Off the beaten track: family friendly France

Are you still looking for summer holiday inspiration? These French destinations are not necessarily the best know for UK visitors, but each offers something special for families.

Cycling in Mayenne (picture)

Cycling for Softies, who specialise in gourmet cycling holidays in rural France, has launched a new itinerary to the little known Mayenne region.

Mayenne represents ‘old world’ France with imposing chateaux and easy, flat cycling beside canals and rivers, unspoilt countryside and pretty villages.

The Softies’ itinerary includes a chateaux hotel in Moulay with pool as well as chickens and goats to keep kids entertained and the gate of the hotel leads directly onto the tow path which doubles as your cycle path.

Other hotels include a beautiful mansion in Le Valle with pool and huge family suite and a traditional family run hotel in Vaiges with amazing food and wine.

Mayenne is conveniently close to the north coast ferry ports and airport at Rennes and is full of caves, pretty villages and market towns to explore.

Cycling for Softies have a rep in the region available 24hrs a day to great guests, provide and mend bikes and advise on cycle routes, stop offs, restaurants and things to do (although all guests also receive a detailed information pack on the region).

Cycling in Mayenne

Face-to-face with nature in Limousin

Limousin, in the heartland of France, will grab the attention of animal lovers and nature enthusiasts.

First stop is Chabrieres Wolf Park, where the predator roams through the forest in giant enclosures, making it one of the few places where wolves can be observed in their natural habitat.

For those that like a bit more variety than the lonely wolf, there’s also the Reynou Animal Park, which is built around a 19th century castle and is home to over 130 species of animals from across the world.

Alternatively, for some one-on-one animal interaction, Mialaret Horse Farm in Corrèze offers three-hour courses for children aged 9-17 and treks through the surrounding villages and pastures for both adults and teenagers.

For more information see

Short breaks in Champagne-Ardenne

While the Champagne-Ardenne region may be best known for its bubbly, there are some amazing family friendly short breaks to enjoy.

Let the kids’ imaginations run wild and stay in the Château-fort de Sedan, the largest fortified castle in Europe.  Dating from the 15th century, the Château-houses the Hotellerie du Château-Fort, a 54 room hotel & restaurant built into the battlements and ramparts with spectacular views over the Meuse valley.  Mums & Dads will appreciate the gourmet restaurant and kids will love exploring the castle on a fascinating audio tour with recreated scenes from history.

Tarzan and Jane wannabes can enjoy the thrill of sleeping in a forest under the stars at Le Chêne Perché amid spectacular scenery. Wild tree-top adventures for the whole family include zip wires, tree-climbing, rope bridges, cycle paths and walks through ancient oak forests at Vigny L’Abbaye.  Themed guided walks and picnics are available to track boar, badger, foxes and even wild cats.

Another place to get back to nature and enjoy some forest thrills is The Arboxygene Park near Verzy. Perfect for family holidays with tree-top walks, treeclimbing adventures, nature trails and walking and cycling. A highlight is the stunning treetop bar, which is unique in France. Stay in swanky new Perching Pads accommodation, boasting boasting panoramic views of the forest and surrounding vineyards.


Roman history in Arles

If your children have been learning about Roman history, head to the Provence city of Arles, which is home to the largest number of Roman artifacts outside Rome.

Among Arles numerous National Trust and UNESCO World Heritage sites are a Roman Theatre, spa baths and the Roman Arena, which offers sublime panoramic views and is often home to traditional Camargue bull games and bull fights.

For more information, see 

Soft adventures in Ardèche

For families look for soft adventure, Ardèche in the Rhone Alpes has lots to offer. There is no better way to explore and appreciate the beauty of the Ardèche gorges than being swept along a river in a canoe or kayak, taking in the dramatic scenery as you go. Although the routes can be challenging at times, the lower water levels in the summer months make it very accessible to all generations of the family. Make it an afternoon activity with a short 6km run from Pont d’Arc to Chames or make it into a short break itself, camping overnight as you explore the 32km route from Gaud to Gournier.


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