This peaceful, tucked-away region is well worth exploring to discover its treasures. Several natural beauty spots offer pleasant prospects for walkers: the Alpes Mancelles, with a few hidden gems such as Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei or Saint-Léonard-des-Bois; the Bercé forest, a major ecotourism destination spanning 5,400 hectares; La Flèche Zoo, one of the five biggest zoos in France; the Saulges canyon, formed by the River Erve, and its two caves which are open to visitors.
In the former capital of Maine, the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race has helped to make the city famous. A museum next to the race track documents the history of motoring and the legendary race itself. Yet the city is also remarkable for its old town, known as Le Vieux-Mans or Cité Plantagenet, a historical conservation area surrounded by a 3rd-century Roman wall. A wander along its cobbled lanes will offer an opportunity to admire its remarkable built heritage and the half-Romanesque, half-Gothic architecture of its Cathedral of St. Julian. The Cistercian abbey of L'Épau, a listed historic monument, is another of the region's gems.
Laval is another appealing town with its medieval streets, Old Castle housing a Museum of Naïve Art, and marvellous La Perrine Garden overlooking the Mayenne Valley. Lovers of old buildings will gladly discover the charm of Lassay-les-Châteaux and its fortress, while history buffs will appreciate the harmony and grace of Lude Castle, known for its superb gardens. The hilltop castle and beautiful homes of Sainte-Suzanne, a listed medieval village, will enchant any visitor, as will Thévalles mill, the only watermill open to visitors in Mayenne.
You can take a detour via the prestigious Solesmes Abbey, an important centre for Gregorian chant, or via some majestic castles like Courtanvaux, in the medieval and Renaissance styles, or Craon, all in white stone. And if you fancy it, you can sample the local specialities such as traditional rillettes and Jasnières white wine, or maybe some free-range beef from Maine or poultry from Loué would be more to your taste!