One of the best family holidays you can have is on two wheels. A family cycling holiday combines adventure in the Great Outdoors with quality time together. Sure, you may not want to tackle the mountain passes of the French Alps with young kids in tow – but fortunately France has lots of less-challenging but equally beautiful routes for families to discover together. Even the youngest members of the family can take part, sitting in a child seat or trailer.
France has a huge network of voies vertes, cycle paths that are ideal for families. Once upon a time these ‘green ways’ were railway tracks but today they are miniature motorways for bikes, passing through woodland, countryside and along the coast. Best of all, when travelling to France with Brittany Ferries, you can bring your bikes with you allowing you to discover the country on your own two wheels.
Brittany is a fantastic place for a family cycling holiday. Not only is it jam-packed with historical sights, captivating legends, and beautiful swathes of countryside, there are also lots of family-friendly cycling routes. Brittany boasts hundreds of kilometres of car-free green ways, created along former railway lines and canal towpaths. These types of tracks are ideal for children because they are flat and easy, meaning the kids can pedal off at speed without you worrying about them. Cycling day trips are plentiful, but if you’re keen to spend longer in the saddle then the 365km Nantes Brest Canal route will keep you busy for a couple of weeks. Even better, Brittany is so easy to get to from the UK owing to its ferry ports and train networks.
Cycling is the perfect way to see a new destination; you can go at your own pace and jump off whenever you find something new to explore – or a boulangerie selling cakes! And in Normandy, there is a lot to discover. This region of France offers beautiful landscapes and designated bike paths for cyclists of all levels. Normandy offers more than 500km of cycle paths, including many green ways that criss-cross the countryside. One of the most famous cycle routes is the Vélo Francette that runs between La Rochelle and Ouistreham. At 615km, this might be a push for even the hardiest of family cyclists. Fortunately, however, the route is broken up into sections including five green ways that are ideal for parents and children.
Atlantic Loire Valley
Located just the other side of Brittany is France’s Atlantic Loire Valley region, another top spot for family cycling. The area has also benefited from the country’s green ways system with miles and miles of flat, paved cycle paths, perfect for little legs. The tracks run through cornfields and forests; the landscape punctuated by pretty holiday homes housed in former railway stations. In Mayenne, the towpaths run along the river banked in the summer months by vibrant wildflowers. The region is full of fun places to visit too. Family favourites include the medieval hilltop fort of Château de Saumur, the fantastical historical theme park Puy du Fou and the giant mechanical animals at Les Machines de l’Ile in Nantes.
One of the most popular cycling departments in France is the Dordogne. There really is something for everyone here, from beautiful chateaux and picturesque villages to sunny vineyards, ancient caves and more. Some of the best areas to cycle for families include the village of Montignac, home to the famous prehistoric caves of Lascaux. A handful of well-marked bike paths run through the surrounding countryside past some of the area’s most well-known sights. The voie verte from Trélissac to Marsac-sur-l’Isle is a 21km flat path that follows the river passing picnic spots, playgrounds and places where you can stop and go canoeing. And just outside of Bergerac is a 26km bike circuit that passes through dozens of vineyards as well as Roman ruins.
One of the prettiest bays in France is also the setting for some of the country’s best family cycling. The bay features 46km of cycle paths, many of them specially designed for families. One particularly popular route is the Tour de la Baie circuit, a 32km largely flat loop that leads you around the bay between the towns of Le Crotoy and Cayeux-sur-Mer. Two wheels really is the best way to see the area and you’ll come across a wide variety of landscapes as you cycle along from marshes and dunes to pebbles and sand. You’ll also spot a wealth of wildlife – and kids in particular will love seeing the Henson horses and the seals sunning themselves on the sandbanks.
And when it’s finally time to head back to the UK, you have a number of ports to choose from. Brittany Ferries run regular routes from a number of terminals and in just a few hours you’ll be back on home soil, ready to plan your next family cycling holiday to France.