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Things to See and Do in Nord-Pas de Calais

Explore the region’s history, natural heritage and enjoy many outdoor activities

Related article: Top of the World, Nord-Pas de Calais [1]

REMEMBRANCE

Follow four self-drive Remembrance Trails [2] to visit memorials to and cemeteries
of the fallen from WWI. For an overview, visit: www.lens14-18.com [3]. Tourist offices can advise on tourism professionals accredited as Northern France Battlefield Partners [4]. To research fallen ancestors from the Commonwealth, visit www.cwgc.org [5]. Fans of World War I poets should head to Wilfred Owen’s last resting place and memorial at Ors. And for a unique immersive experience, go underground at Wellington Quarry in Arras [6], where 24,000 Allied soldiers lived in medieval limestone quarries before emerging in darkness before enemy lines in 1917. The sign pointing up the steps to the exit is a real heart-stopper.

For World War II history, head to La Coupole [7], Blockhaus d’Éperlecques [8], the 39-45 Museum at Ambleteuse [9] and the Operation Dynamo Museum [10] at Dunkerque [11], reopened this year after a major refurbishment.

The 39-45 Museum at Ambleteuse

CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS

A Lille City Pass [12] gives free entry to museums and heritage buildings as well as public transport in Greater Lille and shopping and restaurant discounts.

Douai, to the south, boasts some glorious buildings – take a river trip through 200 years of history, enjoy the fine art at the Chartreuse Museum [13] and view the old town from the bell tower.

FAMILY FUN

France’s leading sea life centre, Nausicaá in Boulogne [14] is a delight for all ages, with a strong conservation message. Discover 300 years of mining history at Lewarde Historic Mining Centre [15], once the Delloye pit and now the largest mining museum in France.

There’s tradition of a different sort during the Flemish Carnival season, which kicks off in February in Dunkerque with marching bands, families of carnival giants and lots of good-natured noise.

Coastal signposting at Bray-Dunes, the northernmost location in France. Photo credit: Bray-Dunes

GREAT OUTDOORS

Enjoy beach and water sports along the Opal Coast from sand-yachting and sailing to windsurfing and kite- surfing.There’s golf too – the courses at Le Touquet, Hardelot and Wimereux are among the best in France. Choose from eleven 18-hole and three 9-hole coastal courses as well as inland courses such as at Arras. Websites:  www.golfnorthernfrance.com [16]www.letouquetgolfresort.com/en [17]www.hardelotgolfclub.com/en/ [18]

Serious walkers can pick up a stage or two of the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome, which crosses Pas-de-Calais for 250km between Calais and Rocquigny. Or take a leisurely walk with a donkey [19] for a few hours or a weekend. Too energetic? Hire a traditional 2CV at Clairmarais [20].

There are no mountains here but you can go skiing or snowboarding all year round on a former slag heap at Loisinord in Noeux-les-Mines and try water sports on the lake below. Or take a nature walk at Rieulay [21] through the new flora and fauna covering a former slag heap.

The Gardens of Séricourt offer extensive topiary and other perennial attractions

GARDENS

The Mont des Récollets Garden at Cassel is an award-winning reconstruction of a Flemish Renaissance garden. Pas-de-Calais has many private gardens that are open to visitors in the summertime but for year-round interest, tour the garden rooms and topiary at Les Jardins de Séricourt [22] near Frévent.

GUIDED TOURS

Benefit from some insider knowledge with a free guided tour from one of Pas-de-Calais’s 60 volunteer greeters [23], some of whom – like Collette Martel – speak English. Suitable for singles, couples and family groups. Book ahead.

From France Today magazine

Hang-gliding over the Côte d’Opale, from where England is clearly visible. Photo: Gillian Thornton
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