What to see in France

Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin, camping in the heart of nature

Le Marais du Cotentin
Le Marais du Cotentin

The Cotentin and Bessin Regional Nature Park is located in the south of the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. Straddling the departments of Calvados and Manche, it covers 145,000 hectares. The specificity of this place is the 30,000 hectares of marshes and polders that are entirely submerged during the winter, which is what makes the place so special. With its landscapes of moors, dunes and bocage, there is really something to attract all those who want a greener and more ecological holiday. Campers will feel like fish in water.

Where to camp around the Cotentin marshes?

Around twenty campsites in the Cotentin welcome campers for a weekend or a longer stay. They allow you to explore the area without leaving it. A way of putting all the trump cards on your side for a peaceful and stress-free stay. You can also have a great time with your children at the campsite. We recommend the Utah Beach *** campsite in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. Located less than 14 km from the Cotentin Regional Nature Park, it has 164 pitches and 32 rentals as well as an indoor swimming pool with slides. Camping Le Fanal **** in Isigny-sur-Mer in the Calvados region offers 94 pitches, an outdoor swimming pool with slides and is situated on the edge of a lake.

The castles of the Cotentin marshes

From October onwards, the White Marshes are draped in a coat of rain, and the water rises until the middle of winter, sometimes to the point where the palisades are completely submerged. The landscape is then frozen and nature becomes doubled in the reflection of the water as soon as the sunlight appears. The scenery changes with the hours and is particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset with the sky glowing red.

In the Manche department, in the commune of Saint-Fromond, there is an old medieval fortification, the Château de la Rivière. Built in the 11th century, several families lived there but the building was seriously damaged during the 1944 D-Day fighting. It is now used as a nesting place for storks, attracted by the abundance of fish in the marshes and the mild, humid climate. Now private, the castle can be visited, while respecting the tranquillity of the storks. The castle is open all year round free of charge.

Built on the edge of the Bessin marshes, in Calvados, the Château de Colombières is an ancient fortified castle, one of the most important in Lower Normandy in the Middle Ages. Listed as a historical monument, the oldest parts of the current building date from the end of the 14th century, the body dates from the end of the 15th century, followed by the addition of two Renaissance towers. It is surrounded by a moat. The park is elegant and well maintained, and guided tours are available.

In the south of the Cotentin Marshes Regional Nature Park, Montfort Castle was built at the end of the Hundred Years' War, and is probably one of the last defensive buildings constructed in the Manche. Unfortunately, it was left abandoned until 1980 when an association of volunteers decided to restore it, although trees had grown inside. It now houses painting and photo exhibitions. Outside, a rose garden is available to visit, a particularly charming place with more than 400 rosebushes, all with different fragrances. The castle can be visited from 15 May to the end of August (between 2 and 4 €).

Birds and nature

Birds are part of the ornithological wealth of the Cotentin Marshes Park and their numbers depend on the diversity of the environment in which they live (moors, coastline, bocage and marshes). The Maison du Parc allows you to observe these birds in the Espaces Naturels Sensibles (ENS) such as the Marais des Ponts d'Ouve and in the commune of Saint-Côme-du-Mont. Open to the public since 1998 on 100 hectares. This is an opportunity to go on a real hike as close to nature as possible and to immerse oneself in the closest wetland to the marshes. You can discover and learn about the marshes. There are five kilometres of paths, 100 metres of which are on the water, as well as five ornithological observatories, a curiosity cabinet and a discovery path with several possible routes.

The Maison du Parc also offers the Jardin des Têtards, also to be discovered in the ENS des Marais des Pont d'Ouve, and reminds us that each season is the discovery of a new natural landscape: spring and the nesting of storks, summer and the work in the fields and the dragonflies above the ponds, autumn and the return of the migratory birds and finally winter, its immersion and its birds on the water bodies

The primary function of the national nature reserve of the Beauguillot estate in the Manche department in Normandy (820 hectares) is to protect a group of wetlands favourable to birds (avifauna). These environments are maintained with the aim of conserving the natural heritage. The site, which is home to more than 1700 species, welcomes 35,000 waterfowl each winter and more than 40,000 visitors come to discover the bird sanctuary each year in the hope of spotting a whistling duck or a sandpiper. Apart from birds, you can also observe plants such as the snake's tongue ophioglossa, insects including a hundred or so butterflies, birds of prey such as the peregrine falcon and finally mammals such as the European otter or the calf seal... just one piece of advice, don't forget your binoculars!


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