Autumn holidays in Normandy are all about cycling, horse-riding, watersports and golf – then relax with a spa treatment and browse boutiques for the famous Alençon lace. It’s just a hop across the Channel with Brittany Ferries.
Cycling is a great way to explore Normandy in the autumn, and with more than 500km of cycle paths at your disposal, you can combine sightseeing with plenty of fresh air and exercise. It’s a great way of soaking up the local atmosphere and traditions. Choose from a number of lovely trails:
The Véloscenic offers 442km of cycle paths, marked greenways and lanes, stretching from Notre-Dame in Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel. The Vélo Francette passes through Normandy on its way from Ouistreham to La Rochelle, crossing the Calvados department through Caen and following the Orne Valley in the Suisse Normande, before continuing towards Flers and Domfront.
The legendary Avenue Verte linking London with Paris snakes its way through Normandy via the cross-border ferry link from Newhaven to Dieppe. Cycle through the unspoilt Vexin Normand in Eure, past the Château de Gisors and Monet’s garden at Giverny. If cycling the route in reverse, it’s the impressive spectacle of the tall white cliffs of the Alabaster coast as you approach Dieppe that will linger in your memory.
Normandy has a distinct passion for horses and no introduction to the region would be complete without their mention. The department of Orne is particularly known as horse country due to its many stables and stud farms, most notably the Haras du Pin. This is the oldest and most striking national stud in France, founded by Louis XIV – and you can meet the horses here every Saturday afternoon in autumn.
Horse-riding is a wonderful way to explore the Normandy countryside – you can hire a horse for the day to trot along bridleways, meander through parks and forests or take a lesson if you want to brush up your saddle skills. Organise your riding to suit whatever plans you have, whether it's for just a few hours’ gentle hacking in the forest in Eure, a few days touring along coastal paths and beaches of Cotentin or through the verdant slopes of the Suisse-Normande, or crossing the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel on horseback for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
British golfers have been flocking to Normandy for years, attracted by the ease of access and the stunning surroundings that many of the courses offer. A golf holiday in Normandy has so much to offer. Dieppe and Étretat are both visually stunning; Golf Barrière de Deauville is superb, as is the Champ de Bataille course; and there are other notable courses at Granville and Omaha Beach. There are around 40 golf courses in the region, 12 of them boasting dramatic sea views and several with a long history, having been founded nearly a century ago. Deauville is well-known for its upscale, luxury courses, while those along the coast of Seine-Maritime tend to be more traditional and scenic. The courses are all open to non-members and offer short breaks and golfing holidays.
Bagnoles de-l’Orne has long been a place to come to relax and indulge in a bit of pampering due to its natural thermal springs – so it’s worth knowing that its spa centre has been recently renovated. Alternatively, venture into the heart of the Pays d'Auge (famous for its apple orchards) and you can visit Le Spom (Institute Spa de la Pomme) a wellness centre dedicated to the apple in all its forms: massages, body treatments, scrubs, wraps and relaxing baths. It’s housed in an old renovated apple press and the treatments are aimed at both women and men.
Alençon has been celebrated for its lace-making traditions since the 17th century. Many women in the area became involved in the industry, creating unique and elaborate lace for the French court, and Point d’Alençon became known as ‘queen of laces and the lace of queens’. It is formed by outlining details in the lace using a heavier thread or cord, giving it a three-dimensional, textured look. The supreme skill needed to make Alençon needlepoint lace has led to it being listed by UNESCO as part of the world’s cultural heritage. If you’re keen to learn more, visit the Musée des Beaux Arts et de la Dentelle, housed in the town's former Jesuit school.
Get there with Brittany Ferries
The best way of exploring Normandy is in the comfort of your own car, packed with everything you need. With Brittany Ferries you can sail direct to Normandy, choosing either a cruise ferry service from Portsmouth to Caen or Le Havre, or from Poole to Cherbourg.
Plan your trip to Normandy with Brittany Ferries.