Hard against the frontier with Brittany, and cut off from the rest of Normandy by difficult marshy terrain, the Cotentin Peninsula has traditionally been seen as something of a backwater, far removed from the French mainstream. By sea, on the other hand, it’s very easily accessible. Beyond the peninsula’s major port, Cherbourg, little ports such as Barfleur and St-Vaast on the indented northern headland presage the rocky Breton coast, while La Hague to the west offers a handsome array of heather-clad cliffs and stone-wall-divided patchwork fields.
For many visitors the Cotentin’s long western flank, with its flat beaches, serves primarily as a prelude to Mont St-Michel, with hill towns such as Coutances and Avranches cherishing architectural and historical relics associated with the abbey. Halfway down, however, the walled port of Granville, a popular destination with French holiday-makers, is a sort of small-scale mirror-image of Brittany’s St-Malo.