If you’re looking for crowd-dodging, off the beaten-track, fabulous places to holiday in France – check out these inspired choices! Burgundy, Annecy Mountains and Brittany have it all: beaches, mountains and countryside – truly something for every one….
Saone et Loire, southern Burgundy
For lovers of spectacular countryside, peppered with enchanting castles and charming villages – Saone et Loire ticks all the boxes. It’s heaven for cyclists and hikers. Historians will love the heritage. And foodies will have a ball!
Follow the route des Chateaux on uncrowded roads. And stop off to discover beautiful castles en route like the 12th Century Chateau de Couches, with its dungeons and medieval towers. There’s also an onsite restaurant which is fabulous, with a menu of home-made food and local wines (reserve online).
I absolutely loved the 16th century fairy tale castle of Sully with its giant coronet sculpture wall, gorgeous gardens and live-in Duchess. The Courtyard was reputed to be the “most beautiful in France.” Just 35 km from the wine town of Beaune, famous for its medieval hospice, it’s a must-see.
Or ditch the car and take to the fields and vineyards to follow well marked hiking routes for all levels. There are some 700 green hiking trails in the department. Morvan National Park, which spreads over 4 departments including Saone-et-Loire, with its forests and lakes, offers plenty of activities from discovery walks to swimming, rafting and rowing. Varied cycle routes, horse riding, boat rides (there are 300km of waterways) and wine tours. There really is something for everyone.
Don’t miss a chance to try the local goats cheese and diary products, delicious wines and sunny gastronomy of the region.
You don’t need a guide book. Just meander the country roads, discover local cheese makers and artisans, wine that tastes like nectar, gorgeous countryside – and a taste of the good life.
Annecy Mountains, Haute Savoie
Craving a dose of fresh air, truly wide open spaces, activities galore and amazing scenery? Head to Annecy Mountains.
Surrounding the city of Annecy and its vast, crystal clear lake, the mountains are dotted with beautiful villages. Famous for skiing in the winter but just a beautiful in the summer, this is an adventure playground in the most spectacular setting. Perfect touring country by car and ideal for cyclists, it’s a Tour de France favourite. Slow the pace down with a hike through flower-filled meadows and riverside walks. Indulge in all manner of water sports from white water rafting to swimming. There’s abseiling, mountaineering, paragliding and more. If you want to get out and let loose, you’ll love Annecy Mountains.
Stop off at enchanting villages like Thones – don’t miss the locally made Reblochon cheese. La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand have stunning views over the countryside and are perfect bases for exploring the area with great restaurants and bars plus cultural attractions. Faverges is authentic and beautiful, with a lovely Wednesday morning market and is famous for its locally made sausages, grotto and massive zip line. And Manigod, a quintessential Alpine village in a most glorious location.
As for the food – divine! You’ll find delicious restaurants and bars, boulangeries, patisseries and fromageries galore! I love Montremont fish farm. The charming restaurant specialises in trout dishes and in summer the garden twinkles under tiny fairy lights.
I can’t think of a better place for a real get-away-from-it-all summer break in the mountains.
Cotes d’Armor, Brittany
Famous for its pink granite coast and vast boulders which dot the coastline and countryside, there’s so much to fall in love with in the Cotes d’Armor, Brittany. Gorgeous beaches of course, some are well known like Ploumanac’h, a photographer’s dream. But head off the tourist trail and discover beautiful beaches galore where you will hardly see a soul. One of the best times to see the pink granite monuments is at sunset, when they take on a glowing hew of burnt orange.
The countryside is glorious, dotted with strawberry growers, organic cider makers and cheese farms. The people are friendly and welcoming. There are hundreds of hamlets and tiny towns where you’ll find restaurants specialising in seafood and home-cooked dishes.
Hike the famous GR34, former Customs Officers trail. It runs the entire length of Brittany’s shoreline but you can walk as much or a little as you like. The trail between Cap Frehel and Fort La Latte is spectacular. The trail takes you along lofty cliff tops with stunning views out to sea with a background of heather and gorse on this classified Naturea 2000 site. En route you’ll discover the impressive Cap Frehel light house and incredible fort. It’s around 4.5km, so not a long walk but it packs the beauty in.
It take’s an hour to walk this route. But I guarantee you’ll stop a dozen times to say wow! And, definitely allow time to visit the medieval Fort La Latte. It’s been featured in several films including the Hollywood blockbuster The Vikings. The current owner organised for the cliff tops around to be planted with wild flowers in return for the castle to be featured on a TV show – the sight is absolutely breath-taking.
And take a detour to the town of Sables-d’Or-les-Pins. Here you’ll find sandy beaches and a tranquil seaside resort. And don’t miss Dinan, or neighbouring Lehon… There is so much to discover in this beautiful part of France.