Treat yourself to a stroll in the forest, and get back to basics… Walking is the best way to reconnect with the nature that surrounds us. “Silvotherapy” is also an excellent remedy against gloominess: it’s good for your health and it costs almost nothing. The Japanese are well aware of the anti-stress virtues of “forest-bathing”; over there it is called “Shirin Yoku”. It’s time to get going. We will take you on a little tour of the walks and hikes to be done, off the beaten track, in places sometimes unknown around the capital of Brittany. During your excursion, don’t forget to take care of these places, paying particular attention to the fauna and flora, especially during the breeding or nesting periods.
1. The Bois de Soeuvres (Soeuvres Wood) (Vern-sur-Seiche)
Do some forest-bathing”in the wild forest 2 km from Rennes
On the doorstep of Rennes, between Chantepie and Vern-Sur-Seiche, a vast wooded massif stretches over nearly 195 hectares. During the French Revolution, the Bois de Soeuvres was the scene of bitter fighting between Chouans, Royalists and Republicans. Today it is a haven of peace, for walking, forest-bathing, running, mountain biking or simply observing the fauna and flora. It is a place to recharge your batteries or lose yourself. Although, in some places, the Scots pines and other resinous trees give the impression of being in a forest in the Landes, the Bois de Soeuvres is essentially composed of deciduous trees: oaks, beeches, hornbeams, horse chestnuts and aspens. Not many people can be seen here: a few hikers who are used to the area, families with children building treehouses, riders from the neighbouring equestrian centre… With a bit of luck you will be able to see some deer and squirrels and some rare birds such as the triple-banded kinglet or the wood warbler.
In the heart of the Bois de Soeuvres, the hustle and bustle of the city seems far away even though we are only a stone’s throw from Rennes. And you quickly get lost as soon as you leave the main paths, in a maze of trails… A reservoir of greenery, where 115 hectares have been developed by the Ille-et-Vilaine department to enhance the ecological interest of the Bois de Soeuvres and entice visitors to come and discover it.
The practical side of the Bois de Soeuvres
- Access: By car, take the Rennes-Angers road and exit in the direction of the Bois de Soeuvres and Val d’Orson business parks. Walk along the forest, cross the railway line and then park in a small car park on the left, the starting point for the walks. By bike, it is 5 kilometres from La Poterie Metro Station. By bus: Line 62 from La Poterie Metro Station.
- Why go there? If you want to enjoy the tranquility of Mother Nature, surrounded by trees, and let your little ones let off some steam playing in the woods, all close at hand…
- Recommended route: Loop of 3.7 kilometres (about an hour) in the forest starting from the car park, on forest tracks. Depending on the season, the paths are sometimes muddy and not necessarily suitable for pushchairs. See and download the route on the Pays de Rennes website.
- Markings: From the car park, at the first intersection, turn left and follow the blue markings, which can be inconspicuous at times. If you do not have a good sense of direction, do not leave the marked forest path.
- Things to see and do nearby. Vern-les-bains: a picnic area at the water’s edge, equipped beach and nautical base a few minutes away; Bois de Soeuvres Equestrian Centre ; Pays de Rennes Ecomuseum, for discovering Brittany’s rural heritage in a real animal farm www.ecomusee-rennes-metropole.fr/.
2. The Bois de Cicé (Cicé Wood) (Bruz)
To go for a stroll while the wolf isn’t there…
On the banks of the Vilaine, next to the golf course and the Cicé-Blossac estate, the Bois de Cicé offers a variety of landscapes for walking and hiking on forest paths, the banks of the river and ponds. Like the Bois de Soeuvres, the Bois de Cicé was a focal point of the Chouannerie during the French Revolution.
The place is also the home of a mysterious legend: it is said that François Champion, the former owner of the Château de Cicé (Cicé Castle), was forced to sell his home. Since then, he has been haunting the forest, taking on the appearance of a wolf or a big black dog in order to frighten those who go in search of his treasure, hidden under the ruins of the castle. You have been warned!
The practical side of the Bois de Cicé
- Access: by bike on the towpath from the Mail François Mitterrand (François Mitterrand Strip) in Rennes, it takes about an hour (a little more than 13 km without any particular difficulties but rather suitable for hybrid bikes and mountain bikes) a little after the lock, turn left into the forest by a path. By car: 15 km from Rennes on the 4-lane road towards Redon, exit Bruz, Cicé, Campus de Ker-Lann, then turn left, then right in the direction of the edge of the Bois de Cicé. Avoid parking at the entrance to the woods (meeting point on the road to the left), instead follow the sign indicating the “Passerelle sur la Vilaine” car park as you cross the woods.
- Why go there? For a walk, or a picnic by the pond, for fishing (fishing is regulated on the site) or for a bike ride along the towpath. Mosquito repellent is highly recommended during the warm season.
- Recommended route: 6.5 km walk on forest paths: most of the paths are well maintained and accessible without any particular difficulty with pushchairs (on the main tracks).
- Markings: yellow for the 6.5 km loop that will take you between forest paths, ponds and towpaths.
- Things to see and do nearby: the Cicé-Blossac Estate, a magnificent 4-star resort (hotel-golf restaurant and spa) offering a well-deserved bubble of relaxation. https://www.domainedecice.com/en/golf-resort-brittany-france
3. The Bois de la Sillandais (Sillandais Wood) (Chavagne)
For surveying a natural site of ecological interest
To the south-west of Rennes, between Bruz and Mordelles, there is another walking area suitable for everyone: Chavagne’s Bois de la Sillandais. A natural site of ecological interest that can be easily discovered from the market town and its church. The wood is named after the château de la Sillandais (Sillandais Castle), which can be admired before heading towards the wood. The building dates from the 17th century and is surrounded by a wide moat.
On the walking side, you enter the wood via a wide forest path lined with pedunculate oaks. The trails are well maintained and a 1.75 km circuit has even been set up for people with reduced mobility. It allows you to discover the wood and appreciate its natural calm. Along the paths you will find many tables, benches and perching spots for picnicking, resting or taking a short break in the shade.
The Bois de la Sillandais in practice
- Access: by bike from Rennes via the towpath (about 12 kilometres) before reaching the market town. By car: Chavagne is about ten kilometres from Rennes, take the N24 exit in the direction of Chavagne. By bus take metro line 56.
- Why go there: For a quiet stroll in a well-managed wood, and to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the place. Don’t forget mosquito repellent.
- Recommended route: The Sillandais circuit (between 6 and 7 kilometres) will allow you to discover the wood, the castle and the nearby wooded banks of the Meu. Departure from the church where you can get supplies from the shops around the square. See the details of the circuit on the Chavagne town hall website
- Markings: the path is marked in yellow, as is often the case for short hikes. In the wood, specific markings for the PRM circuit make it easy to follow the most suitable paths for people with reduced mobility.
- Nearby: the banks of the Meu (a tributary of the Vilaine) are particularly pleasant with a sports trail and varied landscapes between woods, river and ponds.
4. The Bois de la Motte (Motte Woods) (Le Rheu)
To learn as much as you can about the forest
The Bois de la Motte is closely linked to the history of the “garden city” of Le Rheu. Covering 20 hectares, just next to the INRA (National Institute for Agricultural Research), it is the property of the Agrocampus Ouest school and is managed in partnership with the commune, the National Forestry Office and Rennes metropolis. It is a real forest laboratory with a wide variety of tree species, some of which are quite rare. An educational trail makes it easier to recognise them: beech, chestnut, American red oak, Japanese larch, maritime pine, berry yew will yield their secrets to you thanks to the explanatory panels. The sheer size of some specimens, especially at the entrance of the wood, is enough to give you vertigo. Be careful and attentive in the woods as some trees have been blown down by storms and sometimes block the paths.
The practical side of the Bois de la Motte
- Access: By bike, less than 10 km away, you just have to follow the Vilaine towpath towards the west and branch off at the Apigné ponds in the direction of Le Rheu. By car, head west from Rennes for less than 10 kilometres. From the centre of Le Rheu follow the road to the Hermitage and the signs Inra followed by Ifip (Institut du Porc (Pork Institute) to find the small car park and the entrance to the woods. By bus, bus line number 54.
- Why go there: for a short educational walk on the trail to discover the forest environment.
- Recommended route: The educational trail of the woods is not very long (2 km), the garden city circuit (a loop of 6-7 km) allows you to prolong your trip from the town by walking along the alleys and footpaths. See the circuit of the Bois de la Motte trail on the Pays de Rennes website.
- Things to see and do nearby: the Apigné ponds, a place for walks and leisure activities with an serviced beach. The Bois de la Freslonnière (Freslonnière Wood), next to the golf course of the same name.
5. Bois de Champagne (Champagne Wood) (Pacé)
To breathe the atmosphere of the Flume
In Pacé, numerous circuits and hiking routes invite you to cross varied and green landscapes. Enough to stroll for hours along the Flume and take the opportunity to discover the Bois de Champagne. Did you say Champagne? No need to look for any trace of wine-growing activity, here it is instead cider that was produced in the past. The name of the wood actually comes from the Sires of Champagne (Lords of Champagne) who founded the parish in the Middle Ages.
At the entrance to the woods, whose paths sometimes run along the tributary of the Vilaine river, the ruins of an old mill bear witness to this past. The sound of the river and a large picnic area invite you to take a break at the edge of the forest. The paths are innumerable and it is easy to get lost. The place is popular with walkers and well equipped. An inexhaustible spot for short Sunday strolls or walks in the fresh air.
The practical side of the Bois de Champagne
- Access: By car, Pacé is about ten kilometres north-west of Rennes taking the 4-lane road in the direction of Saint-Brieuc. At Pacé, follow the green signs indicating the Bois de Champagne – you can’t miss it. By bus take metro line number 52.
- Why go there:to take a walk in the shade along the river Flume and meander through the forest and river environments.
- Recommended routes: With half a dozen possible circuits on the short hiking trails, there is no shortage of choice. Routes ranging from 4 kilometres (circuit of the Flume loops) to 14 kilometres. The starting point is the Pont de Pacé (Pacé Bridge). With on-site parking and a map of the routes to follow.
- Markings: Wooden signs indicate the main routes and directions with yellow lines to follow.
- Things to see and do nearby: the Moroccan garden of La Chapelle-des-Fougeretz.