Mélanie LF

Hiking in the footsteps of writer Sylvain Tesson – 3 days in Normandy’s Cotentin

© Mélanie Le Febvre

Hiking in the footsteps of writer Sylvain Tesson – 3 days in Normandy’s Cotentin

Hiking Collection by Mélanie LF

3-6

days

3-6 h

/ day

48.4 mi

2,875 ft

2,500 ft

Have you heard of Sylvain Tesson, the most published travel writer in France? He climbed cathedral roofs, hiked across the Mongolian steppe, lived on the shores of Lake Baikal in Russia for six months and crossed France on foot from the Italian border to the Cotentin.

This route follows a large part of the GR 223 known as the ‘Sentier des Douaniers’ or ‘Sentier du Littoral’. It traces the end of his French crossing, that he describes in his book ‘Sur les chemins noirs’, in reverse. This part of the GR223 is considered one of the most beautiful paths in France. It’s a perfect introduction to the charming Cotentin Peninsula between the towns of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin and Les Pieux.

Whether or not you are a fan of Sylvain Tesson, the landscape and the history are incredible. Steep paths lead along the coast between gorse bushes, creeks and cliffs with a view of the Channel Islands. You ride by defense bunkers and rusty tanks from the Second World War, in between the grassy dunes. The landscapes are diverse and immense. You feel like you’re in a different country or another time, but you’re in France. The geology is spectacular: the Cap de la Hague cliffs are the highest in Europe and hold many surprises.

This seaside hike takes you to the region of Manche for three days or more, on the Cotentin peninsula. An accessible and beautiful walk, more or less sportive according to your pace, with otherworldly landscapes.

Your adventure begins in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, a maritime city on the Channel known for Jacques Demy's umbrellas. You can easily arrive by train. I recommend spending some time walking around here – it’s a city rich in culture and history where life is good.

For almost 80 kilometres (49.7 mi), you follow paths along the seaside and pebble beaches and occasionally on the road to Les Pieux. You can reach a bigger city (such as Cherbourg-en-Cotentin or Coutances) with bus 10 that leads down the same road. The nature is magnificent and impressive, as are the villages and historic artifacts en route. There is something for everyone!

You can hike this route self-supported or stop in local lodgings and hotels. I personally chose to wild camp and tried to finish each day near a village where I could fill up on water. As the area is quite remote, make sure you reserve any hotels before you set off so you definitely have accommodation. The region is accessible all year round, but I recommend avoiding the winter season to really enjoy hiking. The weather can be changeable in any season so don’t forget to ask about the rain and wind conditions before you set off. Have a good hike!

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    07:09
    17.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    650 ft
    550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This first stage takes you from Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, the start of our route easily accessible from all the cities of France by train, to Omonville-la-Petite along the English Channel. Prepare to …

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  • Difficult
    07:00
    15.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,400 ft
    1,450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A day by the sea, on the roads and trails, between capes and gorse ... A beautiful 25.4 km stage awaits you, get ready to be amazed!The second stage …

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  • Difficult
    06:35
    15.6 mi
    2.4 mph
    825 ft
    500 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This third and last day passes through the Dunes de Biville: it was my favorite part of this hike! And that's far from the only attraction of this stage.You …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    3
  • Distance
    48.4 mi
  • Duration
    20:44 h
  • Elevation
    2,875 ft2,500 ft

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Mélanie LF

Hiking in the footsteps of writer Sylvain Tesson – 3 days in Normandy’s Cotentin