This forest, the biggest in the Calvados region, has a surface of 3,500 ha and a perimeter of 28 km.

N. Plante

Originally, the forest was called Touques Forest. Its name changed when it became part of the French royal domain at the beginning of the 13th century. The Saint-Gatien-des-Bois Forest has had multiple buyers over the centuries. It was sold to aristocrats (Louise de Bourbon, Mlle de Montpensier) or divided and resold to several people. It was used by men transporting logs, bundle of sticks or ferns. Their workmates were "mazette" horses: small horses equipped with a small bell to be easily found at night. Today, this forest has several owners, who exploit it to produce wood or as a hunting domain. Before the Revolution, wolves, stags, roe deer, fallow deer and wild boars could be easily seen. Nowadays, only foxes, hares and rabbits may be found here. Roe deer, wild boars and woodcocks live here in winter. Take the 9.5-km hiking trail from the Town Hall of Saint-Gatien-des-Bois, accessible out of the hunting period, to discover part of it! Every year at the beginning of July, the Trail du Bois Joli is organized here. It's a race in the middle of the nature including two itineraries.

N. Plante

Hiking in the forest

The itinerary

At the heart of the forest, there’s the Chalet Güttinger

This private wooden chalet of Swiss inspiration surrounded by a terrace-covered walk with a projecting roof, was built around 1820 by Ulrich Güttinger, leader of the Romantic school of Swiss origin. This house offered to Ulrich Güttinger the peace he was longing for. It was situated in a green environment, between rhododendrons and hydrangeas, but also many varieties of other flowers, greenhouses, a hothouse, a vegetable garden and an orchard. This park, situated in the middle of the forest, hosted many renowned and widely appreciated horticulture fairs.

Ulrich Güttinger, member of the Salon de l'Arsenal, often welcomed here the greatest names of literature and art of his time, who loved to come here and enjoy: Victor and Adèle Hugo, Alfred de Musset, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert, Charles Baudelaire, Théophile Gautier, Frédéric Chopin..."I’m writing from the Chalet of Güttinger, where I have been for two days now and where I’d like to meet you. I enjoy the Chalet and the forest around it. It’s really extraordinary. I stare at the sea – so close to us- all day long as onlookers stare at water flowing. I’m overwhelmed by all this beauty". Alfred de Musset, 1819.

Around 1950, the chalet hosted a few summer camps. The remains of the chalet, now abandoned, are walled up.