COME TO SARTHE
Sarthe is a department of Pays de la Loire and as such counts over fifty castles, many of which are open for visits. Boasting 7 small character towns including Montmirail, and with two rivers running through it – the Sarthe and the Huisne, offering 86 km of waterways – not to mention 14 000 hectares of public forests and myriad more wonders… this region is a celebration of nature and heritage!
Car racing is also a prominent feature of Sarthe, attracting every year in June car race enthusiasts from all over the world with its major event – the legendary race ‘24h du Mans’ – and for amateurs of vintage cars, ‘Le Mans classic’, a natural extension to this event that takes place every two years in July.
Thanks to its vicinity with the capital, Sarthe and the Pays du Perche Sarthois to which the Montmirail village belongs benefit from an ideal location for those who wish to get away for a weekend and enjoy a change of scenery in a lush, peaceful and authentic countryside, where cultural and sporting activities can be found in abundance.
Click on the video to discover the Perche Sarthois
VISIT MONTMIRAL AND ITS CASTLE
A mere hour and a half from Paris (via the A11), 35 minutes from Le Mans, 1 hour from Angers and Chartres, 1 hour twenty minutes from Tours and 2 hours from Rennes and Nantes, Montmirail is a town located in the East of the Sarthe department and bordering Maine, Perche and Orléanais, on the ancient road that connected Le Mans to Chartres.
First a stronghold before becoming a fortified mound and lastly a medieval fortress, Montmirail has been a strategic and defensive site throughout. Located on one of the culminating points of the Sarthe at an altitude of 248 meters, the large village winds around the castle, which is a historical landmark once home to the Princess of Conti, legitimate daughter of Louis XIV and Mme de La Vallière. Perched on the Mons Mirabilis – which means ‘the mount from which one admires’ in Latin… – Montmirail possesses a fine architectural heritage alternating between red brick, tuffeau stone and lime plaster, earning it the label of ‘Petite Cité de Caractère de France‘ (in English, ‘small character town of France’ – a French label recognising high-quality architecture and a will to preserve it).
Thus, as you roam the narrow picturesque streets you will discover ancient wall-walks, which are remnants of the medieval city walls, bourgeois residences such as Maison Conti, which was built at the beginning of the seventeenth century by the Princess of Conti to accommodate her steward, a small church dating back to the twelfth century, the bailiff’s house, a salt store, a garden of medieval inspiration at the foot of the recently restored battlements, and of course the castle, which is open for visits from 1st May to 15 September and throughout the year for groups.
MONTMIRAIL’S SURROUNDING AREA
Sarthe offers a diversified range of leisure activities that are highly popular with families, and encompass protected natural areas, bucolic walks, be it by the river, in remarkable gardens or to visit the many castles and religious heritage buildings and museums.
- Lude Castle
- Benedictine abbey Saint-Pierre-de-Solesmes
- Cistercian abbey of Epau
- Mayanne priory
- Vivouin priory
- Court manour house
- Courtanvaux castle in Bessé-sur-Braye
- Notre-Dame de Tuffé abbey
- Historic Le Mans and the Saint Julien cathedral
- Notre-Dame des Marais church, Porte Saint-Julien and the Ferté-Bernard canals
Remarkable parks and gardens:
- Museum of mechanical music
- Bike museum: a history of the tour de France
- ‘24h du Mans’ museum – ‘circuit de la Sarthe’
- Perche ecomuseum
- Reine Bérangère museum in Le Mans: collections of ceramics and works from Sarthois painters
- Tessé museum in Le Mans (fine art collection)
- Jean Jousse foundation: archeological site and museum area in Gréez-Sir-Roc
- Montmirail’s Forest
- Bercé forest, one of the most beautiful oak forests in France, labelled ‘Forêt d’exception’ (‘exceptional forest’)
- Forêt domaniale de Perseigne dans le Parc naturel régional de Normandie Maine
The South of Sarthe also boasts vineyards that are very much worth a visit, two of which have been granted the French certification ‘appellation d’origine contrôlée’:
- Transvap: Sarthe’s tourist train (2h)
- Pescheray zoological park
- Spaycific’Zoo (Zoochallenges: 800 m2 of indoor games)
- ‘L’Arche de la nature’ (Nature’s Ark)
- ‘Musée Vert au Mans’ (green museum)
- ‘Musée des 24 heures du Mans’
- Carnuta Museum of Man and Forests (forest excursions)
- ‘Le Moulin Cyprien’ (visiting the windmill on the small island of MoulinSart – suitable for children)
- La Maison du Pilier Rouge au Mans
- Courtanvaux castle: day tours and Cluedo sessions in the evening
- Papéa Parc for thrills and its aqua-centre: 1900 carrousel, enchanted river, flying house, …
- ‘Zoo de la Flèche’
- Bowling in La Ferté-Bernard
- ‘Le Petit train de Semur en Vallon’
- 100% regional dishes
- An association brings together regional chefs: ‘Les 19 bonnes tables’ (the 19 finest tables), which value Sarthois gastronomy.
And two Star Products !
- Rillettes (potted meat) (represented by associations in the regional competition)
- Petit Sablé of La Sablésienne (shortbread biscuits).
Local markets in Perche Sarthois:
Open air activities:
Mountain biking, hiking and pony trekking, tree climbing, canoe-kayak, zip-line…
In Alpes Mancelles: 4 ‘sentiers GR’ (long-distance footpaths) and 50 hiking routes, 25 mountain bike trails and 550 km of paths.
Major cycle routes: biking through the Sarthe offers 420 km of sign-posted routes, 37 km of which are green routes.
- La Ferté-Bernard leisure centre
- Val de Braye leisure centre located in Lavaré
- Tuffé leisure centre
- Saint Calais leisure centre
- Sitellia: aquatic area that opens onto a green park in summertime
- Paint-ball adventures
Horse riding activities:
- Equestrian tourism in Sarthe: Aurel’Horse
- Perche-Sarthois hippodrome
- ‘Boulerie Jump’
- ‘Vibraye Equitation’
And the ever-popular car events:
- 24 H du Mans: Bringing together approximately 260 000 spectators each year in June.
- Le Mans classic : Vintage car race every two years, in July.
- Racing Kart du Mans
- Quad Hiking with the ‘Quad Nature Respect’
Do get in touch to let us know about activities and good places you’ve discovered!