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Hardelot, The Opal Coast, Pas-de-Calais

Hardelot is a small, elegant and charming seaside town that never seems to be over crowded. It has a lovely beach and sea front shops and hotels. And just minutes inland – beautiful verdant countryside with wonderful walks through forests and dunes. It is an ideal get-away-from-it-all place.

Beaches and forests

There are 12km of pristine, sandy beach, several smart hotels, restaurants and some very nice shops including several artists’ galleries. Hardelot is not as glamorous as its more well-known neighbour Le Touquet. But it is very stylish and has a lot to offer the day tripper, weekender or holiday maker.

There is plenty of beach sport to be had here. There is year round sailing, canoeing and wind surfing plus sand yachting. It’s an ideal spot for those with children with its “Kid “ resort classification denoting that the resort focuses on providing activities, equipment and an environment especially safe for children. There’s an all year round tennis club with courses from 5 year old upwards with in-house competitions and national tournaments regularly held.

The area is an equestrian’s delight with a great riding school and pony club. The rides through the pine forests and trails to the beach are very popular. There are several arenas, tracks, an international jumping competition and amateur and professional jumping competitions throughout the year.

Hardelot was at the height of its popularity in the early 1900s due to Sir John Whitney, then owner of the Château of Hardelot. A keen sportsman and proponent of the outdoor life, he loved the area with its dunes and forests. He in turn made it popular by inviting his wealthy friends to stay, including King George V.

Along with wealthy French friends Sir John bought 900 acres of land around Hardelot. He promoted it as place for hunting. There were deer, boar, hare and pheasant galore. To cater for visitors Sir John persuaded his friend the architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier to design unique villas. They can still be seen today.

Bleriot and famous residents

The famous aviator Louis Blériot had a villa built there. It’s said he used to land his plane on the beach at low tide! Living next door to Blériot were the Tata family (the very wealthy Indian Tata family). Clearly the great Blériot had an influence on the young JRD Tata next door. He later became the first man to fly a plane in India and started Tata Air which became Air India. The famous American Harriet Quimby, the first woman to be issued a pilot’s licence visited Blériot in Hardelot. She borrowed a plane and became the first woman to fly across the English Channel from Dover landing just off mark, two miles outside Hardelot.

Chateau of Hardelot

These days the Château is a monument to French/British Entente Cordiale and a cultural centre with a programme promoting British culture, across all art forms (music, visual arts, cinema, literature and heritage). It is an important monument in the area and is built in the Tudor style as a little piece of England in France. Further evidence of the area’s special relationship with its close neighbour can be seen in the municipal coat of arms for Hardelot which features a Union Jack.

Golf and restaurants

Hardelot is very popular with city dwellers from Lille and visitors from Belgium in particular thanks to the great golf courses. Les Pins (18 holes) is immaculate and said to be the most technical in Europe and Les Dunes (also 18 holes) which is very attractive. Both courses take in the pine forests with their gentle and appealing scent and attract players at all levels from professional to beginner.

There are several restaurants in Hardelot from smart La Terrasse to braseries and creperies. A supermarket, boulangerie with fresh baked bread, chacuterie and epicerie specialising in local produce is great for the self-catering crowd. You certainly won’t want for great products while you’re in Hardelot – especially recommended are the local Samer strawberries!

There are plenty of accommodation choices. From fine hotels like Les Jardins de Hardelot to gites rureaux, chamber d’hôtes, self-catering villas and caravan and camping sites.

Top things to do in Hardelot

Sit on the beach, swim in the sea, ride horses, sail sand yachts, surf, play golf or play tennis at the country club.

In high season and at other busy times (Christmas, Easter) there is usually a market on the main road on Sundays.

Also in the summer season there are arts and music festivals held in both the castle grounds and the country club.

Viist the Château d’Hardelot – there are regular events held here – see the Chateau website for the full programme.

Play golf at Les Pins or Les Dunes

Hike through the Dunes on the Mount St Frieux Trail

Hardelot is situated just off the A16 road between Calais and Boulogne around 30 minutes from Calais Port.

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