The cardinal point west is here stretched for convenience all the way down the coast from Brittany to encompass the navigable waterways of the Pays de la Loire region and the northern part of Aquitaine. The most charming and improbable waterways of France are to be found within this ‘network’, now entirely devoted to tourism. Brittany is fascinating for its cultural traditions, its fervent catholicism and unbelievable hospitality. The backbone of the network – the canal from Nantes to Brest, conceived by Napoleon – is sadly no longer navigable throughout, and even if it were, it is hard to imagine huge numbers of boats wanting to cruise throughout from Châteaulin to Nantes : 236 locks in 340km ! Only a Napoleon Bonaparte could have mobilised the army of workers required to complete such a project.

This is small boat territory (see key dimensions). Some adventurous yachtsmen still enter the Brittany canals or the Charente, but compared with the early days of waterway tourism 40 to 50 years ago, yacht sizes have increased significantly, and those who are intent on navigating far afield will generally have to rule out crossing Brittany inland. Further south, the same is true of the Canal du Midi. Yachts used to account for half of the transits recorded each year. For motor boats it’s a similar story. The comforts that most boatowners buy into mean that seaworthy motor boats will generally be too high or too deep for this region’s waterways. So our advice is very straightforward : choose a boat that will squeeze into these locks and through these bridges, at the expense of some on-board comforts, because otherwise these idyllic destinations will have to be ruled out. Trailboaters are all the more welcome in Brittany.

Rivers and Canals of Brittany, Anjou and Charente


Click on the list (right) to open information pages for each river and canal in this region, including navigation guides, books and PDF downloads.

This regional group of waterway Cruising in Detail guides can also be downloaded as one complete set.

Region Set PDF Download

Western France

waterway navigation guide download

Complete western waterways – Rance, Vilaine, Nantes-Brest, Loire, Mayenne, etc – in detail.

Region set : 20€

Each waterway page has been compiled and edited by David Edwards-May (waterways consultant and author of ‘Inland Waterways of France) and Jenny Ruff, and founded on the extensive 7,000km of personal experience of the team since 2003.