Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin
A very unspoilt part of France, the park covers much of the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. The area away from the coast consists mainly of low-lying, flat water meadows, with much of the grazed area becoming flooded in winter. Many species to see with a few that are of particular interest: White Stork, Bluethroat, Melodious, Savi’s and Fan-tailed Warblers among others. The coast can be very productive with large numbers of waders from August to April.
However, the area is probably best known by birders for the passage of large numbers of migrants at various strategic sites. Of particular interest are the two headlands at the north of the peninsula, the Cap de la Hague in the north-west corner and the Pointe de Barfleur at the Phare de Gatteville at the north-east corner. Both are outside the park but within easy reach and can provide for very spectacular sea-watching during the right conditions, mainly in September. Good views of Balearic Shearwater and Mediterranean Gull are almost guaranteed, all 4 species of skua, Sabine’s Gull and much more a distinct possibility.
In the right season butterflies may be of real interest, and rare species such as Alcon Blue can be found.
A birding visit to the area can be coupled with a visit to the Normandy Landings beaches, some within the park, and the Mont Saint Michel is not very far away.
Very easy to reach by ferry from England to Cherbourg: a crossing in September may be very interesting for seabirds.
What to see and where
Marsh fritillary, Alcon blue
Epipactis palustris, Spyranthe aestivalis, Dactylorhiza praetermiss, Dactylorhiza incarnata, Orchis laxiflora, Dactylorhiza fuchsii
Dragon and damselflies
Variable Blue, Four-spotted chaser,
Hairy dragonfly, Emperor dragonfly,
Lesser Emperor dragonfly,
Downy emerald damselfly,
Scarce Emerald damselfly, Black darter
Bell heather, Great sundew, Heather,
Dwarf gorse, Broad-leaved Cottongrass
Travel by train
London – Paris – Carentan les Marais
Travel by ferry
Portsmouth – Cherbourg
Poole – Cherbourg
Rosslare – Cherbourg
Dublin – Cherbourg
Car rental from:
Carentan les Marais train station
Local bus network
Bicyles for rent (seasonal)
Plan to stay 3 - 7 days
London – Avignon direct
Allow 30 - 40 km/day
Combine with Boucles de la Seine Normande for a 10-12 day stay