Updated on 13 March 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes
All amateurs when it comes to outdoor pursuits, my friends and I decided to head into the countryside for a sporty weekend together. The spot we’d chosen was the Suisse Normande, a picturesque hilly area just south of Caen renowned for amazing activities like hiking, via ferrata and canoeing.
Hiking in the hills
It’s just gone 10am when I meet Nathan, Clément, Céline and Matthieu in the village of Vey for our first activity of the day, hiking 9km across the Suisse Normande between two local landmarks called the Pain de Sucre and Rochers des Parcs. Kitted out with backpacks and hiking boots, we pass the church and turn down a path that leads into the forest. After about 2km of climbing steadily uphill, we arrive at the top of a cliff. Looking out in front of us, we see the picturesque village of Clécy nestling in the meaders of the Orne River below. We take a few pictures of the stunning view before continuing towards the Route des Crêtes, a popular site in Normandy for amateur paragliders.
A few kilometres later, we’ve crossed the valley and are enjoying the fresh country air. With valleys and hills as far as the eye can see, it’s not hard to guess how the Suisse Normande (which literally means ‘Norman Switzerland’) got its name. Behind us, a few paragliders are getting ready to take off. We stop to watch them for a bit before heading off again in the direction of the Rochers des Parcs. The path gets steep here so it’s a bit of a work-out! We arrive at the top of the slope and are rewarded with wonderfully tranquil views of the viaduct crossing the Orne River below.
Scaling the rocks
After a well-deserved lunch break at one of Clécy’s popular guinguette restaurants next to the Orne River, we head to meet Paul, who will be the guide for our afternoon activity, via ferrata. Helmets, harnesses and carabiners fastened and adjusted, we kick off the climbing route with a vertical 25m climb, Matthieu and Nathan leading the way. I follow slowly as I get the hang of using my arms and legs to propel me higher, rung by rung. My friends shout their encouragement and I gain in confidence. By the time I make it up onto the ledge, I’m feeling quite pleased with myself, and the magnificent views of the Orne River below me are a fitting reward for my efforts.
The climbing route takes around an hour to complete and is full of surprises, with a number of beams, wooden footbridges and rope bridges to cross. Once we’ve all finished, it’s then on to the zipline. Our other guide Antoine, in charge of health and safety, gets me all set up and briefs me before I push off. Gaining momentum as I shoot downwards, the surrounding hillsides and foliage fly past me in a matter of seconds before I finish up at the bottom of the valley. What a rush!
Coming home to a warm welcome
Following our action-packed first day, we head back to where we’ll be spending the night, the Gîte Lovey Nature in Clécy. We are welcomed so warmly by owners Sandy and Ludovic that we feel at home straight away, and we instantly fall in love with our cosy white stone house with its idyllic rural setting and rustic furniture. Best of all, there’s even a sauna and jacuzzi® area! The evening programme’s sorted then – a barbecue then some hard-earned rest and relaxation – what could be better?
Canoeing on the Orne river
The next morning, we enjoy a tasty breakfast on the terrace before heading off to our third and final activity of the weekend, canoeing on the Orne River, courtesy of the Thury Plein Air watersports club. Once we’re all kitted up and have been briefed on the basics by our instructor Olivier (or Ace as he prefers to be known), we paddle out onto the river and begin to make our way up the river. At water level, the beauty of the surrounding Suisse Normande appears almost amplified, and the weather conditions are perfect for a paddle. At one point, we pass a section of river marked out between white buoys, and take it in turns to try and manoeuvre this narrow stretch of water in our canoes. After several kilometers, we arrive at the end of the course, and a water fight breaks out, which is pretty funny as we all end up soaking wet! After changing into dry clothes and saying goodbye and thank you to Ace, we all agree that with so much do on the water, on land and in the air, the Suisse Normande has been a very special place to spend a sporty weekend.
The Suisse Normande
The Suisse Normande, which literally translates to ‘Norman Switzerland’, owes its name to its wooded terrain, punctuated and shaped by winding rivers and hills which reach up to 300m. This lesser-known corner of Normandy is haven for outdoor pursuits!
Find out more about the Suisse Normande
All sporty weekend packages can be booked through the Suisse Normande tourist office:
Suisse Normande Tourisme
2 place Saint-Sauveur, 14220 Thury-Harcourt
31 May – 29 September
Prices start at €132 per person (based on six people).
What’s included: two nights at the Gîte Lovey Nature for six people (bedding included) and all activities mentioned in the programme (four hours of kayaking, via Ferrata and ziplining).
What’s not included: Optional activities, restaurant meals, the transport, personal expenses and insurance.
This package is great for groups of friends and families with teenage children, as well as anyone sporty or wanting to try out the above activites for the first time.
PLACES TO STAY
Gîte Lovey Natureand Les Rochers des Parcs
gite-normandie-clecy.fr (has a spa and sauna)
Places to eat
Guinguette Au Fil de l’Eau
Picnic hampers: For an additional cost, both Les Rochers des Parcs campsite and the Gîte Lovey Nature offer guests picnic hampers to take out with them for the day which are full of delicious local products.
All of the above information is subject to change