Situated on the seaside, the Vaches noires cliffs, more than 100 m high, stretch over 4,5 km between the municipalities of Villers-sur-Mer and Houlgate. These cliffs are unique for their geological and paleontological richness of major interest and for their natural beauty, made of ravines and spurs. The Vaches noires cliffs make part of the intervention sites of the Conservatoire du littoral and are subjected to preservation measures since 2002.

© Patrice Le Bris
© Julien Boisard

The Vaches noires cliffs are the result of the accumulation of deposits of sea sediments of the Jurassic era (about 160 million years ago) and of the Cretaceous era (about 100 million years ago). Among these geological layers of marls and limestone and in the hilly areas resulting from the erosion processes, several fossils have been discovered: 10-m-long pliosaurs, ichthyosaurs, saltwater crocodiles, but also ammonites, sea urchins, sponges...Rests of dinosaurs have also been found in these deposits!

In terms of environment, there are three great types of habitats on the cliffs: the marl cliff, an environment in constant evolution where pioneer species develop on the pile of fallen rocks covered with mud; at the top of the cliffs, the woods of the plateau made of ashes, maples and oaks, a shelter for the fauna; and the meadows of the plateau.

Some guided visits to discover these extraordinary cliffs are organized on a regular basis.

© Pierre Queron
© Isaac Haïk Dunn
© Julien Boisard

inDeauville natural visits and strolls

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“Vaches Noires” (Black cows), the name of these cliffs, was conceived by sailors, saying that the huge blocks of collapsed limestone covered with algae found on the beach reminded, when seen from the sea, a herd of cattle peacefully passing by.

The area of the Vaches Noires cliffs offers a high diversity of orchids -seven species are listed, including the common spotted orchid.
On the cliffs, you can find a remarkable species: the dragon's teeth.
On the meadows, you can find several species of major interest: the wild liquorice, the woolly thistle and a protected species at the regional level: the grey ragwort.



In the ponds of the cliffs, you can find the species of amphibians usually living in hedgerows and forests, namely the fire salamander, the palmate newt and the alpine newt.
Among mammals, you can find three protected species: the dormouse, the squirrel and the hedgehog. These animals hibernate in nests made on the ground in slightly covered environments.
Since 2003, the population of bats is monitored on site. Five species have been identified: the greater horseshoe bat, the lesser horseshoe bat, the greater mouse-eared bat, the whiskered bat and the brown long-eared bat.

The Vaches Noires cliffs Practical information here