Planning a Summer Road Trip to France from Northumberland

Disclosure - AD -  Votre Vacances is providing our accommodation and Puy du Fou is hosting our trip. All other costs have been covered by ourselves. 

We fell in love with Vendee during our trip to France in Summer 2018. The weather was gorgeous but it wasn't too hot which suited us redheads just fine, the roads are super easy to drive on, there is loads to do and France really is home to the best food and wine in the world.

France can also be a pretty cheap place to get to from the UK with the Dover-Calais ferry starting at less than £30 for a car with 5 passengers.

Not all of our plans have been finalised yet but I thought I would share a few of the places we hope to visit / stay during our road trip this summer.

I really want to take our own car as this helps to keep costs down (no car hire / flights required) and you can pack loads of extras into your car (scooters / bikes / food) and have space to bring lots of treats home too. If you are a family of 5, taking your own car during school holidays is generally a lot cheaper than paying for 5 return flights too.

Travelling to France from Northumberland

Our main UK travel day will be on a busy Saturday in July - we need to travel to Vendee on the West Coast of France. I weighed up a few options which included:

*Drive to Dover and take the ferry to Calais on Saturday. Drive for a few hours in France, stay overnight en-route somewhere for one evening before driving a further 4 hours ish to Vendee.

The pros of this are that the ferry only takes 30 minutes, is regular & flexible (you can jump on ay ferry within 4 hours of your ticket), we can stretch our legs and it only costs from £29 which is a bargain. The downside is, this way involves a lot of driving in one day and I feel like our overnight stay in France en-route is kind of a wasted night. The road tolls are also fairly expensive at around 100 euros. 

*As above but use the Eurotunnel which is more convenient but more expensive (from £88).

* We could scrap the idea of taking our car and fly to Nantes and hire a car. There are no direct flights from Newcastle and flights from Manchester or London work out at around £500 for the 5 of us excluding luggage, car hire and airport parking. This way does seem easy and really cuts down on the driving but I think you would be looking at around £1000 which is significantly more than our other options. Plus I really want to take our car so I feel this is one compromise too many.

* We could take an overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo. The ship leaves Portsmouth at 8:15pm and arrives in St Malo at 8:15am. It is then an easy 2.5-3 hour drive to Vendee (and around 20 euro in road tolls). I do like this option as the overnight ferry trip will really break up the driving, we can dine before boarding so wont need to spend too much money on board and arriving in France in the morning and having a straight 3 hour drive ahead of us is super convenient.

The downside to this option is the cost - it is £400 for the crossing, £5 each to hire a seat or £100 for a 4-berth cabin (and there are 5 of us). It is pricey but ultimately because it is so convenient I do think this is the option we will go for.

There are a few other longer crossings available too - they are all around the same price. 

Edit to add - We have booked the Portsmouth to St Malo ferry.

 Chateau la Foret with Votre Vacances

Votre Vacances is a small family business based in Harrogate. They manage a selection of mobile homes at the 4* Chateau la Floret campsite in Vendee. I am really pleased to be working with a Northern small business like this and this collaboration has been in the making for over 2 years. I am super pleased that we are finally making the trip.

Thanks to Votre Vacances for providing the images in this section of our post. 

Votre Vacances Accommodation 

Votre Vacances manage 8-10 luxury mobile homes on the Chateau la Foret site. What I love about them is that they are a small team and provide lots of little touches such as a welcome coffee on arrival and a board game compendium. Beds are already made on arrival, shower towels are provided and they can be flexible with arrival times and dates too.

Sarah's parents live on-site and can provide a wealth of knowledge about the best places to visit in the area. There is no hard-sell of trips here - just genuine recommendations from locals in the know. I will certainly be picking their brains. Steve and Phillipa will even babysit if you would like to enjoy a romantic meal out.

The Votre Vacances mobile homes are all located together in a secluded area of the park meaning they are perfect for large family bookings with multiple mobile homes. 

Chateau la Foret  

Chateau la Foret is a 4* park with fantastic reviews set in the grounds of an 18th century chateau. The facilities look perfect for us and include:

  • Children's swimming pool with slides
  • Adults only swimming pool 
  • Large sunbathing areas 
  • Restaurant 
  • High ropes course, paintballing, laser tag, zip wires and horse riding at Le Grand Defi (joined onto the park)
  • Wine tasting evenings 
  • Cookery classes for kids and grown-ups
  • Inflatables, playgrounds, tennis and an indoor games room
  • Low-key evening entertainment in the grounds of the chateau 
  • Farmyard animals 
  • Natural setting around a lake 

Visit the Votre Vacances website here to find out more, check prices and download a free e-book with more information.


During our last trip to Vendee, we did not explore too much - we were still getting to grips with driving abroad if I am honest. This time we are a lot more confident and will be exploring the region's pretty villages, magnificent castles and coastline.

The parc itself is located in the village of  Saint Julien des Landes which is traditionally French and features a boulangerie, patisserie, newsagent, play park and pharmacy. Bring on the daily freshly baked bread! Larger supermarkets and shops are located a few km away.

Check out these posts for more ideas for things to do in the Vendee region:

Puy du Fou 

You may remember that we stayed with Puy du Fou a few years ago. It was genuinely one of the best places we have ever visited and somewhere we still regularly talk about. For us, we could not visit the Vendee region and not return here.

After our stay with Votre Vacances, we are planning on staying with Puy du Fou for 2 days. Puy du Fou is around a 50 minute drive from the campsite. 

Puy du Fou is a multi-award winning theme park (voted #1 in Europe and #5 in the world by Tripadvisor) based on historical events. There are no rides but your day will be packed with immersive experiences and it is one of those places you genuinely cannot believe what you are seeing (for local readers, it is also what our very own Kynren is based on and hopes to one day become).

Expect Gladiator tournaments, Viking invasions, the ultimate Birds of Prey show, Knights on horseback and more.....

This time, we will be focussing on the new elements and shows and exploring Puy du Fou from a teen's perspective. There is a brand new evening show (Les Noces de Feu) which showcases a beautiful wedding ceremony around a lake - I cannot wait to see this one.

At Puy du Fou you can stay in themed accommodation (as we will be doing) on-site or visit as a day visitor if staying in the Vendee region. I would recommend 2 days to see everything. The food at Puy du Fou is also a highlight in itself. 

Return Travel to the UK 

We can be fairly flexible with our return travel as Steve has a fair bit of time off. I would like to add one more destination onto our trip before travelling home. I am conscious of us spending too long in France though as I know we will be spending a lot of money over there.  My options after Puy du Fou are as follows:

* Stay in Brittany for a few nights before catching the St Malo ferry back to Portsmouth. The ferry leaves France at 10:30am and arrives in the UK at around 6:20pm. The cost of this without a cabin is £230. There are many pros and cons to this option. The pros are that it is the easiest and shortest driving route with minimal tolls (20 euro ish), the ferry trip will feel like part of the holiday and will break up the driving / time in car / journey. I would really like to visit Brittany too.

The cons are that it is expensive, and we would probably also have to book somewhere for one night in the UK rather than driving straight home and 8 hours is a long time to spend on a ship - I am pretty sure we would get through a fair bit of spending money which I would rather spend in France.

* Stay halfway between Vendee and Calais for a few nights and catch the £29 ferry from Calais to Dover. I have no idea where we would stay if we did this. The pros are we would be saving money and time on travel but there would be more driving in France involved and more tolls to pay (around 100 euro). We could also catch a morning ferry which only takes 30 minutes so we could drive all of the way home.

Ah I am so torn with the best way to do this! Let me know what you think.

Let me know if you have any tips for our French road trip.  

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