Linking the two French seaports of Nantes and Brest, the Nantes-Brest Canal is no stranger to a boating holiday or two. Crossing the centre of Brittany, the canal stretches for hundreds of kilometres, passing through countless locks to rise nearly half a kilometre. Passing age-old castles, picturesque towns and idyllic countryside as it goes, canal boat holidays on this stretch of water allow you to enjoy the best bits of French Brittany.
Here, we’ll get stuck into answering the much-anticipated questions of “Is the Nantes-Brest Canal navigable?” , and highlight two fantastic itineraries that allow you to make the most out of your boating holiday.
Is the Nantes-Brest Canal navigable?
When it comes to tackling the question, “Is the Nantes-Brest Canal navigable?” , the simple answer is yes! Stretching more than 364km through the Brittany countryside, this canal takes you on a journey of French history, gastronomy and culture.
However, you’ll need to be prepared to navigate your way through plenty of locks, as the Nantes Brest Canal rises around 550 from start to end and sees more than 238 locks in total. Don’t worry; a simply briefing from the Locaboat team before your journey will ensure that you are equipped with all the skills you need to tackle any lock you come across. Locaboat also has two bases in the area: St Martin-sur-Ouse and Melesse, so you won’t be too far away from help if you do run into any problems.
How to navigate the Nantes Brest Canal
Nantes-Brest canal boat hire couldn’t be easier thanks to Locaboat’s two bases in the area. Depending on which part of Brittany you’d like to explore will determine which base you start from. St Martin-sur-Oust is the only base directly on the Nantes-Brest Canal , but if you’re interested in exploring the River Vilaine, you can head a little further north to the base at Melesse.
Whichever you choose, boating holidays in this area don’t disappoint. Here’s a quick guide to spending a weekend or a whole week on these spectacular Brittany waterways.
Spending a weekend on the Nantes-Brest Canal
If you’ve only got a few days to explore Brittany with your canal boat hire , we’d recommend starting from the central base of St Martin-sur-Oust. Perched on the banks of the Nantes-Brest Canal , the base is at the very heart of the action and a great choice for any canal boat hire in Brittany.
With just a few days on your hands, you can explore three gems of the Nantes-Brest Canal : Glenac, La Gacilly and Malestroit. With around 15 hours of sailing time, you’ll pass through 15 locks and cover around 70 km of waterways, including the time it will take you to get back to base.
From the St Martin-sur-Oust base, you can head in a westerly direction towards Malestroit. This charming walled town on the banks of the canal was founded in the 11th century, neighbours a medieval fortress and was made a barony in the 15th century, only adding to its historical significance. It’s a lovely town to simply wander around, grab a bite to eat and take a few photographs.
Heading back east with your canal boat and past the Locaboat base, your next stop is the town of Glenac. Similar in size to the other towns you’ll find along the Nantes Brest Canal, Glenac sets itself apart thanks to its diverse marshlands, which are home to hundreds of wild bird species. On a small tributary that rises north from Glenac sits the slightly larger town of La Gacilly. It’s most famous for its flower-lined streets and creative community, putting the town on the map for the annual summer photography festival.
Of course, there is plenty to see along the banks as you sail past with your canal boat, but this is just a glimpse of what is to be discovered in the area.
Navigating the Nantes-Brest Canal over a week
If you’ve got a few more days on your hands for your boating holiday in France, it’s not hard to while away a week on these gentle waters. In this case, we’d recommend introducing some of the sights along the River Vilaine to your itinerary as well as the must-see spots on the Nantes-Brest Canal .
For this journey, you can get your Nantes Brest Canal boat hire from either the base at St Martin-sur-Oust or Melesse. For the purposes of this itinerary, we’ll start at Melesse and work our way south down the River Vilaine before heading west along the Nantes-Brest Canal to finally dock at the St Martin-sur-Oust Locaboat base.
Once you’ve secured your canal boat hire , it’s time to head south to the sprawling city of Rennes. One of the largest cities you’ll come across on this journey, time here can be spent soaking up the vibrant atmosphere, dining at the best restaurants and indulging in a spot of shopping. There’s plenty to see and do here, and Rennes could be deserving of an overnight stop if you don’t mind the hustle and bustle of city life.
From Rennes, things start to get a little quieter. Passing through the Nine Arch Bridge at Pont-Rean, and past the town of Messac, you’ll spot charming watermills and windmills that still provide a source of energy for the residents here. Eventually, you’ll hit the crossroads between River Vilaine and the Nantes Brest Canal , and it’s here that you can stop off in Redon to plan the final leg of your journey.