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

Top bird species

White stork


Savi’s warbler

Balearic shearwater

Mediterranean gull

Sabine’s gull

4 species of Skua

Download the Marais
du Cotentin et du Bessin
“Which birds when” list

Other wildlife

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,
Variable damselfly,
Downy emerald damselfly,
Scarce Emerald damselfly, Black darter

Bell heather, Great sundew, Heather,
Dwarf gorse, Broad-leaved Cottongrass

Getting there

Travel by train

London – Paris – Carentan les Marais


Travel by ferry

Portsmouth – Cherbourg

Poole – Cherbourg

Rosslare – Cherbourg

Dublin – Cherbourg

Local transport

Car rental from:

Cherbourg-en-Cotentin port

Carentan les Marais train station

Caen-Carpiquet airport

Local bus network

Bicyles for rent (seasonal)

Useful tips

Plan to stay 3 - 7 days

London – Avignon direct

Allow 30 - 40 km/day

Nearest airports:

Combine with Boucles de la Seine Normande for a 10-12 day stay

Car rental:

Local specialities

Cider and related products (cider, apple juice, apple based apéritifs), beer, dairy products, cheese, biscuits

Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin documents to download

Share This