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Scenic route

Driving around in Northern France

Fancy soaking up the sights and scenery of France without having to drive all the way south to the French Riviera? No problem.

Here are three routes in Northern France to take in your stride, allowing you a few days to unwind and enjoy a slower pace of life.

1. Picardy

Calais – Arras – Reims – Beaune - Paris – Amiens

Day 1: Many people venturing on a road trip in France often begin in Calais, partly thanks to the Eurotunnel and ferry options from Dover making it so accessible. If possible, aim to arrive here around lunchtime – Calais has some of the freshest seafood around, providing you with some delicious fuel before you start.

A little over an hour on the A26 will take you to Arras, a fabulous town known for its culture, heritage and pavement café lifestyle – so an ideal base for your first night in France.

Day 2: If serenity is your main aim travel on the A26 towards Reims where you’ll be in the heart of France’s Champagne region. And if Champagne is your tipple, be sure to head to the place where it all started - Hautvillers.

Day 3: As you continue south, it’s worth visiting Troyes, a market town with good access to picturesque Chablis, and Dijon - Burgundy’s Renaissance style capital. However, you might want to spend your third night at the medieval town of Beaune; having passed numerous scenic vineyards to get there, it’s an ideal place to finally sample some of the wine; but remember, drinking and driving is never a good idea, no matter what country you’re in.

Day 4 & 5: Next, head north on the A6 to Paris. If you’re not that keen on staying right in the centre, you’ll find some decent campsite options on the city outskirts. We suggest you spend a couple of nights here so you can have at least one full day exploring the iconic city.

Day 6: A couple of hours on the A16 will see you arriving at Amiens; nicknamed ‘Little Venice of the North’ thanks to its network of canals and home of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Notre Dame Cathedral.

Day 7: Allow yourself a leisurely two hours back to Calais, or longer if you fancy a few detours as you drive through the National Park en-route.

2. Normandy

Caen – Bayeux – Mont Saint-Michel - Saumur – Rouen - Deauville

Day 1: Driving around Normandy is an appealing option if you’re interested in France’s history. Whether you arrive in Caen (from Portsmouth) or Cherbourg (from Poole), head straight to Bayeux - it’s one of the few old towns in Normandy to have escaped damage during the Second World War.

If this slice of history interests you, visit the Museum of the Battle of Normandy for a better understanding on the invasion in 1944. And you should also head to Omaha Beach for the D-Day Monument, paying tribute to the countless soldiers who lost their lives more than 70 years ago.

Day 2: Follow the A84 to find more of France’s history in Le Mont Saint-Michel. Make sure you have plenty of battery and memory on your cameras - this majestic UNESCO World Heritage Site will have you snapping away.

Day 3: Next up, drive three hours southeast to reach the medieval town of Saumur. Sitting elegantly on the banks of France’s longest river, the Loire, you should take advantage of the free parking at the chateau. It not only provides an interesting glimpse at its complicated history, but one of the best scenic spots in town.

Day 4 & 5: Take it easy the following morning with a quick 20-minute drive to the impressive Abbey of Fontevraud, considered one of the greatest monastic cities in Europe that dates back to the early 12th century.

It’s then three hours northeast to Rouen. This is where Joan of Arc was martyred and it’s home to many masterpieces of religious architecture. It’s also full of great restaurants – so is an ideal place for a night or two.

Day 6 & 7: As you slowly head back to Caen, consider spending your final night in Deauville. This elegant seaside town has a fantastic promenade, stylish shops and a superb beach – adding a touch of glamour to your trip before it’s home time.

3. Brittany

St Malo – Dinan - Paimpont – La Baule - Beg Meil – Brest – Perros Guirec

Day 1: Take a ferry crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo and you’ll arrive in a port that instantly offers a flavour of France; quiet cobblestone streets, the aroma of crepes cooking and shop windows presenting the latest in French fashion.

If you’re looking for a good place to eat, drive south for about 22 miles to Dinan, one of the most attractive and best-preserved towns in Brittany. It’s a great place for your first night; the port is lined with old stone houses, many of which are now waterside restaurants serving fresh oysters.

Day 2: The following day, head 35 miles south for Paimpont. Its lakeside setting and forest surroundings make it a decent place for another overnight stop.

Day 3 & 4: If by now you’re craving some beach action, head west for a couple of hours on the N24 and E60 towards Beg Meil – perhaps breaking up the journey with a short detour to the ancient stones at Carnac.

The wonderful sandy beaches at Beg Meil make it ideal for a family holiday, so you may find yourselves staying here for a couple of days.

Day 5: If you can bear to leave, continue on the E60 for around 60 miles north until you reach Brest. And if you’re looking for more family activities, take them on a trip to the Oceanopolis aquarium.

Day 6 & 7: As you start to make your way back east, consider stopping at Perros-Guirec for your final night of the trip. With its chilled out marina and immaculate beaches, it’s your final chance to soak up France’s laid-back lifestyle before heading back to St Malo, to cross The Channel.

Ready for the road?

Before setting off on whichever route you decide on, make sure you’ve covered the three R’s of the road: rules, regulations and recovery.

Our Driving in France checklist is a good place to start when it comes to brushing up on French driving laws, road etiquette and breakdown advice. It’s also wise to have the appropriate European breakdown cover.

And although a sat nav is an essential item on any road trip these days, it’s a good idea to purchase a decent road atlas for France, as well as a map for the area of your chosen destinations.

Bon voyage!

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