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As those famous white cliffs fade into the distance, you can almost smell the freshly baked croissants ready to greet you as you arrive on the shores of France. The country’s charm never fails to draw you in and make you fall in love with it over and over again, no matter whether this is your first or 30th visit.
This roadtrip takes you 1200km around Northern France, uncovering all of the hidden gems this region has to offer. You’ll head through the heart of the famous Champagne Route, witnessing incredible historic architecture, fairy-tale castles and some exquisite French cuisine.
We’ll try and gently break you back into reality with a stop-over in the Peak District on the way back to Leeds. Stretch your legs among the evergreen hills and reminisce on the best bits of your French adventure.
GOAT Roadtrip Leeds Depot (58 Commercial Road, LS5 3AQ)
Pick-up in the afternoon on the first day and drop-off in the morning on the last day (specific timings depend on the vehicle – see here). To extend your stay by adding more nights, please specify in your enquiry.
Dover (1 night) Calais Reims (2 Nigths) Troyes (2 Nights) Angers (2 Nights) Rennes (2 Nights) St Malo (3 Nights) Caen Portsmouth Peak District (1 Night)
Leave your car securely parked at our depot in Leeds or have it delivered locally for an extra fee.
From Leeds, your journey South to Dover is an easy one. Avoid the big cities by sticking to the M1 and you’ll be there in less than 5 hours. Spend the evening looking over the stunning white cliffs of Dover and take an early morning ferry over to France.
What better way to start your French adventure than with the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Reims, home to numerous historical attractions including the Palais du Tau and art nouveau cinema opera. The star attraction is the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, once the setting for royal coronations and baptisms. As your first stop on the Champagne route, there’s never been a better opportunity to take a tour of the regions vineyards and sample their signature gold champagne.
In the heart of the Champagne region is Troyes, affectionately known as the city of a thousand colours. Pastel painted timber-framed houses, home to an abundance of bistros and bars, line the cobbled streets of this beautifully preserved Medieval city. Discover the origins of the Knight’s Templar and admire the mix of gothic and renaissance architecture that makes this historic city so unique! Spend an afternoon sipping an aperitif or two overlooking the market square, the perfect place to observe a Champagne Fair. In a tradition dating back to the 13th Century, performers, pop-up restaurants, and craftsmen gather to showcase their talents as a tribute to the town’s history and legacy as a bustling trading centre.
This 17th Century city is the gateway to the Loire Valley, an extremely popular region with tourists. The imposing Chateau d’Angers, overlooking the Maine river, houses the Apocalypse Tapestry, one of the most important Medieval tapestries in the world. The town itself is now a thriving university town with a great selection of typically French cafes to try. Angers is also a great base from which to do a day trip to the many fairy-tale castles of the Loire. Take a tour of Chenonceau or Chateau Villandry and explore the elaborate state rooms and beautiful rose gardens.
Rennes is the cultural capital of Brittany. The town’s facades are adorned with colourful Italian mosaics and many of the city’s walls are decorated with vibrant street art. At the heart of the town is the Place de la Mairie, enclosed by the town hall and the iconic Rennes Opera House. Just a couple of streets away, behind the Cathedral Saint-Pierre, is the Place des Lices. With an indoor and outdoor market surrounded by cafe terraces, this district is one of the liveliest in town. Rennes is well known for its vibrant night life. By day, the rue Saint-Michel resembles any typical Breton street however, at night, the area transforms into the social hub of the city. Known locally as ‘rue de la soif’ or ‘drinker’s alley’, this record-breaking street houses a bar every 7 metres.
Saint-Malo boasts some of the most beautiful beaches on the Emerald Coast. The Grand Plage with its assortment of hotels and bars is the main beach in the area. From here, you can walk to the islands of Grand Be and Petit Be and explore some of the regions more rural beaches. Venture inside the ancient city walls and explore the charming markets and cafes of this seaside town. You’ll be spoilt for choice by the range of Breton delicacies on offer. Why not sample a galette, crepe or even an oyster if you’re feeling brave? Saint-Malo is the perfect base for a daytrip to Mont St Michel where you can visit the famous island home to the Abbey of Mont-St Michel, once one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage destinations.
From Saint-Malo, it’s a 2 hour drive to Caen, where you’ll take the night ferry to Portsmouth. If you leave early enough, you’ll have time to visit this pretty town, with its castle built by William the Conqueror around 1060. If you have some extra time on your hands, make a quick detour to Bayeux, 30 minutes from Caen, to visit the world-famous tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest. The origins of this 70 metre long embroidered cloth are still unknown, though it is likely that it was created in England, a few years after the Battle of Hastings. Return to Caen in time for your ferry, and admire the French coastline as it slowly disappears from view.
Welcome back to England! With some luck, you’ve managed to sleep on the ferry, and are ready to take on the 4 hour drive up to the Peak District. A night in the Peak District should give you enough time to recover from your long journey before heading home. Start off in a quaint village such as Bakewell or Bamford and take a walking trail starting from there. The journey back to Leeds isn’t too far, so we would recommend the 20-minute detour going via Snake Pass, as it’s famous for being one of the most scenic roads in the UK.