On all the boards
Welcome to the Burgundy Canal!

My name is Léa and I am a seasonal lock-keeper!
Take a look at my logbook and come along with me for a canal adventure the whole of its 242-kilometre length. It’s a real masterpiece of civil engineering as well as one of the loveliest ways to get from the Channel to the Mediterranean!
Meet me at every noticeboard by the canal. Have a great time exploring!

The canal landscape: before and after

From the plain of Migennes to the Saône plain, through the Ouche valley to the Armançon valley, the canal traces its path through a country landscape, with many castles and churches.

Transformation of the existing buildings

A landscape unchanged for centuries? Don’t be so sure of it!

Before: there was a traditional heritage related to human activity.

Laundries and mills on millstreams alongside the canal

Farms and post-houses

A few factories, tilemakers and forges enlivened the neighbourhood (Veuvey-sur-Ouche, Buffon, Aisy, Grignon)

After the construction of the canal: everything changed!

A remarkable industrial boom

Creation of transport routes: roads and railways

Some eighteenth-century buildings still have their original architecture intact, like those of the Great Buffon Forge.


The Great Forge, after being used as a cement works up to 1923, became a cultural venue open to visitors. It was classified as a historic monument for its connection with the scientific genius of the Enlightenment and has belonged to the same family since 1860. The Montbard basin was an ideal place for the steel industry to develop. Following on from Buffon, a metal-making hub, known as ‘Metal Valley’ developed in Montbard.

In 1772, at the Great Buffon Forge

Léa meets George-Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffon

“Er, what did you say, my dear? Excuse me for being distracted, I have an awful lot on my mind! The work on the Great Forge is nearly finished. Look at my map: we are on a millstream of the Armançon; the domestic part is arranged around a big yard with lodgings, stores, and barns. On the other level is the whole of the industrial production with workshops, the forge, and the foundry. All my experiments on the fusion of iron will be put to good use here! But I also want to improve the well-being of the workers with a bakery, a vegetable garden, a chapel, and a bathhouse in the orangery. What did you say, my dear? That it’s a model factory? Yes, that’s just what it is!”

The Buffon Museum and Park in Montbard

Here you can immerse yourself totally in the world of Buffon! This famous eighteenth-century naturalist invites you to his estate and to his famous Histoire Naturelle. As you wander over the terraces of Parc Buffon, built on the site of the old castle of the Dukes of Burgundy, or peek into his famous study, you will encounter the spirit of the Enlightenment with everything you discover.

Fontenay Abbey

Founded by Saint Bernard in the twelfth century, this Cistercian abbey is an architectural jewel, with Unesco World Heritage classification. The monks’ spirit is still present, whether in the serenity of the cloisters or the gardens or the unique use of light in the architecture. 

The Great Buffon Forge

Where did the forge master live and what accommodation was provided for the workers and managers? The way the workshops are organised, the beauty of the furnaces and the hydraulic system required for metal manufacture helps us imagine how this masterpiece of industrial heritage worked. It was designed and built by the Count of Buffon in the eighteenth century


1724 A canal project is agreed after much deliberation concerning the route

1775 Work begins on both banks

1826-1832 Pouilly tunnel is dug out

1833 The whole canal is opened to traffic

1872-1882 Standardised to Freycinet gauge (lengthening of the lock chambers)

Nineteenth century The industrial boom

Twentieth century Gradual transition from industry and commerce to tourism and leisure

2010 Creation of the cycle path

Nowadays you can travel on the water for pleasure or enjoy cycling along the cycle path that follows the old towpath. It’s an ideal opportunity to discover the wealth of our heritage as you explore!