Routes to the Vendée
from the Channel ports
including how to get round Nantes
and how to get home,
plus a few places to stay on the way...

  From CAEN






  From ST MALO



Plus how to get around NANTES !

Please scroll down the page till you find the route you're interested in...


Although most of us will be equipped with satnavs these days, it’s reassuring to have an up-to-date French road atlas to hand,
or maps that cover each of the areas you will be driving through.  You never know when a newly-opened
bypass or a poorly-signposted diversion will throw you off-course. Or you might want to take a break and
stop for a meal in a peaceful village rather than the scramble of a motorway service station.

As well as having a constant programme of road-building and creating by-passes, the French also have a
distressing tendency to re-number motorway exits from time to time (notably in the Dunkerque/Calais/Boulogne area),
so with an old map you could find yourself thoroughly confused.


Here’s the handy ViaMichelin link to help you plan the detail before you start.


From ROSCOFF / Port du Bloscon (approx 5 hours to the Vendée)

Head for LANDIVISIAU (bypassed), Sizun, Le Faou, and join N165 dual carriageway past Quimper, Lorient, Vannes, La Roche-Bernard. After Pontchateau, turn right for
ST NAZAIRE. Then turn right on N171, still for St-Nazaire. Look carefully for PONT DE ST NAZAIRE sign in a bleak industrial landscape, after about 5 miles - it's easy to miss!
Cross St-Nazaire bridge (toll-free), and continue 20 miles to BOURGNEUF-EN-RETZ bypass.
Now you're in the Vendée...





From CALAIS / ferry port, or Tunnel at Coquelles (approx 7 hrs’ drive to the Vendée)
Join A16 in direction of Boulogne, Le Touquet and Abbeville. Continue on the A16 to ABBEVILLE.
At junction 23, follow direction Le Treport/Rouen/Le Havre to reach the motorway A28, missing out Abbeville town centre.

You are now driving through Upper Normandy, and at junction 11 of the A28 you have two choices:


BD10299_ Continuing on the A28, to skirt Rouen and head south via Alençon, Le Mans and Angers, then towards Nantes (for the north-west Vendee), or Cholet and La Roche-sur-Yon, if you are aiming for Les Sables d’Olonne or for the eastern Vendee.



BD10299_ Take the “Autoroute des Estuaires”, which passes well to the north of Rouen, heading towards Le Havre, where you cross the River Seine on the handsome Pont de Normandie (toll or about 6 euros to cross), and drive on west to Caen, Avranches, Rennes to Nantes.

There is very little difference time-wise; he Autoroute des Estuaires is about 35 km longer, but costs less in tolls, as it’s toll-free from Caen onwards.


From DIEPPE  (approx 5 hours)

Head south towards ROUEN. Skirt the city to the west, and continue south-west on the A28 via Alençon, as A above.

Or halfway between Dieppe and Rouen, take the A29 west towards Le Havre, and cross the Pont de Normandie, going on via Caen and Rennes as B above.


From LE HAVRE  (approx 4.5 hours)

From the port, follow N15 (which becomes A131) east and then join southbound A29 to reach the magnificent Pont de Normandie, across the mouth of the River Seine (about 6 euros toll payable), then head for Caen and Avranches as in B, above.


From La Roche, you take different directions according to whether you want the St-Jean-de-Monts/St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie area (follow NOIRMOUTIER signs around the north side of La Roche to get to the D948 towards Challans), or the A87 that bypasses the town to the south with exits towards the the D747 towards La Tranche-sur-Mer or the D160 fast dual-carriageway for Les Sables-d’Olonne.




Here’s the handy ViaMichelin link to help you plan the detail.


From ST-MALO / Port de la Naye (approx 3 hrs to the Vendée)

Take "TOUTES DIRECTIONS" on leaving port; then go half-left at the next roundabout and follow signs for RENNES (good dual carriageway).


From CAEN / Ouistreham (approx 4 hrs)

Leave Ouistreham (port) heading for CAEN. Before reaching the city, look out carefully for RENNES / MONT-ST-MICHEL signs and turn off to follow the Caen ring road (périphérique nord) anticlockwise. You need to keep your wits about you, as you have to pick up quite a few turnings while you're going round the ring road, keeping Rennes in your sights. Eventually you should find yourself on the toll-free A84 which sweeps you on to RENNES.


From CHERBOURG  ferry terminal (approx 4.5 hrs)

Follow MONT ST MICHEL signs to get out of town and onto south-bound dual carriageway. Either turn off, still following Mont St Michel signs at around Valognes, and then take a more rural route via Coutances to AVRANCHES; or continue on dual carriageway and turn off to ST LO, then down to VILLEDIEU-LES-POELES and pick up the A84 (toll-free) to Avranches. Follow this excellent road south towards RENNES.



From RENNES, via Nantes

Approaching Rennes, watch out for NANTES signs, so that you get on the rocade (ring road) either clockwise (if you arrive from St-Malo) or anticlockwise (if you arrive from Avranches), and travel almost 180 degrees around to the south of the city before taking the N137 southwards towards Nantes (it's a bit of a tricky junction, involving a small but busy roundabout). If you should find yourself going off the "wrong" way round after all, don't panic: just keep on going around and then look carefully for Nantes signs, to leave the Rennes bypass at the Nantes turning (N137; the junction comes up a bit quickly after the first exit sign, so be careful not to miss it).
Once on the N137 Nantes dual carriageway (again, toll-free) continue on dual carriageway.

Note that the speed limit on the Rennes to Nantes road is 110kph, not the usual 130kph that you get on the toll motorways.

  A couple of petrol stations between here and Nantes offer good coffee and snacks, and modern loos; try and avoid the loos at the unmanned, non-petrol-station pull-offs - they're pretty disgusting).

Approaching NANTES, look for signs to BORDEAUX, which will whisk you anticlockwise around the western ring road (or périphérique) and over the elegant Pont de Cheviré (toll-free bridge) across the Loire.




File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0

Confused? You won't be...
This image is from one of the excellent
IGN maps
widely available in France.

Now it depends where you want to go.
For Pornic or Noirmoutier (D751) take exit 52a, which comes pretty soon after you've come down from the bridge on to terra firma.
If you want St Jean-de-Monts, St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, Les Sables-d'Olonne, continue to exit 48a before leaving the ring road. For the first two towns, you can go off south-westwards towards St-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu and Challans (D117); for Les Sables follow La Roche-sur-Yon.
La Roche is reached either by "autoroute" (A83 toll motorway) - well, a bit of motorway, as far as Montaigu, then a toll-free dual carriageway (D763) down to La Roche; the town now has a western bypass leading straight around to the Les Sables road - or you can take the non-motorway route (D937, at exit 1) through Geneston and Rocheservière, which meets the dual carriageway D763 before La Roche.
If you're going farther east, to Luçon, Fontenay, Vouvant, Mervent etc, then the toll motorway (A83) from Nantes is perfect. Try and pause at the Aire de la Vendée (near Sainte-Hermine) if you want to see what a motorway service station really should be like - as well as a petrol station and cafeteria it has three free museums (open daily 10am-1pm & 2-6pm in July/August) and some incredible plantings of woven willows, marshland plants etc to put you in the mood for the countryside you are about to discover.


 See below for suggestions for homeward routes.


Going homewards can be a bit complicated, too.
Here’s the handy ViaMichelin link to help you plan the detail.



As you approach NANTES from the south on a dual carriageway (useful petrol station along here), keep your eyes peeled for the access roads to the ring road (périphérique), offering PARIS, or NANTES CENTRE VILLE. As soon as you see this roadside sign, move left, out of the Paris lane (don't worry about the fact that you're heading for Nantes town centre; it won't be for long), or you will be swept off onto the anticlockwise ring road. (If this does happen, however, do not despair - just continue anticlockwise until you get to the RENNES exit on the north side.)

Having moved left to follow NANTES signs and avoid the Paris turn-off, move immediately back into the right-hand lane again and follow signs to RENNES, which lead you down and around, joining the périphérique in a clockwise direction.
Phew! Once you've got on the ring road you can relax for a bit. Over the Cheviré bridge again, and on round the city to the Porte de Rennes exit 37, signposted RENNES. (It's a slightly odd run-off, in that you are on a slip road alongside the périphérique for a few hundred yards, and then you have to follow a very tight right-hand bend around to get up on to the north-bound Rennes road.)  Cruise north on the N137 for about an hour to RENNES.

  Once you've turned north on the Rennes road, a petrol station comes up fairly soon. After this you won't see too many more on the main roads, so you might want to top up your tank.



Just before reaching the Rennes ring road you need to get in the left-hand lane (signed Rennes, St Malo), and then immediately go left at the roundabout (N136 St Brieuc, St Malo) to join the western ring road (rocade ouest) in a clockwise direction.
Exit from Rennes ring road following signs for ST MALO.

  Approaching St Malo, look out carefully for signs to car ferry, which are not very conspicuous. Sometimes you are offered instead the Port de la Naye, which is the same thing...



As you approach the Rennes ring road, keep in the right-hand lane (signed Laval, Caen, Cherbourg) and follow indications onto the eastern ring road (rocade est) in an anticlockwise direction. After a few miles there is a dividing of the ways, so watch out that you don't get swept off to Laval and Le Mans - stay on the ring road and keep focused on Caen or Cherbourg, continuing to junction 16 where you turn off on the splendid new (free) motorway up to Avranches.

  To help you gauge the speed you have to drive from here on, and whether you have time to stop for lunch, we usually reckon from Avranches that Caen is a little over 1.5 hours and Cherbourg about 2 hours.) Don't quote me though - it all depends how fast the service is and, of course, at what speed you drive...


The Brasserie de l'Univers, right,
opposite the Hotel de Ville (town hall)
of Avranches, is popular with the town’s office-workers for its quick lunches and
plats du jour upstairs, or freshly-made sandwiches in the bar on the ground floor.
There’s plenty of parking across the road.


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At Tartines et Découvertes, left, you are not sure if you have stepped into a restaurant or an antiques shop.  Its yellow-painted frontage is a little farther up the hill from the Univers and just round the corner to the right, next to a rather gloomy-looking bar. 

Inside, old kitchen utensils hang from the rafters, shelves are crammed with new and old items for sale – even the candlesticks on the table have price labels on them. 

It’s a less macho atmosphere than some of the twn’s eateries, with a clientele made up of ladies lunching together, or seemly couples.  The very home-cooked menu includes toasted sandwiches (from 6.50 euros), salads, and an all-day “brunch” made up of eggs, bacon and fried tomatoes.


Picture from website of Avranches Mairie.


If you've got time, try and view the famous Avranches Manuscripts, left, illuminated by monks in the 11th century. The decorative gold and coloured letters look as fresh as if they were painted yesterday - rather than almost a thousand years ago.

They are now displayed, with modern explanations, in a special building called the Scriptorial, just up the hill from the Mairie.



Continue via AVRANCHES, VILLEDIEU-LES-POELES (both bypassed), until you join the Caen northern ring road (périphérique nord). Go round it clockwise until you reach the aptly-named Porte d'Angleterre (comes upon you a bit suddenly, after you have passed a vast modern building - the regional hospital, I think - that you can see for miles), for which you can turn off at either Junction 3b or 3a (they bring you to the same roundabout; follow signs to car-ferry). Here you turn off right beside a conspicuous Castorama DIY store, and then head north towards OUISTREHAM /CAR FERRY.

*   HOTEL Le Fruitier  A modernised, three-star Logis hotel on one of the main squares of Villedieu-les-Poeles makes a good staging-post either for an overnight stop to break the journey from Calais/Boulogne/Dunkerque to the Vendée, or just for an evening meal before taking the overnight ferry from Caen Ouistreham. The hotel has a lift, easy parking on the big square outside (and also some garage parking). The restaurant is smart, with upholstered chairs and murals and with a selection of menus from about 22 euros. It is deservedly popular, and much better than the restaurant/hotel on the town’s cobbled main square. Allow just over an hour from here to the ferry port at Ouistreham. Le Fruitier, Place des Costils, Villedieu-les-Poeles (tel: 02 33 90 51 00).


Photo: Fruitier website

 Villedieu-les-Poeles is a pretty town,
known for its bell foundry and for its
copper-saucepan making.
Markets on Tuesday and Friday mornings.


*   HOTEL  Manoir de l’Acherie  A three-star Logis hotel with 19 rooms, set in the Normandy countryside within a few km of Villedieu. Rooms from 56€ (2008), plus breakfast; meals served in front of a cosy fireside in winter; menus from 17.50€. Manoir de l’Acherie, 37 Rue Michel de l’Epinay, 50800 Sainte-Cecile (tel: 02 33 51 13 87).


File written by Adobe Photoshop® 4.0
Photo: L’Acherie website


*    B&B  La Thiaumèrie  About 30km NE of Villedieu, Michael and Sally Byrne’s comfortable B&B in a traditional stone house is a good place to spend a peaceful night or two on the way north or south. Evening meals for residents are possible, upon prior reservation. Rooms from 65€ including breakfast; evening meal at selected times of year (see Food & Drink page of website) around 25€ (2012). La Thiaumèrie, St-Louet-sur-Vire (tel: 02 33 55 48 81)



LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01
Photo: La Thiaumerie website


At AVRANCHES either keep straight on along the A84 towards Villedieu-les-Poeles, and turn north to ST LO and CHERBOURG, or at Avranches turn up the west side of Cherbourg peninsula via COUTANCES and VALOGNES.



From La Roche-sur-Yon (Vendée) follow motorway signs to the A83 for CHOLET, then ANGERS. From Angers, look for LE MANS and ALENÇON, then head for ROUEN via the PONT DE NORMANDIE (5 euros toll for bridge).


…then, for LE HAVRE
After the PONT DE NORMANDIE, follow indications west via towards LE HAVRE and ferry port.

  Pay attention to speed limit signs as you get nearer to Le Havre. We were once stopped for speeding on a dual carriageway section that looked for all the world as if it was still motorway – and wasn’t!)


… for DIEPPE
Continue to ROUEN, and then round on the west side, following signs to DIEPPE.



After the PONT DE NORMANDIE, make for ROUEN. The route is signposted around Rouen to get you onto the next bit of the A28  towards Neufchatel, ABBEVILLE and CALAIS. From Abbeville ring road, join the A16 north towards CALAIS.
   For CALAIS, continue north on A16, then:
-  For the Tunnel take exit No 42; 
-  For traditional ferries continue to the enormous intersection No 47 (was No 18)
   For DUNKERQUE (DUNKIRK), for Norfolk Lines, continue along the A16 to exit No 53 (was 24) for LOON-PLAGE, the location of Dunkerque’s ferry port.

 Beware of changes to motorway exit numbers from Boulogne onwards, on the A16; even fairly recent maps still have the old numbers. New exit numbers are in the 40 and 50s.



And if you're sailing home via ROSCOFF:
Cross the St-Nazaire bridge, and head first towards NANTES, looking for signs to PONTCHATEAU. Turn north here towards La Roche-Bernard, then go west to Vannes, Lorient, Quimper. After Quimper, turn north-east near Le Faou and head across country for LANDIVISIAU and ROSCOFF.






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