Sillé-le-Guillaume is a small town in Sarthe, in Pays de la Loire region, 35 km north-west of Le Mans, on the borders of Mayenne and Normandy.
Former stage of the pilgrimage to Mont Saint-Michel, Sillé-le-Guillaume developed as a strategic point and two fortresses were erected there, an oppidum then a fortress, in the 11th century, transformed into a castle in the 15th.
Held by Guillaume de Sillé and his descendants, barons who served the Count of Maine to resist the assaults of the Bretons and Normans, the city also became a commercial crossroads and its agricultural fairs made its reputation in the nineteenth century.
Now with its own activities, Sillé-le-Guillaume (about 2,500 inhabitants) has preserved an authentic town center while enhancing its state forest of more than 3,000 hectares and a lake of 35 hectares suitable for swimming and water activities. A tourist and leisure base is located there, called Sillé-Plage. With the historical center of the city, this makes the city a popular destination, labeled Green Station.
A stay in Sillé-le-Guillaume can begin with the discovery of its historical heritage including several listed buildings.
The castle which dominates the city was built at the end of the 15th century on the remains of a fortress partly destroyed at the end of the Hundred Years War.
It is shaped like a quadrilateral flanked by towers at its corners. It has a dungeon, but it was never used because of the evolution of military techniques. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, wings with a more residential character were added. The ensemble, however, remains very imposing and testifies to the evolution of military art. Open all year for groups and in July and August for individual visits. On Wednesdays, a theatrical visit for families. Entrance: from 2 to 4 euros. Information on +33 2 43 20 10 32.
At Sillé-Plage, one will not forget the vestiges of the first fortress of the Carolingian period (dating before the year 1000). This old castle (denominated in the region "l'oppidum") was abandoned after the Breton and Norman invasions. The ruins are a rare example of what was then military architecture. Information on +33 2 43 20 10 32.
Back in the village, a visit is necessary from the church of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption, a Romanesque collegiate church near the castle. Its construction dates from the 11th century, but it has been reworked many times. At the level of the oldest parts, it will be seen that the twelve apostles are represented on the vaults. A scene from the Last Judgment was also preserved. More contemporary, the nineteenth and twentieth century stained-glass windows are remarkable, such as the Baronne Jeanne-Marie de Maillé, now classified. As for the furniture of the church, it is also contemporary with the exception of stalls of the sixteenth century. To appreciate all the riches of the site, brochures are available at the entrance.
Please note that thematic tours are offered to fully appreciate the historic heart of the city. Strolls "head in the air" so as not to miss the sculpted faces, dormers and windows of the 15th century dwellings, and the picturesque architectural details that mark the old districts, and guided walks to better understand what was Habitat and everyday life in the past. Information on +33 6 83 37 06 49.
It is then time to head towards Sillé-Plage by crossing the important forest formerly used to supply the charcoal necessary for the metallurgical activity.
The whole site can be discovered thanks to a small tourist train in use on weekends and public holidays from April to September and every day in July and August. Information on +33 6 63 18 45 68.
Another way of understanding the site (forest and lake) is a walk aboard the Silius, a 27-seater boat offering guided tours, focusing in particular on the richness of fauna and flora. Price: 4 euros. Reservations at +33 6 80 01 20 29.
At the level of the beach itself, accessible from April to September like most other activities, swimming is monitored only in July and August. A walkway has been laid out for wheelchairs and a specific armchair is available for disabled people who want to swim.
For the practice of sailing, canoeing or paddle, contact the nautical center on +33 2 43 23 21 77. Initiation possible, and boat rentals.
An ATV base is located nearby. A dozen marked circuits are arranged to furrow the edges of the lake and through the forest. Information on +33 6 67 44 36 38. For the rental of bicycles with electric assistance, please call +33 2 43 20 10 32.
Archery and climbing are also among the activities available on the base (contact on +33 2 43 20 10 32), as well as tennis (provide your own equipment and reserve the courts on +33 2 43 20 11 04) While a pony riding school is waiting for the children (information on +33 6 85 40 48 65).
Finally, for fishing enthusiasts, the large lake and the adjacent ponds are privileged sites. Find out about suitable places and regulations on +33 2 43 20 10 32.
For hikers (on foot, mountain biking or horse riding), Sillé-le-Guillaume (city side or forest side and beach) as well as its surroundings contain many circuits and themed paths to enjoy a green environment, with remarkable biodiversity and rich in small Heritage... Maps, brochures and information on +33 2 43 20 10 32 and +33 2 43 20 19 97 (in summer).
The first Saturday of June, in Sillé-Plage, fishing festival. For specialists like beginners, with entertaining and convivial animations.
The 4th Sunday of July, medieval festival in the castle. On the program, fun animations, costumed parades, ambulatory music, meals in the Middle Ages fashion.
On the first Sunday in August, a horse race at the hippodrome, on the edge of the forest.
The first weekend of September, the Raid Ox Terra, in Sillé-Plage, proposes nature trails for a team of two to mountain biking, canoeing or running.
The last weekend of September, the Gamelle Trophy offers in good humor mountain bike races for young and old.
Finally, to discover the wealth of the terroir, a market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays morning in downtown.