Watch out for the tides on this hike out to the île-des-ebihens. An island that becomes walkable at low tide, with stunning views across the northern coast and access to fishing even if you don’t have a rod.
Île des Ébihens,
Distance: 10.7 km
Duration: 3 hours
If you’re looking for a hike with a sense of adventure, then this is definitely one you should do. It starts at the Pointe du Chevet, just north of Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer. This hike is in two sections: the out and back across to the île-des-ébihens and the circuit around the town of Saint-Jacut. Which section you begin with will all depend on your timing.
⚠️ WARNING ⚠️
Do not begin this hike without first looking at the tides!
You must look at the tides before starting. Use a website like marée info. Specifically search for the île-des-ébihens or Lancieux just next door. Why? Because the tides here have a huge range. One minute the sea will be lapping at your ancles with not a beach in site and merely a few hours later there will be nothing but sand for miles. You might already be able to tell from the map but on this hike you are walking out at low tide to an island.
To be safe I would recommend heading out to the island as the tide is still on its way down. If there is enough land to walk across of course. From the car park you descend immediately to the beach, watch out for slippery and uneven rocks. Then you begin your crossing. If there is a low level of water still you can cross in welly boots or take your shoes off and get your feet wet.
Once on the island make sure to keep an eye on the time and begin to make your way 2 hours after low tide. Unless you would like to spend an extra 6 hours stranded on the island. If you are incredibly unlucky and miss your window, stay close to where there is vegetation – the tide wont reach you there. And pack snacks just in case. Otherwise, if you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can hire a kayak in the nearby beach town of Lancieux and paddle out to the island at high tide.
Something that you are sure to see while on this hike are local people and families bent over searching in the sand. The swell of the tide brings with it all sorts of treasures. Not least of which is shellfish. Pêche à pied or fishing on foot is a national sport in Brittany. And the île-des-ébihens is one of the most popular places to do it.
Want to give it a go yourself? Here are three techniques for fishing on foot:
1. Fishing for razor fish – Look closely at the sand beneath your feet. You are looking for a key shaped hole that may have a razor fish just below the surface. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the hole and wait to see if anything pops out!
2. Fishing for crabs – Carefully turn over the half-submerged rocks that surround the island and keep an eye out for anything moving underneath. And watch out for their strong claws! Be sure to put the rocks back exactly as you found them afterward – the sea life depends on it.
3. Fishing for clams & cockles – Get digging! Look for the darker patches of sand that may have small breathing holes. Use a trowel, spoon, fork or just your fingers and you are sure to uncover something beneath the surface.
The island itself is private and you will pass a private residence on this hike. Be sure to stick to the footpath. Once on the island you will find yourself surrounded by tall trees and a thicket of bushes. Then you will emerge once again out onto a rocky outcrop with more beautiful sand beaches on all sides. Use your time on the island exploring these beautiful coves, clambering over rocks, or keeping an eye out for the bird and sea life.
Return to the mainland for the second section of this hike where you circumnavigate the town of Saint-Jacut-de-la-mer. The entire town is on a thin three-kilometre-long peninsula. If you decide to venture into this small town, you will find all the shops, restaurants and cafes along the Grand Rue. The architecture here is a mix of traditional stone cottages and imposing villas.
Other points of interest on this hike:
- La Tour des Ebihens – An impressive granite tower now sheltered by the island’s trees. This tower was finished in 1696 and one of many coastal defences for the port city of St Malo.
- Plage de la Chapelle – One of the île-des-ébihens many beaches. Sometimes known as port de la chapelle because of all the boats that anchor here. It is south facing and has public access. The perfect spot for a picnic.
- L’Abbaye Saint-Jacut-de-la-Mer – Benedictine monastery founded by Saint Jacut in the 5th century. Now it is a guest house as well as a cultural and spiritual centre. Often hosting events and concerts, this abbey opens its doors to everyone.