France’s Atlantic Coast bike route, La Vélodyssée, runs from the English Channel to Spain. Thanks to Ricky Myles for this guest article.
The Velodyssey bike route (or La Vélodyssée in French) is a 1,200km Atlantic Coast cycle route stretching from Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany, through Loire-Atlantique and Vendée departments in Pays de la Loire, heading south and passing through Poitou-Charentes and Aquitaine towards Hendaye and the Spanish border.
En route, the Velodyssey cycle route passes an exceptional number of prime tourist sites, whether natural, historical or cultural.
It takes in over 20 major natural sites and reserves including Bay of Morlaix in Brittany, the beautiful marshlands of the Marais Poitevin on the borders of the Vendée and Poitou-Charentes, the Marennes Oléron, the Cognac vineyards, the Bordeaux vineyards of the Médoc, the beaches of Lacanau, the Bassin d’Arcachon, Cap Ferret, the Dune du Pilat, and the vast Landes forest.
Some 80% of the Atlantic cycle route is cconcentrated on dedicated cycleways that give easy access to historic French towns and cities from Brittany down to Aquitaine, including Dinan, Guérande, Morlaix, Nantes, La Rochelle, Rochefort, Royan, Bayonne, Pau, Dax and Biarritz.
The French islands of Belle Ile en Mer, Ile de Yeu, Ile de Ré, Ile d’Oleron, Ile d’Aix and Ile Madame are easy detours that make for lovely day rides or overnight stops.
Velodyssey forms part of the EuroVelo 1 cycleway (see here for our article on EuroVelo routes across the continent), with extensions to England in the north and to Spain in the south.
EuroVelo 1 is the longest of the EuroVelo bike routes, linking North Cape in Norway, the northernmost point of continental Europe (it's actually in the Arctic Circle) to the south of Portugal.
See our overview of other EuroVelo routes that run through France.
Velodyssey is also one of the two cycle itineraries that make up the Cycle West project, a trans-national European bike project that aims to connect Brittany and Normandy to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in the south-west of England.
Great services for cycle touring in France
The Velodyssey cycle route has been designed to be a destination in itself and not just a bike route. All parts of the cycleway are way-marked with standardised signage, making it easy to find accommodation for cyclists, and bike hire and repair services along the way.
You can click our icons below for bike-friendly accommodation on the Velodyssey bike route and in the regions that feed it.
The bike route utilises the French national 'Accueil Vélo' label, which guarantees that the needs of cycle tourists are met. This mark of quality covers four categories of services:
• Tourist accommodation (transfer of luggage, secure bicycle storage, repair kits, convenient opening hours, accommodation for cyclists);
• Bike hire and bike repair services;
• Tourist information (offices de tourisme and syndicats d’initiative);
• Places to visit and leisure activities (castles, leisure parks, vineyards, museums and other points and places of interest).
Professionals who provide support and infrastructure services along the Velodyssey bike route must be located no more than 5km from the cycle route and must meet strict criteria as regards the quality of the accommodation and facilities they provide to touring cyclists.
If you're thinking of cycling the Atlantic Coast ...
The Roscoff to Nantes section is covered off in this French cycling guidebook. The maps are handy even if you don't read French (even so accommodation listings are self-explanatory).
Richard Peace's Cycling Southern France includes the Atlantic Coast. See also Michelin's Green Guide French Atlantic Coast. Michelin has a French-language book of excellent bike maps around Aquitaine (the region around Bordeaux).
For more information on cycling in Brittany, see our dedicated articles: Brittany regional guide, cycling in Brittany's greenways, and our various city and town guides (see links from the two articles mentioned above).
Getting to and from La Vélodyssée
For information on train services throughout France, see our trains information page. The route hugs the coast of France, which is well served by ferry routes. Brittany Ferries, DFDS Seaways, MyFerryLink, P&O Ferries and Condor Ferries all run services to numerous ports along the north and western coasts, including services into Santander and Bilbao in Spain for accessing the southern part of the route. Celticlink Ferries and Irish Ferries both run services from Ireland to the north of France. For more on ferries to France, see here.
The route also links up with other EuroVelo routes in France and is also linked to Bordeaux via the Bordeaux to Lacanau bike route, and to other routes in the north of France, such as the Tour de Manche and the Loire valley route.