La Basse Cour: B&B near Alencon, Normandy
Pays d'Alençon, Lower Normandy & Pays de la Loire
To plan your holiday : Normandy and Pays de la Loire Guide Books
Our LocationAlençon is on the border between Lower Normandy and the Pays de Loire, surrounded by beautiful and varied countryside. We have the Normandy Maine Park to the north (incorporating the Forests of Perseigne and Ecouves), the copse-dotted fields of the Perche to the east and the heather-topped hills of the Alpes Mancelles and the Mayenne department to the west. To the south, the Sarthe departement of the Pays de Loire has cathedrals, vineyards, chateaux and more to explore.
Being located at a crossroad of major routes from north to south (Calais to Charente/Aquitaine) and east to west (Paris/Brittany and Normandy coast), it is a natural choice for a pause of two or three nights on a touring holiday of France.
For those in a hurry, here is a brief overview of what you'll find in this fabulous area that we now call home. If you want more details see our pages for "What to See", "What to Do" and Gardens in Normandy and Pays de Loire .
The Perseigne Forest
The Perseigne Forest
In the north of the Sarthe, on the border with Lower Normandy, Ancinnes is a village and commune in the Parc Maine Normand, on the edge of the forest of Perseigne.
There are dozens of walking trails in the Perseigne forest, excellent for exploring on foot or by mountain bicycle. Horses and ponies for a half or full day riding in the forest can be hired from a nearby riding school- beginners are welcome, full instruction and expert supervision are provided.
In spring and autumn mushrooming in the woods is popular, while the wildlife includes red deer, roe deer and wild boar. Red squirrels are also common on the edge of the Perseigne.
To the West - the Alpes Mancelles
Bordering Ancinnes on the west side are the Alpes Mancelles.
The doorway to the Alpes Mancelles, Fresnay-sur-Sarthe is a pretty town whose castle battlements look down on the river Sarthe. Moving further north into Alpes Mancelles leads you through St Léonard-des-Bois (canoeing, rockclimbing, tree-top adventure park) and to to one of the prettiest villages in France, Saint-Céneri-le Gérei.
This hilltop village is a magnet for artists who for centuries have been inspired by its setting and charming houses. Its church is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river valley, while a small chapel dating back to the days when Viking invaders pillaged the area sits alone in a meadow, framed by the wooded hillside which surrounds the village. One of our favourite gardens to visit is at Saint-Céneri-le Gérei.
To the East - the Perche
East of Ancinnes is the verdant Perche park, with gently rolling fields dotted with woods and forests and studded with handsome manor houses.
The peculiar 11th-century church-cum-château of Saint-Georges-du-Rosay is remarkable for its terracotta statues, typifying the area's rich architectural appeal.
One of the major towns in the Perche and Saosnois area is La Ferté-Bernard on the River Huisne. Sometimes called the 'Little Venice of the West' because a canal runs by the main street, its medieval architecture can be appreciated on a boat trip that starts near the tourist office.
For another day out, popular with children, go to the Domaine de Pesheray, an animal park and mini golf course set in the grounds of a 16th-century château.
To the north - the Orne and the Pays d'Auge
Just 10 minutes from Ancinnes is Alençon, the capital of the Orne and medieval ducal township. With its pretty cobbled streets, medieval architecture, fabulous gothic church, château and numerous bars and restaurants Alençon is becoming a popular tourist destination. Most of the departement of the Orne and the Pays d'Auge lies north of Alençon, as the town lies almost on the border of the Orne and the Sarthe.
The Pays d'Auge is an area famous for its farm produce - apples and pears for making cider, pommeau, calvados and poiré; cream for making Camembert, Pont l'Eveque and Livarot cheeses; plus lush pastureland where beef, veal and poultry are reared. There are wonderful châteaux and gardens to visit, too, including the Chateau de Carrouges, Chateau de Sassy, Chateau de Falaise, and Chateau de Vendeuvre.
The River Sarthe
The Sarthe river is popular for boating trips and canoeing. The Sarthe flows through Alençon before turning south to Le Mans and then heading seawards, eventually joining the Loire. Canoes and kayaks can be hired for a day or half-day from a number of centres close to Alençon - you paddle downstream to a pre-arranged pickup point where there is a car or bus waiting to collect you and take you back to the start point. This lets you explore parts of the river inaccessible by car or on foot.
To the South - Le Mans
Le Mans, the capital of the Sarthe, is probably best known as the site of the annual 24-hour motor race, but has much more to offer as a tourist destination. It is well worth a visit the magnificent Cathédrale Saint-Julien, which took five centuries to build and is imposingly sited on an escarpment above the river Sarthe; explore the Roman wall that encircles the Old Town (Cité Plantagenet or Vieux Mans) and meander round the medieval quarter itself, a maze of interesting backstreets above the south bank of the Sarthe, lined with timber-framed houses with ornately carved façades.
The town's Fine Arts Museum (Tessé), with its collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings, egyptology exhibition and extraordinary collection of ancient firearms, is an excellent visit; even if you are not a motor racing or car enthusiast, you can't fail to love the fabulous collection of vehicles at the Sarthe Car Museum (near the race circuit main entrance, south of the town: about 45 minutes / 35 miles away from us, straight down the N138/D338).
South Sarthe - Loir valley, Malicorne, Le Lude and Saulges
The Loir valley is our local wine-producing region. The main wines are Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir.
Just south-west of Le Mans is the famous porcelain and pottery town of Malicorne; Malicorne's colourful ceramic and earthenware heritage dates from 1750; you can stock up on some wonderful and original presents while you are there.
Just south of Le Mans are the beautiful Château de Lude and the flower-decked town of La Flèche, which is also home to an excellent modern zoo.
For something totally different, the caves and grottoes of le Saulges are just to the west of Le Mans.
Mont St Michel, Normandy beaches, Bayeux, Chartres ...
For those who wish to go further afield, we can recommend a day trip to Mont St Michel to see the stunning island abbey on the coast between Normandy and Brittany; or visit some of the numerous sites and places connected with the D-Day landing beaches; or Bayeux, famous for the tapestry relating the history of the Norman conquest of Britain; or Chartres, renowned for its wonderful cathedral.
We have compiled a series of day trips to help you discover a few of these sights and others besides.
The region really does have something for everyone: fantastic architecture, excellent museums, diverse landscapes, rivers as well as lots of activities, fresh air and wonderful food. Make time to explore the area - you'll be richly rewarded.
Further reading: Normandy and Pays de la Loire Guide Books
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