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3
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Traveller Rating

 

Activities
  • self guided cycle
Accommodation
  • 7 nights in 2-3 star hotels and B&Bs
Meals
  • 7 Breakfasts

8 Days£1240GBP

Overview

Trip Code: CWF

Trip highlights


  • Exploring the historic battlefields and commemorative memorials of the Western Front
  • Visiting museums and sites to gain a deeper understanding of the war history of the region
  • Enjoying the warm welcome from the locals and the hearty regional cuisine
  • Cycling through beautiful countryside and discovering interesting medieval towns and cities
  • Visiting the charming Belgian town of Bruges

Across the French region of the Somme and the northern region of Belgium known as Flanders is an area of outstanding natural beauty, steeped in history with rich culinary traditions. Through this area runs the Western Front, a series of trenches built by the Germans in WWI stretching 700km from the Belgium coast to the Swiss border. Following the Western Front along quiet roads and bike paths, this reflective cycle journey first stops at Villers Bretonneux, where in April 1918 the Australian Corps successfully stopped the advancing German troops. En route to Flanders you can stop to visit museums, cemeteries and moving memorials dedicated to the brave soldiers who fought in WWI. Whilst the historic focus of this self guided cycle is firmly on the sights of importance for Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and British people, there are so many more reasons to visit the spectacular region. The warm welcome from the locals, the tantalising cuisine where local ingredients are sourced to produce satisfying meals, and the varying hues of the landscape are what make this ride so special. In the evening, stay in a selection of handpicked hotels and take time to stroll around the interesting town centres to gain further appreciation for the impact of the war history on the region.Completing the cycle in the charming Belgian town of Bruges is a fitting end to the journey.

Countries:

France

Starting Point:

Amiens

Finishing Point:

Bruges


Itinerary

On arrival in Amiens make your way to your hotel which is located in the centre of town near the Cathedral. The Cathedral is the largest example of Gothic architecture in France and is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. It boasts a soaring nave and its said could easily accommodate the Notre Dame twice over. Miraculously, the Cathedral survived WWI. There are a number of commemorative plaques, in memory of soldiers from the Allied Front. Amiens was home to Jules Verne for a number of years and it was here that he wrote most of his novels. Take time to stroll along the canal path before you begin your cycle tour.

Meals:  Nil

The ride begins eastwards following the river Somme and after about 19km, you arrive in Villers Bretonneaux. It was here that between 24 and 26 April 1918, the Australian expeditionary army corps successfully stopped the advancing German troops and, as a consequence, prevented the city of Amiens from being taken. The Australian National Memorial and the Franco-Australian Museum, within the Victoria School, offer a fascinating and detailed insight into these events. Continuing eastwards, you cross the Hamel battlefield to gain access to the other side of the River Somme, at Cerisy, then enjoy magnificent river views along the road leading to Albert. The town of Albert was the epicentre of the great battle of the Somme and was also the principal industrial town in the Ancre Valley. The Somme Museum, established within an anti-aircraft underground shelter, retraces military life during the First World War.

Meals:  B

Following the main road out of town, you head north to the Ancre Valley before climbing towards Thiépval Ridge. The first large offensive was launched on 1 July 1916 here, involving 20,000 men from the British Reserve Army and was known as 'the bloodiest day in British military history'. Thiépval was liberated three months later, on 27 September. You pass the Belfast Tower, erected in 1921 in memory of the Ulster Battalion which so courageously fought that day. After crossing Ancre, arrive at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, dedicated to the Newfoundland Regiment which was all but annihilated in the space of 30 minutes after the German soldiers opened fire. A little further on, arrive at the German cemetery Fricourt and two memorial sites, one dedicated to the South African regiment and known as Delville Wood, the other dedicated to the New Zealand division called Longueval. The cycle route then takes you to the village of Pozieres, where the Australian regiment, completely exhausted by relentless artillery attacks, was eventually relieved by the Canadians. The names of over 14,000 casualties are engraved on the cemetery walls here. You then leave the Somme department and cycle for a further 20km through countryside before reaching Arras, the Artois capital. With its Flemish Baroque style, Arras has a long and established reputation for its superb draperies and tapestries, and the city's wealth and influence is evident today. With architecture dating from the Flemish Baroque period through to the Art Deco style, Arras will charm you. Two World Heritage listed sites, the Belfry and Vauban's Citadel, warrant a visit, as do the 'Boves', underground passages dating from medieval times and expanded by the New Zealand Tunnelling Company. Robespierre, the influential figure of the French Revolution, was born in Arras. Your hotel is ideally situated in the heart of the city. In the evening, you can relax at one of the cafes in the celebrated Place des Heros.

Meals:  B

Following the River Scarpe, you then head north for about 20km/12.5mi until you reach Vimy. On 17 April 1917, this large park became the centrepiece of a ferocious battle between the German army and Canadian troops, the latter losing more than 11,000 soldiers. The impressive Canadian National Vimy Memorial was built on the Vimy Ridge and commemorates those who lost their lives here. You can pause at Souchez village before climbing Lorette's Hill, where in May 1915 French and German troops fought to gain control of Artois. The cemetery Notre Dame de Lorette, where 40,000 soldiers found their final resting place, is considered the most important French military cemetery of today. Continuing north, you cross a section of mining area and arrive in Bethune, where you spend the night. Historically, Bethune has always been considered a bourgeois town, accumulating wealth from neighbouring agricultural land, a prolific textile industry dating back to the Middle Ages and a thriving mechanical/chemical industry. Although Bethune managed to escape German occupation, the town centre was badly bombed in May 1918 and with the exception of the belfry, was almost entirely destroyed. Since 1964, the town has been twinned with Hastings in England, where another great battle took place and a certain William the Conqueror was crowned the new King of England. Note: you will stay in Gosnay tonight if booking with the upgrade option.

Meals:  B

Welcome to Flanders, or 'the flat land': the title of one of Jacques Brel's songs, where he describes the flat landscape, void of mountains. Gastronomically, the region's specialties reflect the celebrated reputation of its people - their warmth! Delight in sampling regional dishes such as Carbonade Flamande, Maroilles, Welsh Potjevleesch or Waterzooi, all accompanied by freshly made chips and quality beer from one of the neighbouring abbeys. Flanders was formerly one of the richest and most coveted of French provinces, and also one of the most densely populated. It played a significant role in the French Industrial Revolution. If you opt for the longer of the cycle routes today, you will arrive at Fromelles, a small village which became the centre of combat between the Commonwealth (principally Australians) and the Germans. On 19 and 20 July 1916, around 8,500 soldiers were killed. Rejoining the shorter route, you head towards Bailleul, the capital of the 'Monts de Flandres', a series of small hills which rise to about 160m. From the top there are magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. You can take time out to relax in one of the region's typical inns. Also worthy of a visit is the 'Abbaye du Mont des Cats', where you can delight in sampling local cheese and beer produced by the local Trappist monks. The Franco-American writer Marguerite Yourcenar grew up in this charming, picturesque region. You then cross into Belgium and head towards Ypres, where you will spend the next two nights. *If your previous night was in Gosnay add an additional 6km/3.7mi

Meals:  B

In October 1914, the Western Front battle lines halted several kilometres from the town of Ypres and formed a salient along the German lines. This wealthy Flemish town witnessed five different battles, where soldiers from all corners of the world joined forces to take part in the combat. Today's cycle route retraces these historic events from Zonnebeke to Langemark Poelkapelle and including Passchendaele. More than 300,000 allied troops, including 250,000 from the Commonwealth, died during these ferocious battles and there are more than 170 cemeteries in the surrounding countryside. Returning to Ypres, it is difficult to imagine that this medieval town was almost entirely destroyed at the end of the First World War. Its prosperity developed during the Middle Ages, when it was known as the 'Craftsman's Textile Capital'. The Tapestry/Textile Market Hall, one of the largest Gothic-style buildings in Europe, was unfortunately destroyed during the German air raids but has been restored to its former glory. A visit to the museum 'In Flanders Fields' allows visitors to retrace the life of a soldier or a civilian during the war. Ypres also has an abundance of fine chocolate producers as well as several delicious local specialties: waffles, Tapjesvlees, Patte de Chat and Cuberdon. At 8pm at the Menin Gate (la Porte de Menin, or in Dutch 'Menenpoort'), there is an event that should not be missed: every day since 1928, buglers sound the 'Last Post' in memory of the Commonwealth troops.

Meals:  B

Enjoy a hearty Flemish breakfast before leaving the battlefields behind. Cycle through flat farming land alongside small water canals on a network of bike paths away from traffic as you make your way to Bruges. The capital of West Flanders, Bruges was one of the great North European trading ports in late medieval times and today it's one of Europe's best preserved medieval cities. Enjoy exploring its canals, cobbled streets, market squares, historical churches and old almshouses.

Meals:  B

The trip concludes after breakfast, or we can add extra nights if you'd like to further explore this beautiful city.

Meals:  B


Inclusions

  • 7 breakfasts - continental style with bread, croissant, cheese, spreads, tea, coffee and juice
  • 7 nights in 2-3 star hotels and B&Bs on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities (upgrade to 3-4 star hotels - supplement applies)
  • Specialized Sirrus rental bike supplied with panniers, repair kit, helmet, bike computer and lock, (electric bikes available - supplement applies)
  • Luggage transfers
  • Information pack including maps & road book (per room booked), GPS Tracks available on request
  • Emergency hotline

  • Travel to Amiens and from Bruges
  • Drinks, lunches and dinners
  • Tour guide - this is a self guided cycle
  • Entrance fees
  • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, souvenirs etc.
  • Travel insurance - mandatory
  • GPS device rental - additional cost

Bike information


Suitability

moderate

3

This trip involves 6 days cycling between 40 and 73km per day over a mix of flat and undulating terrain. The route travels along quiet back roads with low traffic. When entering and leaving towns you will be on roads with more traffic where care needs to be taken. We recommend that you undertake some pre trip training to ensure you get the most out of your cycle trip and are comfortable cycling in areas of medium traffic. During the cycle you need only carry your camera and water bottle etc. Your luggage is transported for you between hotels. *For safety reasons, we insist that cycle helmets are worn – these will be provided to you with your bike.


Departure dates

Every Sunday from 1 Apr to 31 Oct

Notes

DN1
Departures other than on Sunday are possible - supplement applies.

Total Priceper person from

£1240GBP

Options & Supplements*
  • Supplement to start on a day other than SundayGBP£90
  • Electric Bike SupplementGBP£110
  • Upgrade to 3-4* hotels - supplementGBP£230
  • Single Supplement - standard hotelsGBP£300
  • Single Supplement - upgrade hotelsGBP£430
  • Single Traveller Surcharge - standard hotelsGBP£570
  • Single Traveller Surcharge - upgrade hotelsGBP£700
*Prices listed are per person

Trip reviews


Why travel with us

Personal Experience

We've been walking and cycling the planet for over four decades and are passionate about delivering exceptional service. Combined, we’ve travelled to virtually every corner of Europe, and are eager to share the many benefits of travelling on foot or by bike.

Great Value & Quality

Our well priced trips offer great value for money. Included in your package are comprehensive route notes, maps & guide books along with bag transfers and locally run accommodation. We take the stress out of organising your holiday.

Self-Guided Specialists

We have have been operating active self guided holidays for over 45 years. We handle all the necessary logistics so that you can relax and explore your destination at your own pace. Many of our tours depart daily, giving you even greater flexibility.