La Basse Cour: B&B near Alencon, Normandy

Normandy B & B : Chateau Tours

Sées Cathedral, Haras du Pin and Secret Chateaux of the Orne

Chateaux of Lower Normandy

This route encompasses several beautiful châteaux to the north of Alençon; the highlights include Sées cathedral and a visit to the renowned "Haras du Pin" (national stud farm), as well as the Château de Sassy and the Château de Carrouges - the latter is a "must-see". Also the little known but beautiful châteaux of Medavy and Sassy and the stunning château d'Ô.

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Sees Cathedral, the Haras du Pin and the Chateaux of Lower Normandy

Head for Alençon and turn north on the main road to Rouen (D438) as far as Sées. Head for the town centre to visit the cathedral, a masterpiece of 13th and 14th c Norman Gothic art with a superb interior and 13th c. stained glass. The producer Luc Besson shot part of his film Joan of Arc here. Near the cathedral is a museum dedicated to religious artifacts and robes. There is also an excellent, good value hand-made pottery shop there called the Faîencerie de Sées on rue Billy, off the south west corner of the Cathedral square (Place de Gaulle).

Continue north on the D438 to Nonant le Pin and turn left on the D926 to the Haras du Pin stud farm. The nationally famous stud farm is open to the public for visits and has regular demonstrations of carriage driving (Thursday afternoons and other times) and exhibitions explaining their work.

From there turn south on the D26 towards Château de Medavy, via Almenêches. The château de Médavy is a slightly tired but still impressive renaissance château with two fine towers and a moat which is fed by the river Orne, diverted 200m just for this purpose. It is also an active stud farm. Open to the public in summer.

Continue towards Mortrée and on the way stop at the Château d'O, a wonderful Renaissance style château surrounded by water. The château is open to visitors most afternoons July-August from 1.30pm.

Carry on to Mortrée and turn right on the main road D958 towards Arentan. Turn left after 4km on the D222 and follow the signs to the 18th century Château de Sassy. The gardens were designed by Duchêne and are best viewed from the château windows; they are a wonderful example of formal French gardening style. The château's interior - guided visits in summer, check opening hours - includes an exceptional library.

Head south on D752 toward D16 and after 10km turn left on the D2 to Carrouges. Follow the signs to the Chateau de Carrouges, seat of the Carrouges and Blosset families who were loyal to the Kings of France throughout the Hundred Years War. Most of the main buildings in brick were constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries, forming one of the most beautiful moated châteaux in the Orne region. Bought by the state in 1936 and recently restored, the interior gives a good idea of the life of one family in a great château over the centuries.

Near to the Chateau de Carrouges you can visit the Craft Centre (in the grounds, open July and August)) and the Maison du Parc.

Return to Alençon on the D909 and D2. If you wish you can take time out en route to explore the Ecouves forest, a beautiful area of woodland criss-crossed by small forest roads, bridleways and footpaths. If you head for the centre you may come to the Croix de Medavy crossroads, marked by a Sherman tank (claimed to be the Valois, though not actually correctly named) which pays tribute to the 2nd DB (2nd Armoured Division) of General Leclerc, which liberated Alençon. The 2DB liberated Ancinnes on the 11th August 1944 and Alençon the day after. A significant battle took place on the 12th-13th August in this area of Ecouves. Nearby the Signal d'Ecouves marks the joint highest point in western France (along with Mont des Avaloirs).

From Alençon return to Ancinnes.

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