The rocambole gardens

Quirky gardens, forests and parks

6 ideas for a stroll just a few minutes away from Rennes

In Rennes, nature is never far away… In just a few kilometres, you can escape the city to stroll, ramble and walk through the extraordinary gardens, mysterious forests and natural spaces at the waters’ edge. A quick walk in search of the rich greenery in the municipalities of the Rennes Métropole area.

1. Forest of Rennes

In the forest of Rennes
In the forest of Rennes © Destination Rennes / Franck Hamon

Plunge into the forest 

The national forest of Rennes stretches across almost 3,000 hectares, which is more or less the same size as it was in the Middle Ages. In Roman times, however, it reached right up to the gates of Condate (the name for Rennes during this era) and provided the town with construction materials for its timber-framed houses. Today, it is a pleasant place for a stroll and the GR 39 hiking route runs through it. With more than 80 km of signposted walking routes, the Rennes forest is a paradise for walkers and nature-lovers. There is nowhere better for “forest bathing”, as enthusiasts of the Japanese concept of shinrin yoku say. In the area around the étang des Maffrais lake, towards Saint-Sulpice-la-Forêt, there is an ecology trail lasting around 75 minutes that is well suited to families and to discovering the forest environment. Maps of the various trails and paths are large and well maintained with several circuits accessible to mountain bikes around the Mi-Forêt area. The walk out from town to the forest, starting from the church in Thorigné-Fouillard, is another possible route into the curative powers of nature.

How to get there from rennes

Just 15 minutes north of Rennes: take the A84 route des Estuaires that leads to Mont-Saint-Michel. Take the Liffré/La Bouëxière exit, and then head for Saint-Sulpice-la-Forêt.

Sights to see nearby

Notre-Dame du Nid-au-Merle Abbey
Notre-Dame du Nid-au-Merle Abbey

Either on your way to or leaving the Forest of Rennes, stop off at the Notre-Dame du Nid-au-Merle abbey in Saint-Sulpice-la-Forêt. Located just a couple of minutes’ drive from the étang des Maffrais lake, at the entrance to the town, the ruins of the abbey are well worth seeing. Built in the 12th century, it is now open to the elements and is an example of the Romantic decoration of an abandoned abbey church. The high walls of the choir and the chapel still remain. Simply push the gate open and go in.

2. The rocambole gardens

The rocambole gardens
Jardins Rocambole © Destination Rennes

Visit a unique eco-friendly garden

If Postman Cheval could have imagined a garden, it would, without a doubt, have looked like the Rocambole in Corps-Nuds. In this miniature paradise, visitors walk around a series of little landscaped spaces that have been shaped over the years by two enthusiasts, Luc Bienvenu and Christine Bannier. From June to October, they open the gates to their secret garden to share their passion for organic cultivation. Colourful and whimsical, the Rocambole Gardens are strewn with sculptures and works by artists who are regularly invited to exhibit their creations amongst the plants. Musical picnics are also organised for some Sundays and it is possible to buy plants. After visiting the garden, make the most of your trip by visiting the gallery, and take a break at the refreshment stand while the children amuse themselves with quirky wooden toys. In short, there are so many reasons why you should spend an afternoon at the Rocambole Gardens with the family.

How to get there from rennes

The Rocambole Gardens are 20 km south of Rennes in a place known as La Lande aux Pitois, 35150 Corps-Nuds. +33(0)2 99576832. Open from 1 June to 21 October 2018 from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Accommodation nearby

La Demeure de l’Isle is a charming bed and breakfast in a 18th-century mansion in Saint-Erblon. +33(0)299413469.

3. The boël mill and the vilaine valley

The boël Mill
© CRTB / Donatienne Guillaudeau

Admire the twists and turns of the vilaine

Boël offers one of the best viewpoints of the Vilaine. The river flows between the high cliffs of purple schist that overlook one of the oldest mills from the area’s beginnings, built in 1652. The site stretches over more than 300 hectares and you can stroll along the towpath, following the steep paths that join the GR 39, linking Mont-Saint-Michel with Guérande, for a walk that combines river and moorland landscapes. Whether you approach it on horseback, on foot, on a mountain bike, in a kayak or on a paddleboard, there are 1,001 ways to see the Vilaine Valley and the Boël, which spreads across three municipalities: Bruz, Laillé and Guichen.

How to get there?

The Boël Mill is 20 km south of Rennes. Follow directions for Redon/Saint-Nazaire on the dual carriageway, exit at Bruz and then follow directions for Pont-Réan and finally the signs for Boël. 

Places to eat nearby

For a gourmet stop during your trek, have a seat at the terrace of the Marin’ Boël, a restaurant-creperie on the lake, for an outstanding view to watch as the barges and boats pass through the lock. Marin’ Boël: +33(0)299422569

4. Moroccan garden in Chapelle-des-Fougeretz

Moroccan garden in Chapelle-des-Fougeretz
Moroccan garden in Chapelle-des-Fougeretz

For an exotic break on the way back from the beach

Next stop is a small Moroccan garden nestled in Chapelle-des-Fougeretz. Set around a water path decorated in traditional mosaics, which was created by artists from Fez in 2010 are Mediterranean and exotic plants are set in squares through which you can stroll peacefully, appreciating its shaded corners. This amazing little garden is a symbol of friendship between Brittany and Morocco.

How to get there from rennes

On the dual carriageway that leads to Saint-Malo, take the Chapelle-des-Fougeretz exit (5 minutes after leaving the bypass). Signs for the garden appear around the church and the town centre. Please be aware that the carpark entrance is very narrow.

To see and do nearby

  • The Moroccan garden is next to the Matelon park and lake, which is a lovely spot for a picnic.
  • The fête des confitures (jam festival) is perfect for foodies and takes place in Chapelle-des-Fougeretz every September (23rd edition on Sunday 9 September 2018).

5. Gardens of Cesson-Sévigné

The Bourchevreuil Park in Cesson-Sévigné
The Bourchevreuil Park in Cesson-Sévigné © Destination Rennes

Stretch out in the grass, play sports or have a picnic

The town of Cession-Sévigné is not just the “trendy suburb” of Rennes. It is also a garden city incorporating many parks and natural spaces. These include five public parks that make up more than 50 hectares. Particularly notable among these is the Bourchevreuil garden. It is laid out around a 17th-century manor and is a splendid garden in the French style at a modest 6,000 m2. Not far away, around the Pont des Arts cultural centre, a large park brings joy to walkers and families and merges into the Champagné park alongside the Vilaine river. Next to the town hall, the understated Chalotais manor is also a picturesque oasis of greenery at the centre of the town. More surprisingly, the Château de la Monniais is an English-style manor house that appears somewhat out of place in the landscape. The surrounding 9-hectare public park is home to rare trees, such as the Everglades sequoia.

How to get there from Rennes

In 5-10 minutes from the bypass (south or north) towards Paris, follow directions for Cesson-Sévigné centre. If you are travelling by bus, take the C6 line, which takes around 15 minutes from the République stop.

To see and do nearby

  • The Domaine de Tizé, created by the au bout du Plongeoir collective, is an unusual art studio that hosts companies in residence. It is also a 13-hectare estate lying by the water’s edge and alongside a golf course, making it a very pleasant place to go walking. 
  • The Cesson golf course: for practicing your swing or taking a walk along the water’s edge, Cesson-Sévigné golf course is the closest to Rennes. 

6. Betton and the Ille-et-Rance canal

The church of Betton
The church of Betton © Destination Rennes / Franck Hamon

When it comes to wandering along the water’s edge, the Ille-et-Rance canal offers a number of options for walkers and cyclists. In Betton, starting on the banks and marshland, the Planchette route is an excellent place to set out along the towpath along the Ille-et-Rance canal. It is a 7 km loop that goes past the Brosses lock. Be on the look out for the sculptures that are regularly set up in the water during summer. There are other way-marked routes ideal for a wander in the direction of the nearby Rennes forest.

How to get there from Rennes

Betton is 7 km north of Rennes on the Rennes-Saint-Malo link. It is just a 10-minute drive away. There is a bus link with the 78 line. However, the most pleasant way to travel is, without a doubt, by cycling along the canal passing through Saint-Grégoire and the walking and cycling path.

Things to do nearby

Every Sunday morning, Betton market sets up next to the canal on the place de la Cale from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s the perfect place to stock up on local produce before heading out for a walk or a picnic.

Nature walk

Lots of other walks to take in rennes

Brittany is a paradise for walkers. There is a multitude of other forests and areas ideal for walkers near Rennes: these include the Bois de Soeuvres paths in Vern-sur-Seiche, the Bois de la Motte trail or the circuit around the lake of Rheu, the Chevré Valley in Acigné or even the Cicé woods and its many forest paths in Bruz, to name a few. To discover other walking routes, go to the Pays de Rennes website where you will find 65 walks to take around the capital of Brittany, for all levels ranging from 1km loops to longer distance hikes for more experienced walkers. These routes are also available as a handy guide and you can pick up a copy in the Rennes Tourist Office shop, 1 rue Saint-Malo. 

Lastly, if you are a fan of mysterious forests, a visit to Brocéliande is an absolute must. The most mythical of Breton forests lies not far from Rennes…

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email