The Geology and Scenery of Normandy and Brittany

A Study Tour in association with Wilmslow Guild Centre for Adult Education

Monday 16 July to Sunday 29 July 2012

The coasts of Normandy and Brittany reveal an amazing variety of rocks and scenery, from the Chalk cliffs of Upper Normandy and the Seine Valley to the ancient granites and gneisses of the Cotentin Peninsula and northern Brittany. There is plenty of interest for the non-geologist, too. The less known but beautiful inland scenery is also strongly influenced by the underlying rocks and their structures. We will study the richly fossiliferous sediments of the Paris Basin, and the ancient eroded mountain belt that lies beneath it. The geology will be demonstrated through cliff and beach walks to study outcrops, and frequent stops at coastal and inland viewpoints. We will examine the region's heritage of mining of minerals, energy resources and building materials. Visits to excellent local and regional museums and maisons du pays, gardens, castles and other places of interest are planned. A recurring theme will be the strong influence that geology has had on warfare through the centuries, from the castles of William the Conqueror to the D-Day landing beaches and the inland Battle of Normandy. We will stay in comfortable, traditional French hotels, where we can sample the local ambiance and the excellent food, including Normandy cheeses, seafood, crêpes and cider. The Study Tour will be 14 days long, travelling by coach from the Manchester area.

Our association with the Wilmslow Guild goes back over 15 years and we have been proud to have helped the Guild to develop its programme of specialist tours. Each tour is accompanied by a tour leader who is a specialist in the chosen subject and, whilst they are not strenuous tours, we should mention that they are an educational experience as well as a holiday.

The tour is open to the public as well as Guild members.

Day 1   Travel to Normandy

A morning start from Wilmslow and an afternoon ferry from Portsmouth to Caen-Ouistreham will get us to our first base on the banks of the Seine at Caudebec-en-Caux.

Day 2   The Chalk scenery of the Paris Basin

RocksWe visit the pretty coastal village of Etretat with its impressive Chalk cliffs and natural arches. The spectacular incised meanders of the lower Seine valley have cut deep gorges into the Chalk, and the abandoned flood plain is now a nature reserve.

Day 3   The Calvados Coast

Across the graceful new Pont de Normandie to the left bank of the Seine and the beautiful old town of Honfleur. From here west, the rocks of the Calvados coast get progressively older, and we look for evidence of ancient tropical seas and reefs before arriving at our second base in St Aubin-sur-Mer, a small family seaside resort.

Day 4   Bayeux & the D-Day beaches

The Jurassic cliffs and beaches, rich in fossils, are also the site of the D-Day landings, and we examine the important role which geology and geologists played in the war effort. Important geological and historical sites include Arromanches and Omaha Beach. Overnight in St Aubin.

Day 5   Inland gems of Normandy - the Suisse Normande

BeachThe first glimpse of the old mountain belt concealed beneath the Paris basin. William the Conqueror's castle on its rocky spur, and the old iron mines which relate the geological history of Normandy. Visits to Falaise and St Rémy-sur-Orne. Back to the beach for our last night at St Aubin.

Day 6   Calvados to Cotentin

We cross from the flat fields of the Paris Basin to the bocage of the Armorican Massif, and observe how strong an influence the geology has on scenery, land use and warfare. We finish the day at the Norman castle at Bricquebec, our base for the next four nights.

Day 7   The Rugged Coast of Lower Normandy

The ancient hard rocks of the Cotentin Peninsula have been sculpted by the sea into a beautiful coastline of rocky caves and impressive cliffs. There will be free time today to relax at the beach.

Day 8   The Granite Coast

FountainThe west coast of the Cotentin has superb views to the Channel Islands. The man-made part of the scenery is a real mix - from beautiful old villages and tiny ports to ultra-modern nuclear power stations. We plan to visit Cap de la Hauge, Omonville-la-Rogue and Flamanville.

Day 9   Sediments ancient and modern

We use modern environments to help us understand ancient sedimentary rocks. There are superb examples of both on the Cotentin. Limestones were an important part of the local economy, and we see how they were used at the lime kiln museum.

Day 10   Tides and time- the Bay of Mont St. Michel

We head south towards Brittany, taking in the broad vistas of the Bay, and spending a few hours at Mont St Michel on our way to our last centre on the northeast coast of Brittany, at Le-Vivier-sur-Mer.

Day 11   The Roots of a Mountain Belt

This part of Brittany is a westward continuation of the deeply eroded mountain belt of the Armorican Massif, where the rocks became so hot that they started to melt. The coast is also famous for its seafood and its tidal power station. Visits include Mont Dol, Cancale and the Rance Barrage. Overnight at Le Vivier.

Day 12   The Emerald Coast

SunsetThe geological mosaic west of St Malo includes slices of old ocean floor, and red sandstones forming spectacular cliffs at Cap Frehel. Each bay shelters a small fishing port such as Erquy, or an old-fashioned seaside resort. Overnight at Le Vivier.

Day 13   Return to the Dukedom of Normandy

Our journey east will include a visit to Villedieu-le-Poeles, where copper pans have been made for many centuries. Closer to Caen, we visit an old slate mine, now housing an excellent collection of minerals. Our last night is back on the Calvados Coast at Ouistreham.

Day 14 Return Journey

The morning ferry from Cean-Ouistreham arrives in Portsmouth in time for a late afternoon or early evening return to Wilmslow.


  • Coach travel from Wilmslow and throughout
  • Ferry Portsmouth to Caen and return
  • Accommodation with private facilities in good hotels
  • Breakfasts and all evening meals
  • Entrance fees as appropriate
  • Services of tour leader, Dr. Roger Suthren
  • Detailed illustrated study guidebook
In twin share room: £2,250
Single room supplement: £350
Deposit for this Study Tour: £200

Rates of exchange used are as at 1st August 2011

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Tel: 01766 772030