The Viking Country Trail
by Brendan Hart
On the Northern tip of the Cotentin peninsula Cap Lévi’s Viking Country Trail is a must-visit kaleidoscope of charm and history.
Le Phare, Cap Lévi, Photo: Brendan Hart
The Viking Country Trail on Cap Lévi is an 18 km loop that reveals some long-forgotten historic sites and many visual pleasures. The trail begins and ends at the parking area of the Anse du Cap Lévi, a boat-lined bay surrounded by impressive Napoleonic seawalls.
After setting off you are rewarded in just minutes with the exciting Fort du Cap Lévi, constructed in 1801 by Napoleon Bonaparte, which German troops also occupied during WW2. The fort is now a unique bed and breakfast and does a fantastic job of maintaining the splendor of botany that comprises the fort’s garden. Its grounds are open to the public and there is a series of signs that recount the structure’s history, allowing you to appreciate fully the fort’s historic importance.
Following the fort is the phare—a lighthouse located smack dab on Normandy’s most-picnic-able seaside terrain. If you’ve packed a lunch, the Cap Lévi lighthouse is a delightful place to break bread. However, don’t worry if you’re without any noontime nibbles, after the lighthouse the Viking Country Trail brings you back inland through the town of Fermanville where you can purchase food and refreshments from the local shops (the rest of the loop is also studded with picturesque picnic venues!).
WW2 German Bunker, Photo: Brendan Hart
The trail continues to wind inland bringing you through la Vallé des Moulins. This valley is the quintessential quiet promenade in the French countryside. The stream that powered the colony of 19th-century mills is the cheerful centerpiece of this piste. The renovated mills are either historic sites or residential lodgings and are wonderfully maintained and also serve as eye-candy as you make your way back to the coast. At the end of the valley, you’ll pass an unused 20th-century viaduct, an ivy-strewn giant that spans the valley. The viaducis now accessible as a footpath to pedestrians and offers gorgeous views of the area.
Just before regaining sight of the sea, you traverse the town of Carneville and then follow a path back to the coast that is interwoven with an incredible network of WW2 ruins. During the war, the occupying German forces used Cap Lévi as a strategic stronghold against an Allied invasion and left behind defensive fortifications similar to those seen at the D-Day beaches. Before finishing the loop, you’ll have the chance to explore a virtual city of the abandoned bunkers, gun emplacements and even a hilltop observation post overlooking the sea.
The Viking Country Trail ends with an easy march along the ocean, bringing you back to your point of departure. This stimulating scenic path is a perfect way to spend a day. It offers layers and layers of history and charm which makes Normandy and France so famous.
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