If like me you have driven the length and breadth of France to reach various holiday destinations in the past few years and fancy a change of scenery or you point blank refuse to drive long distances abroad, what are your options?
For instance, as the old adage goes, let the train take the strain, or the plane, or coach or even the autotrain (more information here).
In true I Spy Camping style, I have compared journey times and prices for the three main ways of getting you across France.
|French City||Plane Journey
(Time on Train)
|Marseille||5hr 15m (2hr)
£84 with Ryanair (Stansted)
|6hr 20m (5hr 30m)
£119 with Eurostar
140€ + 79€
|Lyon||4hr 55m (1hr 45m)
£103 Easyjet (Gatwick)
|5hr 45m (5hr)
£109 with Eurostar
98€ + 53€
|Bordeaux||4hr 45m (1hr 35m)
£87 with Easyjet (Luton)
|8hr (6hr 15m)
£109 with Eurostar
113€ + 70€
|Paris||4hr 25m (1hr 15m)
£75 with Easyjet (Luton)
|3hr (2hr 20m)
£69 with Eurostar
38€ + 20€
|La Rochelle||4hr 35m (1hr 15m)
£82 with Ryanair (Stansted)
|7hr (6hr 20m)
£109 with Eurostar
91€ + 48€
|Tours||4hr 30m (1hr 20m)
£85 with Ryanair (Stansted)
|5hr 20m (4hr 30m)
£89 with Eurostar
68€ + 39€
I have based flights departing around the London area and used Eurostar to organise train journeys to the cities below – prices for both are taken from their cheapest return tickets advertised for each adult.
Drive times are based on no stops and driving at the speed limit. The first cost is petrol, assuming unleaded, and driving a medium sized vehicle. The second cost is the tolls on French motorways for that journey.
If you are not planning to drive at all and going to a campsite or holiday park in France by train, you will need to check with the site which is the nearest train station and enquire if they do pick ups or how much a taxi would cost.
Which form of transport would you take next year?
As you can see from the table above, some journeys lend themselves to one form or transport or the other. Your own personal circumstances will largely determine, which is best for you. Driving with a family is cheaper, but don’t forget to add wear and tear to your vehicle and the extra mileage.
For us, we want to see more of France and create a different adventure for the kids (and for me!), so we’ll try the train next year.
‘Scotland! Isn’t that really far away?’ questioned my 6 year old when I told him we were going camping for a few days there.
Yes, it is a long drive, from us it is approximately 7 hours to Fort William, but it is definately worth it. We stayed at the Red Squirrel campsite in the heart of Glencoe, 10 miles south of Fort William.
Hagrid’s hut from the Harry Potter films was filmed about 2 minutes walk from the campsite, so if you can remember the films, you will have a good idea of the landscape surrounding us. We went mid-August and temperatures during the 5 days we were there soared to near 30 degrees, which made it very warm in the tent during the day.
Around Glencoe there are plenty of places to visit and walks to go on, our children are reasonably adventurous, but still young, so we kept to the easier walks. To buy groceries, local shops are available in Glencoe Village and a small supermarket at Ballacullish. There are plenty places to visit and explore near Glencoe, including Inchree Waterfalls. If you are looking for something a little different try Canyoning at Inchree Waterfalls, near Onich. We only discovered this by chance on a walk to see the waterfalls and the guys at Vertical Decents were taking a group Canyoning down the waterfalls – maybe next time!
Further afield you have Fort William, the provincial capital of the highlands and major fishing port, which is worth a visit. Heading north, you have a choice of either going further west towards Mallaig and onto the Isle of Skye by boat or further north towards Loch Ness and Inverness. Both offer stunning drives and plenty of places to stop and admire in awe of the place.
The road towards Mallaig from Fort William is peppered with mountains and lochs, including many with salmon fisheries. If are planning to head towards Mallaig, and the weather is reasonable, take your swimming kits. 10 minutes south of Mallaig is Silver Sands, a sandy beach that gently slopes into an inlet of Loch Morar with its fresh crystal clear water is perfect for everyone to go swimming.
Heading north towards Inverness on the A82, you will come across Fort Augustus, a popular tourist spot. It’s a nice small town positioned at Loch Ness’ most southerly point and referred to as the Gateway to the world famous Loch. The heart of the town features a number of pubs and restaurants that adorn the three-boat wide locks that continue vessels along the Caledonian canal into Loch Ness.
Further afield you have the Nessie Monster museum at Drumnadrochit, and just before you get into the town, you will pass Urquhart Castle, which is believed to date back to the 13th century and has played an important role in Scotland’s history. If you have time, it is well worth a visit.
We have been a number of times to the Scottish Highlands and still discovering new places and routes.
Can you help? Where would you recommend others to visit?
(Feature Photo: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs taken from the village of Tarbet during our journey north)
Driving through France has always been seen as a challenge, I hear stories from other families about how long they drove for, day and night in many cases, to get to their holiday destination. As for myself, I have ‘challenged’ myself on many occasions and dragged my family along on these challenges.
To help myself, my poor stricken family and many of you, I have put together 3 routes through France that will help you start your holidays in France, Spain or Italy in a more leisurely way and experience more of the sights, smells and people as you drive through.
Route 1 – South of France – Alps, Cote D’Azur, Provence and Italy
A driving route from Calais through the Champagne region, Burgundy, Lyon and on the Alps and the South of France, stopping there or continuing to Italy. Driving across Eastern France – Route 1.
Route 2 – South France – Languedoc, Dordogne, Limousin, Midi-Pyrenees and Barcelona, Spain
An alternative route through France goes through central France, skirting around Paris, Orleans and through to the Massif Central and to the Tarn Valley. Driving across Central France – Route 2
Route 3 – South France – Vendee, Charente Maritime, Bordeaux and Biarritz
An alternative route through France starts at Cherbourg and heads south towards Nantes, Cognac, Bordeaux and further south to the Pays Basque. Driving across Western France – Route 3.
These 10 European campsites offer excellent facilities for children. They have been selected for their close proximity to sandy beaches; on-site facilities for young children; nearby family-friendly attractions and can be reached easily by plane, ferry or car. The campsites also offer families the choice to book a pitch for their own tent, a 2 or 3 bedroom mobile home, a ready-erected furnished tent or a wooden lodge/chalet.
Le Soleil, Argelès-sur-Mer, Languedoc, France
Le Soleil is a four-star campsite right on the beach so families can walk there without struggling to cross busy roads. The Mediterranean sea is crystal clear and warm for young swimmers in the summer and the views of the Pyrenees are stunning. Luckily you can reach this area of the south of France via a number of airports, including Perpignan, Carcassone, Beziers and Girona (Spain); Ryanair is the airline to try first for flights to these airports.
La Bien Assise, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
La Bien Assise, a 5-star French campsite located in the grounds of a beautiful chateau, is close to Calais and the Tunnel making it one of the easiest of our featured campsites to reach. The park has a stately feel with the shop and bar located in former stables and the restaurant set in a farmstead and boasting a first class gourmet menu to match. The pool is covered when the weather is iffy and there is plenty to do for everyone in and out. Perfect for anyone trying a camping holiday for the first time.
La Croix de Vieux Pont, Berny-Riviere, near Paris
La Croix de Vieux Pont in Berny-Riviere, is situated on the outskirts of France’s capital, and is perfect for a day trip to Paris and Disneyland Paris, France’s most popular attraction. The campsite’s own bus service* can take you directly to the centre of Paris or Disneyland, and pick you up in the evening. What makes this site special is its location, it’s just two and a half hours easy drive from Calais, and its on-site facilities that include a sandy beach, indoor pool and a pony trekking centre. * There is an additional charge for the bus service.
The Cote d’Azur is not just about sun, sea and sand, although as you can see above, they do that very well. Anyone who has spent time in the region will vouch for that there is so much to explore and real treats await those who venture off the beaten track. Reproduced from The Cote d’Azur Montagne website is this great 5km easy walk starting at the village of La Roquette sur Var that is perfect for families with children from the ages of 7 and up.
From Portalet Square go up past the church and on through the picturesque streets of La Roquette sur Var to the crossing between main road and the D.20 road towards area of the Valliere. A little after the cemetery, at the crossroads of the D.20 and Clot Dué, take the direction towards Trascoulet.
After 300 metres, turn right and take the road along the crest of the hill at Roques. It is a beautiful path with the valley Récastron of the left and the valley of Ubac on the right. Follow the path that leads to the cliff overlooking the village of St Martin du Var. Take the heather-lined path along the edge of the cliff, which offers stunning views of the old town and modern districts of St. Martin.
Take the road towards des Vignes, which descends down the hill and leave the road at Le Puy and turn right along the old road from Le Puy, which snakes down and along the old clay pit. Go through the village of St Martin du Var via Peter Grilli Street, the main square, rue de la Forge and the Chemin Neuf.
A few metres before the cemetery, turn left along a sloping path at first, but then levels out to be almost flat. Turn left towards the la Roquette, which rises almost 300m above. Cross the D.20 paying close attention to the traffic, continue climbing towards the high walls that give the village Roquette a castle-like appearance. Climb the staircase and enter Portalet square once again to admire the vast panorama and learn its history from the information provided.