Spanning both the south coast of England and the north coast of France, the Tour de Manche is a cycle route that crosses the English Channel twice to form a loop taking in some of the most delightful rural scenes and coastlines. Along the 620 mile (996 km) route, you’ll explore both the similarities and differences between these two beautiful regions.
On the English leg, you’ll ride through glorious Devon, across Dartmoor National Park, and along the Jurassic Coastline into Dorset before reaching Poole, home to Europe’s largest natural harbour.
After a short ferry across to Cherbourg, you’ll make your way through the green fields of Normandy, past numerous historic sites from WWII and ancient castles, and west along the picturesque coastline of Brittany to Roscoff.
This Collection is jam-packed full of quaint villages, quiet country lanes, artisan markets, crumbling castles, far-reaching coastal views, ancient monuments, bustling harbours and golden, sandy beaches. Not to mention the wonderful changing cuisine as you hug the shores of England and France. If you like seafood, you’re in for a treat!
The full route has been proposed here in 11 stages, measuring between 33 miles (53.4 km) and 71.4 miles (115 km). You can, of course, choose to combine any of the stages or split them further. Thankfully, in these regions there are frequent towns and villages, many with a great selection of guesthouses, hotels, hostels and campsites to choose from. Just be aware that it’s best to book ahead to guarantee availability, especially in the peak summer season.
Summer and the shoulder seasons are the best times to attempt this circuit, when you’re most likely to get the best weather and longer days. You should always be prepared for inclement weather, however, as these western reaches are well known for plentiful rain!
Although most of the Tour de Manche is on quiet country lanes, there are some sections on bridleways or Voie Verte that are unpaved. Ideally, tyres of 28mm width or larger will help you on these sometimes uneven or bumpy surfaces. If you want to avoid these, you can re-route those sections to stay on the roads.
Find the ferry timetables here for Poole - Cherbourg (brittany-ferries.co.uk/ferry-routes/ferries-france/poole-cherbourg) and Roscoff to Plymouth (brittany-ferries.co.uk/ferry-routes/ferries-france/plymouth-france). The Poole crossing takes just four and a half hours, whereas the Plymouth crossing is longer, taking between six and eight hours. Overnight crossings are a great option, especially if you book a cabin so you can get a good night’s sleep and shower on the journey.
Although you can start from any point on the Tour de Manche loop that you choose, Plymouth is a great place to begin your 11-stage trip, thanks to its many transport links. It’s on the main Penzance train line from London, which also carries bikes (although it’s best to check if you need a reservation…
From wild and remote Dartmoor, down to Devon’s capital of Exeter and then along the spectacular coastline of East Devon, you’re in for a real treat with stage 2. Underestimate it at your peril!
Coming down off the Moor, you’ll find that the first half of the stage is a little lumpy but mostly downhill…
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You’ll leave Devon behind as you continue east on stage 3, taking in the breathtaking Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Be prepared for a hilly ride as you navigate around Lyme Bay and finish in the county town, Dorchester.
After splashing through the ford in Sidmouth, there’s a sharp hill out of the town past…
I’ve deliberately made the last stage in England a little shorter, to accommodate for afternoon channel crossings from Poole. Therefore, this is the shortest stage at just 33 miles (53.4 km). You’ll need to factor in some time for the Sandbanks chain link ferry, too, or alternatively ride around the…
After landing on French soil in Cherbourg, your first stage is a ride down through the Manche region of Normandy, past many historic battle sites from World War 2 and war graves. You could take a few extra days here to visit these, including the well-known Utah Beach, if you would like.
After a diversion…
Huge swathes of the Tour on stage 6 follow the River Vire, yielding an easy and tranquil route along the flat for most of the stage, before getting a little hillier at the end to reach the town with the same name.
In the middle of the stage, it’s well worth taking some time to explore the gorgeous Medieval…
Enjoy a hillier start today before descending to the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, a remarkable landmark out to sea that characterises the Normandy coastline and draws visitors from all over the world.
Although you have a long climb to start the stage up to 985 feet (300 m), this is all easy-going on the…
Wave Normandy behind as you continue west on stage 8, riding through the Ille-et-Villaine region of Brittany and finishing in the Côtes-de-Armor after Saint-Malo. You’ll find this area isn’t far from Normandy, yet has quite a different feel.
Take the coastal road along the Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel…
The spectacular Cap Fréhel awaits on stage 9, before hugging more of the Breton Côtes-de-Armor coastline past Saint-Brieuc to finish in the small town of Saint-Quay-Portrieux.
You’ll start the stage on quiet lanes to cross the River L’Arguenon, following the straight road through rural Brittany into…
On this penultimate stage, follow the coastline of the Côtes-de-Armor department to finish in the major town of Lannion. You’ll start by following parallel to the coast atop the cliffs, taking a series of quiet, rural roads between the fields and past villages including Bréhec and Plouézec.
Do take a…
You’ll finish the last stage of the Tour de Manche in the Breton department of Finistère, ending at the port of Roscoff to take the ferry to Plymouth and complete the circuit. You’ll also pass through one of my favourite towns in the whole of Brittany; Morlaix.
From bustling Lannion, the first part of…
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