Base of our history, route of departure and arrival, water has attracted century after century: the monk Ivy, the lords of Rohan and Napoleon Ier. Today she is the best guide for your walks, by boat on the canals, on foot, by bike or on horseback on the towpath.

Water and men

Yohann Hamonic

In the time of the monk Ivy, there was only talk of the construction of a bridge, but very quickly the Rohan dotted the river with castles, manors, mills and tanneries. It took the determination to Napoleoner to channel the Oust and the Blavet, transforming them into real liquid roads punctuated by hundreds of locks. That of Guerlédan was transformed into an immense dam at the beginning of the 20e century. Thus would be formed Lake Guerlédan, around which nature has reclaimed its rights.

River and natural river

From West to East, the territory is punctuated by three rivers of different nature. The Saar flows to the West. A discreet river, the quality of the water and the protection it offers to the fauna and flora justify its Natura 2000 classification. The Blavet, more imposing, is a coastal river. It crosses the territory right in the center, and joins the ocean 60 km further, at Lorient. The Oust River is the eastern border of Pontivy Community. A tributary of the Vilaine, it joins its course at Redon.

Yohann Hamonic

The Nantes to Brest canal

Yohann Hamonic

The construction of the Nantes-Brest canal dates back to the first half of the 19the century. It is 364 km long and runs through the valleys of Erdre, Isaac, Oust, Blavet, Doré, Kergoat, Hyère and Aulne. This canal has a total of 238 locks, including 52 for the Pontivy Community territory! The idea of ​​opening an inland waterway in Brittany dates back to the 16the century.

In 1769, a first project was proposed with the development of plans. It was only at the beginning of the 19e century, during the blockade of Brest by the British, that Napoleoner, out of strategic interest in opening up Breton ports, initiated the construction of this remarkable work. Built at the same time as the Nantes-Brest canal, the portion of canal which connects Pontivy to Lorient, on the Blavet river, made it possible to connect all the military arsenals, of which Lorient was a centerpiece, by a route allowing their supply in all circumstances. .

From 1923, the construction of the Guerlédan dam and the progress of the railway put an end to “freight” by inland waterway between Nantes and the harbor of Brest. Today, the hauling horses have given way to fishermen, walkers, sportsmen and navigation is reserved for boaters.

Little by little, a Breton inland waterway industry emerged with typically Breton boats, notably the Blavet gabares, small wooden boats with a flat bottom. The 1930s saw the appearance of large metal barges.

Lock houses and lock keepers

The Nantes-Brest canal allows the emergence of new professions such as that of lock keeper. He lives in a lock house and takes care of several locks. This is why there is not a lock keeper's house at each lock. The Brittany region has been restoring locks for many years. And regularly, calls for projects are launched to bring the lock houses back to life.

Yohann Hamonic

Hop on your bike or put on your walking shoes and explore the towpaths along this 150-year-old canal. Departing from Pontivy, head towards Lake Guerlédan, Saint-Aignan, Mûr-de-Bretagne, or further west, Brest. Or head east, towards Rohan, Josselin or even Nantes.  

You don't have a bike or don't want to carry yours? Solutions are possible with our different bike rental companies !


Looking for accommodation for your trip? Find them in our dedicated categories: stopover lodges, Accommodation labeled Accueil Vélo, and sleep near the canals.


Would you like more details about your journey? Consult the guide to canals of Brittany.

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