Cotentin Peninsula, also known as the
Cherbourg Peninsula, is a peninsula in Normandy,
forming part of the north-western coast of France.
out north-westwards into the English Channel, towards Great Britain and its northern coastline was the site of the
famed World War II invasion of Hitler's
Fortress Europa by the Allies on
D-Day, 6 June 1944, while its river- and
canal-crossed agricultural terrain suffered the next months
fighting as the allies sought to break out of their lodgement.
To its west lie the Channel Islands
and to the southwest lies
the Brittany Peninsula
peninsula lies wholly within the département of Manche, in the
région of Basse-Normandie.
It is part
of the Armorican Massif and lies
between the estuary of the Vire River and Mont Saint Michel Bay. It is divided into three areas: the headland
Hague, the Cotentin Pass, and the valley of the Saire River (Val-de-Saire).
the bulk of the Manche département.
largest town in the peninsula is Cherbourg on the north coast, a major cross-channel port.
towns of note: Coutances, Barfleur, Saint-Lô, Bricquebec, Granville, Barneville-Carteret, Carentan, Avranches.
western coast of the peninsula, known as la Côte des Îles
(the coast of the islands) faces the Channel Islands and ferry links serve Carteret, Granville and the islands
east coast of the peninsula lie the island of Tatihou and the Îles Saint-Marcouf.
The peninsula formed part of the Roman geographical area of
. The town known today as
Coutances, capital of the Unelli
, a Gaulish
tribe, acquired the name of Constantia
in 298 during the reign of Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus
. The whole
peninsula, called in Latin
subsequently became known as the Cotentin. The
migration of Vikings in the 6th century led to the area becoming
part of the territory of the Northmen, or Normans
, creating Normandy
Until the construction of modern roads, the peninsula was almost
inaccessible in winter due to the band of marshland cutting off the
higher ground of the promontory itself. this explains occasional
historical references to the Cotentin as an island
of Valognes was, until the French
Revolution, a provincial social resort for the aristocracy,
nicknamed the Versailles of Normandy.
remains of the grand houses and châteaux
as a result of the destruction of the
Battle of Normandy
. The social
scene was described in the novels of Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly
from the Cotentin).
Battle of La
Hougue took place in 1692 at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue near Barfleur.
A significant portion of World War II
through the summer of 1944, was fought in the area, which was the
site of Operation Overlord
as the "Normandy landings", from which the Allies launched the
liberation of Western Europe.
The main economical resource is agriculture. Dairy farming is an a
prominent activity. Along the west coast, renowned vegetables
are grown (carrots of Créances).
region is also famous for its shellfish culture, like the oysters
from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and Pirou, and the
manufacturing of alcoholic beverages like cider and calvados, made from local grown apples and
Nuclear activity is prominent in this remote region of France. At
there is a nuclear power plant
, which in the coming
years will see its capacity considerably enlarged by the addition
of an extra reactor. Just a few miles to the north of this
nuclear site, at Beaumont-Hague, the sprawling, infamous COGEMA La
Hague site is located, a treatment plant for nuclear waste.
The roads used for
transport of nuclear waste to this heavily guarded site have been
blocked many times in the past by environmental actiongroup
.Local environment groups have
voiced concerns about the radioactivity levels of the cooling water
of both these nuclear sites, which is being flushed into the bay of
Vauville. The nuclear sites employ a lot of people from the
Tourism is also an important economic activity in this region.
tourists visit the D-Day invasion beaches, the paratrooper linked
town of Sainte-Mère-Église, the American war cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer and the German war cemetery at La Cambe.
quitting political life, the political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville retreated to the
family estate of Tocqueville where he wrote much of his work.
Due to its comparative isolation, the peninsula is one of the
remaining strongholds of the Norman
, and the local dialect is known as Cotentinais
. The Norman language poet Côtis-Capel
described the environment of
the peninsula, while French language poet Jacques Prévert
made his home at
Omonville-la-Petite. The painter Jean-François Millet
was born in
the peninsula, as well as Allain
, a great modern French poet and songwriter.
The Norman language writer Alfred Rossel, native of Cherbourg,
composed many songs which form part of the heritage of the region.
Rossel's song Sus la mé
("on the sea") is often sung as a
regional patriotic song.