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The best ways to explore Mont-Saint-Michel

PUBLISHED: 11:04 22 December 2015 | UPDATED: 11:08 22 December 2015

Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy © Irina Bort / Dreamstime

Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy © Irina Bort / Dreamstime

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The iconic Mont-Saint-Michel, just off the Normandy coast, is one of France's most visited attractions and has been chosen as the start of the 2016 Tour de France. We discover the best ways to explore this beautiful island

1. Take a walk across the bay

Take off your shoes, roll up your trouser legs and join a guide for the seven-kilometre walk across the bay from Le Bec d’Andaine at Genêts to Le Mont-Saint-Michel. The two-hour trek allows you to tackle the treacherous sands and currents much as the pilgrims of the past would have done, but with more detailed local knowledge to avoid the dangers. Walks range from simple there-and-back hikes (about 4.5 hours) to nocturnal or dawn excursions, and longer hikes with naturalist guides.

From €5.50pp, depending on group size www.cheminsdelabaie.com

2. Take a boat ride

At higher tides, experienced kayakers can paddle across the bay to the island of Tombelaine, while beginners and families can take shorter trips alongside the beaches and cliffs, to see the landscape from a water-level perspective.

From €25pp for a two to three-hour trip www.seakayak-fr.com

3. Ride on horseback

Explore the salt marshes, trot across towards the mount or – if you’re an experienced rider – cross the bay via Tombelaine on horseback.

From €280 for two days, two-hour beginners’ ride €55, five-hour bay crossing €110 www.club-taniere.fr

4. Fly in a microlight

Get a bird’s-eye view on a morning flight around the bay in a microlight or gyrocopter with instructor Régis Mao. See from on high how the mount has been transformed since the removal of the old causeway and the opening of the barrage, clearing sediment from around the island and pushing the salt marshes back from the base of the rock. Views of the sheep-grazed meadows and the bay are almost as spectacular as the abbey itself.

Microlight/ gyrocopter flights from €80/€90 for 20 minutes, starting from the aerodrome at Le Val-Saint-Père www.normandie-ulm.com

5. Take a hot-air balloon flight

A dawn balloon flight over the island is a magical way to experience Mont-Saint-Michel. Bretagne Montgolfières offers one-hour flights; take-off locations vary according to wind direction.

From €260pp www.bretagne-montgolfieres.fr

6. Take a guided tour

A knowledgeable guide can provide a detailed commentary about the island abbey’s rooms as well as revealing secrets of the crypts and cells, and running through the mount’s 1,300-year history.

Florence Rocaboy is an experienced guide with excellent English. Tel: (Fr) 6 10 07 28 29 Email: florence.rocaboy@laposte.net

7. Stay the night

Come evening, once the crowds have departed, the island has a completely different character – wandering the Grande Rue becomes magical instead of manic. Hotels are expensive, and you’re paying for location and atmosphere rather than exceptional quality; bay views usually command higher prices.

Le Logis Saint-Sébastien, housed in a 14th-century building on the Grande Rue, has some of the cheapest rates with its three simple but comfortable rooms. Triples from €90, breakfast €17 http://en. logis-saint-sebastien.com

Auberge Saint-Pierre, also on the Grande Rue, has attractive rooms in a building with period features. Doubles from €217, breakfast €17 www.auberge-saint-pierre.fr

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