Stroll along the shady towpath and enjoy a moment of relaxation and discovery by the water. A veritable masterpiece, the Nantes-Brest Canal is about 364 km long and exploits eight canalised rivers: the Erdre, Isac, Oust, Blavet, Doré, Kergoat, Hyères and the Aulne. Built entirely by manual labour in the 19th century, 238 locks connect the two great cities (traversing heights of up to 555 metres). Today 18 of them are submerged beneath the lake created by the dam at Guerlédan.

A little history

This ambitious and enormous project to build an inland waterway across Brittany dates back to the 16th century when the Duchy of Brittany was united with the Kingdom of France. Many projects were abandoned due to lack of funding, until in January 1783 the States of Brittany (the Breton Parliament) appointed a "Commission of Inland Navigation." However, it was not until 1804 that Napoleon decided to link the dockyards of Brest and Nantes in order to create an inland route to Brest. Work began on both ends of the canal, however, progress was slow. In 1836, it became navigable from Nantes to Redon and from Brest to Carhaix, but it was not until 1st January 1842 that the whole waterway was open to navigation.

Follow the story of life at sea and on the canal

In 1923, the construction of the dam at Guerlédan, together with competition from the railways, put a stop to inland waterway transport, however, the memory of river traffic between Nantes and Brest has endured ever since. You can meet the men and women who dedicated all or part of their lives to this waterway. Facts and stories of yesteryear will enable you to discover the Nantes-Brest Canal in a new light. Along the towpath from the lock at Guillac to the port of Les Forges, the interpretative panels show how boatmen and their families really lived.

Voices of the canal - audio tour

Listen as Pierrick, a young boy from the island of Tibidy in the west of Finistere, boards “L’Aurore” (The Dawn), a "Chalankou Naoned" (a typical, small Breton boat), to travel through the heart of Brittany...

Sandrine Pierrefeu, journalist and writer, takes walkers and cyclists on a journey through the ages, along the water. Adventure, history, legends and emotions mingle with the sounds of the water, birds and Breton music. There are also stories of people today: local riverside residents, lock keepers, restaurant owners, nature guides, storytellers, etc. Insightful words, unique soundscapes.

How to download it?

Visit “Canaux de Bretagne” and click on the “Balade Sonore” section. Please note that at present the website and audio tour are only available in French.

MP3 players with the audio tour are also available on loan at the Tourist Office.