When most Brits think of a camping holiday in France, their minds alight on regions such as Brittany, Charentes-Maritimes, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence. The allure of beaches and dramatic coastlines may be strong, but France is full of hidden gems that offer plenty for the outdoors enthusiast.
Whether you like to indulge in the country’s world-renowned cuisine, visit historic towns or try new activities, the Caravan and Motorhome Club has some fantastic sites from which you can enjoy France’s lesser known delights. Here are a few of their favourite regions if you want to escape the crowds this summer and go somewhere a little different.
Aveyron – Camping Les Genêts
Sandwiched between the volcanic Auvergne and the sun-kissed Languedoc, this beautiful region is characterised by deep, green valleys and picturesque villages. To its north is the wild and undulating Aubrac plateau, while the south is home to a number of bastide towns and rocky gorges.
Estaing and Espalion are highlights of the region, the former being a beautiful medieval town that’s home to the smallest AOC vineyard in the country. The latter, set on the banks of the Lot River, harbours Bonneval Abbey, notable because its nuns have been making chocolate for almost 140 years.
Camping Les Genêtsis set on the shores of Lake Pareloup, an attractive corner of the region. It offers water sports and bike hire, and there is a bar and restaurant on site.
For more information visit the Camping Les Genêts profile.
Savoie – Le Coin Tranquille
The Rhône-Alpes is frequented by skiers and winter sports enthusiasts, but simply heading to the Haute Savoie or Isere means you miss out on some of the region’s other charms. The Vanoise National Park is prime hiking territory, with over 600km of trails that wind through stunning mountain scenery, while to the west, wooded valleys, cliffs and rushing streams predominate.
The spa town of Aix les Bains is a point of historical interest, dotted with Roman ruins such as the Temple of Diane, and Belle Epoque architecture. The château, situated on the hill above the town, is a hotchpotch of architectural styles and worth a visit.
Le Coin Tranquille is a peaceful, family run haven east of Chambéry, and a great base for sightseeing. Aix les Bains is close by, as is the Chartreuse Regional Natural Park.
For more information visit the Le Coin Tranquille profile.
Haut-Rhin – Au Clos de la Chaume
Parts of the Haut-Rhin département of Alsace look as if they’ve been lifted straight from a fairytale. With brightly painted, half-timbered houses and winding cobbled streets, villages such as Bergheim are enchanting to explore. In contrast, Neuf-Brisach is a fortified town with a much more militaristic design, built to defend the border from the Hapsburgs.
The southern Vosges also offers some of the region’s most memorable scenery. The Crest route is a highlight, spanning 77km of fir covered slopes and lakes, and rewarding walkers with breath-taking views. There are also some good places to eat traditional Alsatian cuisine along the way.
Au Clos de la Chaume is a small campsite on the edge of the southern Vosges and near to some of the villages on the Wine Route. The friendly owners work hard to ensure campers have a relaxing stay.
For more information visit the Au Clos de la Chaume profile.
Creuse – Le Château de Poinsouze
A quiet, unassuming département, Creuse is typical of the Limousin region in that it has retained much of the traditional feel of ‘Old World’ France. Unspoilt landscapes of moorland and forest are dotted with ancient castles, farmsteads and medieval towns such as La Souterraine, with its granite church and flower studded square.
One of the highlights of the area is Château de Boussac, an imposing castle set on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Creuse Valley. Restored in 1965 by the present owners, it’s richly furnished with paintings, tapestries and impressive fireplaces.
Set among oak woods is Le Château de Poinsouze, a lovely, well maintained site in the north of the département. There’s a lake onsite, where campers are invited to canoe, and the town of Boussac is a short drive away.
For more information visit the Le Château de Poinsouze profile.
Vienne – Le Lac de Saint-Cyr
Thousands of tourists each year pass through Vienne in order to visit Futuroscope, but not all will stop to explore its charms further. There’s lots to discover, however, including the historic town of Poitiers with its religious monuments and medieval architecture, pretty villages such as Angles sur l’Angin and quiet abbeys.
The market town of Chauvigny sits on the banks of the Vienne River, and was once famous for its porcelain production. It boasts no fewer than three castles, one of which holds impressive birds of prey displays during the summer. The town itself has a lively market on Saturdays and a stroll by the river is an enjoyable way to pass an afternoon.
Le Lac de Saint-Cyr is a beautifully located site that offers a warm welcome. It’s perched on the shore of a lake that campers can kayak or fish on, and around which are pleasant walking and cycling routes.
For more information visit the Le Lac de Saint-Cyr profile.