My Top 10 Abbeys and Castles in Normandy
These are just some of the abbeys and castles in Normandy I've visited. They're all located in La Manche region of Normandy.
I've chosen five abbeys and five châteaux and they're all equally impressive.
Mont St Michel is on most of my guests’ to-do lists while they are here. This iconic abbey is perched on top of an island and it literally takes your breath away the first time you see it. It's magical and an absolute must-see for visitors to Normandy. During the summer it's open until midnight (last entry 11pm). So, how can you make the most of your time there? During the summer it is busy but given it’s an UNESCO world heritage site, it’s not surprising. The links below will give you some of the practical information on tide times, parking, the shuttle buses etc. I’d recommended going early or late in the day to avoid the crowds. Between 12 and 2pm is also a good time as many people will be lunching. The main entrance is to the left of the red and yellow Normandy flag.
If the tide is low enough, head for the building on the far left of the picture instead. This is a quieter route and gives you a great view of those fascinating turrets you can see. It’s often busy around the steps leading up to the abbey but there are two queues and one is for groups. You should take the queue on the right hand side which is for individuals. Once you’ve got your tickets, take a free leaflet and decide if you want to purchase an audio guide. Then, you can wander round to your hearts content admiring the amazing architecture and views across the bay. Take your time as it’s not easy to double back as in places you go down narrow spiral stone staircases.
There’s a gift shop at the end which leads out onto a terrace overlooking Tombelaine island. Once you leave the abbey you can then explore the ramparts and main cobbled street full of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. There are also a few art galleries dotted around. Depending on the tide, you may see groups of people taking a guided walk across the bay. The view from the dam is also impressive and the shuttle bus from the car park stops here. Oh, and be prepared as you drive through the village of Courtils as this is where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the island. The two website for Mont St Michel are: http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/accueil.htm and also http://www.bienvenueaumontsaintmichel.com/en. For more information you can read my account here.
For a bird's eye view and fantastic shots of the setting, this video delivers on all counts.
For some close up shots of the abbey via drone, watch this video below
The abbey at Hambye is less than 20 minutes away from me. Beautifully serene and quiet. For more information visit this page.
I enjoyed a day out at Lucerne abbey recently. The story behind the 12th century building is impressive.
Abbaye Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Postel
The Benedictine abbey is at 11 route de l'abbaye in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte and was founded towards the middle of the 11th century. The amazing abbatial church was largely restored in the 15th century having been partially destroyed during the Hundred Years War. You can visit free of charge between 10am - 12 noon and 2-6pm every day. Guided tours are also possible.
And my final abbey is Lessay. You can see more photos here.
Chateaux and Castles
First on my list is Pirou. I really enjoyed my visit here one Sunday morning. The château was renovated by the same person who renovated Lucerne Abbey and both buildings are beautiful. There is also a tapestry similar to the Bayeux tapestry on display. For more photos see here.
Next is the ruined castle at Regnéville. The remains of the donjon seem to defy gravity. The account of my visit is here.
Next on my list of castles is the Chateau at Gratot. It's just outside Coutances and is surrounded by a large moat. You can see more pictures here.
This is a very different château. It has no moat and looks more like a stately home. The castle was built in 1755 although some of the outbuildings including a manor house date from 1640 onwards. Ownership of the chateau has changed over the centuries with the latest being several years ago. It was bought by Guillaume Garbe who lived in it for a short time with his family. As they began to renovate it, they discovered that there was dry rot. Ceilings and wooden panelling were ripped out which revealed the severity of the problem as the dry rot had even permeated the stone walls. A restoration project was started and will continue for a number of years. The building is beautiful despite the sorry state it is now in. However, the passion and enthusiasm of its owner is remarkable. Other outbuildings have been converted to provide an income source and fundraising efforts lead by a team of volunteers is underway. I can't wait to go back when more progress has been made to see this beautiful building brought to life. For more information visit their website.
My final castle is the Château in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte. The origins of the castle date from the 10th century. It is English in style and was beseiged twice during The Hundred Years War when it was in English ownership for almost half a century. Parts of the château have been destroyed but the donjon is open for guided tours during July and August. You can walk around free of charge in the upper and lower courtyards admiring the remaining towers and castle walls. Information is available from the tourist office here.
This page has more information about châteaux and castles in Normandy. If I had to choose a favourite from my top 10 list of abbeys and castles in Normandy, then it would be Mont St Michel. However, they all have fascinating stories to tell and a rich history of destruction and restoration.
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