The Nantes to Brest canal

Why not take the opportunity to stop off in the area in and around Pont-Château Saint-Gildas-des-Bois?  The canal from Nantes to Brest is always sure to bewitch everyone who takes the time for a stroll along its banks….

The history of the Nantes to Brest canal

Try to imagine hundreds of men, convicts, prisoners of war, deserters, here digging this canal all day and all night by hand.   We are back at the beginning of the 19th century.  The construction of inland waterways provided the solution to open up the centre of Brittany, the so called ‘Breton Siberia’ by virtue of the severe lack of passable roads which crossed the area.  The Canal therefore appeared to provide the solution to facilitate trade and the economic development of the region.  Completed in 1842, after 23 years of work, the Nantes to Brest canal winds its way across the land over 364 km and possesses some 238 locks which enable the crafts to travel across the different levels.

The lock of Melmeuf

The fifteenth gate away from Nantes, the lock at Melneuf at Guenrouët is ever popular with both pleasure boaters and fishermen.
Ecluse de Melmeuf - Nantes to Brest canal

How a lock works

Without this construction work it would be impossible to navigate the difference in level of some 555 metres along the canal from Nantes to Brest.  The lock is used to connect two sections of the canal which are at different levels known as canal reaches.  Oak gates located at each end of the lock, facilitate the transit of the boats from section of the canal to the next via the area known as the chamber.  With the help of the winding gear used to open or shut the sluice gate or valve situated at the base of the lock gates, the lockkeeper is able to regulate the level of the water in the lock.  The chamber can therefore be filled or emptied and the gates can be opened or closed to allow the boats access to the canal reaches (upstream/downstream).  

Leisure area of Saint-Clair at Guenrouët

On the banks of the Canal in the company of family, friends or on your own this big open green space is an ideal place to
-    make the most of the open air swimming pool with an impressive view over the canal: splash-pool, water-slide, ‘jacuzzi-style’ pool, green area to relax
-    hire bicycles, pedalos and canoes/kayaks
-    play mini golf
-    take a wander around the marked circuits dotted with information panels.

Walks and outings

Boat navigating the Nantes to Brest canal
On foot, on horseback, by bicycle or by canoe the choices are many to discover the area around Pont-Château St Gildas des Bois which brings together 9 towns including: Crossac, Drefféac, Guenrouët, Missillac, Pont-Château, Sainte Anne sur Brivet, Sainte Reine de Bretagne, Saint Gildas des Bois and Sévérac.
To observer the fauna, the flora and heritage you can take any one of the 26 circuits to follow on foot, by bicycle and/or on horseback (closed circuits which range from 3.5 km to 27 km).
A guide book ‘les belles échappées entre Brivet et Canal de Nantes à Brest’ (opportunities to get-away-from-it-all in the area between the river Brivet and Nantes to Brest canal) is on sale at the Tourist Offices, the town halls and shops of the area.
For cycling enthusiasts, why not ride along the route provided by ‘la Vélodyssée’ which covers a distance of some 1 400 km from England to Spain.  This particular section runs along side the Nantes to Brest Canal and goes through Guenrouët.
At the very beginning of the Nantes to Brest Canal come and discover 2 unique sites :

The abbey church of Saint-Gildas-des-Bois

This former Benedictine abbey is classed amongst some of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Brittany.  Marvel at its 14 contemporary stained-glass windows installed in 2008.  The design and production of these are the work of Pascal Convert and Jean Dominique Fleury and were part of a public commission.
There are free guided tours here during the months of July and August.  Group visits are also available upon demand: price 2€ per person. Visits for school children are also possible.

The Calvary at Pont-Château

This Calvary which depicts a reconstitution of the Stations of the Cross with its life-size sculptures was built in 1710 and then partially razed under the order of Louis XIV, it was restored in 1821.
Come and discover the 30 monuments set in a wooded park of some 14 ha : Scala Sancta, Temple of Jerusalem, caves, chapels, windmill…
Open all year round, every day from 9h to 18h, entrance is free. Also located on the same site is ‘le musée du calvaire’ this museum tells the history of the Calvary and the various missions around the world.

There are many other activities for you to enjoy in the area around Pont-Château St Gildas des Bois : canoes for hire on le Brivet at Pont-Château, the golf course of la Bretesche at Missillac, farm visits…
  • Natural stroll around the Nantes to Brest canal
  • Nantes to Brest canal - Stroll in June
  • Nantes to Brest canal - Stroll in June - vegetation
  • Nantes to Brest canal - geese