow and flat oysters, accompanied by a glass of white wine, bread and butter, are just waiting to be eaten there, facing the sea. The tradition is to throw the shells on the beach, the high tides will clean them up !
Visible for fifty kilometres around, Mont Saint-Michel did not wait for the modern tourist influx to become famous.
As early as the 6th century, hermits built a chapel on the rock of the mountain overlooking the bay, and farmers and sailors took refuge there during the Viking invasions. In the 9th century, the canons of Mont Saint-Michel created a place of pilgrimage before a Benedictine abbey was built around 965. During the Hundred Years’ War, Bertrand du Guesclin was appointed captain of the Mont’s garrison, but the English never managed to take it. In the 19th century, Viollet-le-Duc restored the abbey, and the statue of the archangel Saint-Michel now stands at the top of the spire. Since 2014, the footbridge has provided pedestrian access to the Mont, with cars remaining parked on the mainland. Although less than a hundred people live on the mount year-round, nearly one and a half million visitors flock there each year, an influx that makes the businesses happy, starting with the table of the Mère Poulard, whose reputation for creamy omelettes, beaten with a whip, and leg of lamb from salted meadows extends beyond the confines of the bay, where the Couesnon River, in its madness, has put the mount in Normandy…
Since 1990, the Étonnants Voyageurs festival in Saint-Malo has brought together authors who are passionate about travel and adventurous literature. This year, the 33rd festival will take place from 27 to 29 May. It is an opportunity to meet authors, directors and photographers, to listen and discuss at meetings, debates, readings and screenings. More than 150 guests from all over the world with a common passion, that of transmitting their desire, their memories, their reflections, will meet in spring in the corsair city. A chance to let your imagination sail on the seas of the world… They are in danger, so are we!