Normandy Holidays - Local Sights & Activities

Picauville is a large friendly village within unspoilt countryside close to spectacular sandy beaches. The area offers - history and culture, rambling, golf, cycling, surfing, kite surfing, sand yachting, canoeing, golf, fishing, tree top adventure, fishing, colourful markets, good food and drink.

Listed below are a few of our family favourites and a few recommended by guests. Where a name or word is underlined and in green, you can click on it to link to an appropriate website. Don't worry about taking this page with you, there are very comprehensive information files, with 'Ordnance Survey' type maps, in the living room.

The best local websites are St. Mere Eglise Tourist Info and Portbail Tourist Info; for information about the wider area see www.manche-tourisme.com .

Eating out - There are excellent restaurants to suit all preferences and purses locally, and within a twenty minute radius, previous guests have left reviews and cards in the info pack in the Living Room.

Markets - there are fabulous local markets on every day of the week, including St. Mere Eglise and St. Sauveur le Vicomte within cycling distance; Picauville has a small but lively market on Fridays.

D-Day Landings and Landing Beaches

The area surrounding Picauville was the centre of the Airborne Division's parachute drop behind enemy lines. The local history society has produced a route to follow showing locations of German batteries, temporary Allied airfield, aircraft crashes etc. Straight from the front door, the full route is 27km, it is great for cycling, or an energetic walk, and it takes you through glorious countryside and past amazing buildings. Being so closely in touch with the terrain it enables understanding and appreciation of the task involved.

St Mere Eglise, the first town liberated in France, is only 7kms east of Picauville. The town has the Airborne museum and other related sites of interest. Beyond St Mere Eglise are the landing beaches with numerous museums and sites.

Arromanches, with the English Mulberry Harbour still visible, is about 40 minutes drive.


Walks and Cycling Trips

The house has 6 adult bikes and 3 kids'bikes, the pretty country lanes are traffic free, level and great to explore. The maps in the house detail several round trip routes straight from the front door including: visit to 15thC Château du Crosville (10km round trip), the German War Cemetry at Orglandes (11km round trip), Airship Hangar circa 1917 (27km round trip), the local D-day sites (27km) and lots of short ones.


Nature, Fishing and Bird Watching by The Douve

Picauville is situated along the Douve River within the Cotentin Nature Park. On bright mornings fill the flask with coffee, take the picnic rucksack and stop at the boulangerie for croissants and other treats, have an al fresco breakfast by the River at Port Beurey (a hamlet 1.5km from our front door) and walk along the riverbank looking out for otters. Great natural ponds with very noisy frogs; also look out for heron, ducks and kingfishers. Wear wellies and splash in river, very few skimming stones because we have used them up! We usually spend an entire morning messing about by the river, and have extended it into a lunchtime picnic on an occasion when I was very organised! Fishing possible here too, with a licence - easy to arrange.

Boat trips up the River Douve, guided walks around the Nature Park and Bird Sactuaries can be found just outside Carentan (15 kms).


Golf

There are eight golf courses in the Cotentin peninsula, Picuaville is situated no more than 45 minutes drive from all of them. Please click on these links to find out full details: Golf de la Presqu'ile du Cotentin is the closest in Fontenay sur Mer , Golf de la Cote des Isles , Golf de Granville - Baie du Mont St Michel , Golf de Agon-Coutainville , Golf de Brehal , Golf de Cherbourg and Golf Centre Manche in St. Martin D'Aubigny .


Canoeing, Sand Yachting and Tree Top Adventure

Canoes and Kayaks, complete with life jackets, can be hired at St Sauveur-le-Vicomte (about 9km up stream). Paddle down to Longerac and stop for lunch at the riverside L'Auberge de La Douve, or picnic, then continue down the river to Picauville. Disembark 500m from the house, your canoes will be collected by the canoe hire company and one member of the group driven back to St Sauveur to your car.

Also at St Sauveur le Vicomte a tree top activity centre has recently opened in the town's ancient hunting forest, with high level walks and zip wires.

Portbail (20 mins drive), a picturesque market town on the West Coast, has miles of flat, empty sandy beaches and sand dunes. Facing the Atlantic it is windy - great for kite flying and sand- yachting. Guests have highly recommended the sailing school there - their whole family (older children) were taught sand-yachting and loved it.


Miles of Empty Sandy Beaches

Picauville is located almost half way between the west and east coasts. The East coast is slightly closer, only 15 minutes drive. These are the Landing Beaches (see above) but they are also great to visit with your bucket and spade. Because of The D Day connection there are lots of restaurants and cafes along the beach. Try horse riding on the Beach at Quineville.

The West coast faces the Atlantic and is always breezy. Some of these beaches are set between cliffs and headlands (Barneville-Carteret), and they all have rock pools, fine flat sand and sand dunes. After Spring tides visit St Germain sur Ay to collect shellfish. Restaurants in the little towns by the coast - Portbail is our favourite, and there are also great swathes of emptiness.


Children's Activities

With 4 young children of our own the house and garden are equipped so that they have fun, safely, which enables us to have long relaxing meals with wine and adult conversation, especially when we have guests to stay or who have popped across on a day trip for lunch. The town offers walks, bike rides, skateboard park, river to splash in or throw stones. Our children also enjoy independence that would be impossible in England - they buy the croissants, go the supermarket and sometimes just have a short walk on their own. Beaches - loads and loads of fabulous empty sandy beaches on both the east and west coasts. On the east coast are the D-day landing beaches, great exploring of gun emplacements. Kite flying on the west coast. Play areas in the grounds surrounding St Sauveur Castle 9km, and woodland play area and forest walks in the Ancient Hunting Forest just to the west of St Sauveur on the Portbail road. Good play area at Valognes. Swimming pools at Valognes and St Sauveur too. Lithaire, about 15 minutes south, has a ruined Roman (I think) fortification, very overgrown. A lake formed in a quarry at the same location has pedalos and other activities in summer. Champrepus Zoo 90 mins drive is a must.


Castles

Pirou Castle (about 20 minutes drive) is the family favourite. Enchanting small fortified manor house with moat and roof top ramparts, quite shady, so good for hot days. Close to Pirou beach for great sands and well recommended restaurant with wood burning oven opposite the plage. Together they make a great day out. St Sauveur le Vicomte Castle, free to wander around, contains the Tourist Information office. It is in a lovely setting next to river meadows and also offers a play area. St Sauveur has a cultural town walk, with regular music recitals, bars, excellent Pizzeria, and Auberge overlooking the castle. Briquebec castle has mainly been turned into a fabulous hotel restaurant, but is still accessible. A visit here is good on Wednesday, for its market and antique shops.

Gratot Castle is another of our favourites among the many other stupendous chateaux within 30 minutes drive.


Shopping, Art and Culture

Shopping - France has a certain style. We recommend shopping in Cherbourg - 25 minutes to the Cotentin Commercial Centre with Auchan Supermarket, Interior Design and Fashion Shops, Bayeux - 40 minutes, with several small boutiques, and Valognes, Portbail, La Haye du Puits and Carentan all 15 - 20 minutes drive. Further afield Caen (seventy minutes) offers superb shopping together with our very favourite market, excellent art gallery and historic buildings.

Markets - there are fabulous local markets on every day of the week, including St. Mere Eglise and St. Sauveur le Vicomte within cycling distance; Picauville has a small but lively market on Fridays.

Music and Culture - frequent classical recitals and concerts in Valognes, St. Sauveur le Vicomte, Briquebec and Lessay (all 15 - 20 minutes drive); a summer jazz festival in Coutances (45 minutes) and a world folk festival on the Isle de Tahitou, St. Vaast le Hougue (30 minutes) during August. Cherbourg has a lively pop scene. Check the tourist information offices or look out for posters for details.

Antiques/Brocante - there is a small Brocante warehouse in Picauville; St. Sauveur le Vicomte, Carentan, Valognes, Briquebec and Portbail, all within a 20 minute radius, have more shops offering greater choice. Look out for "Vide Greniers" advertised on Posters around the place, and try the flea market at Portbail on Sundays - you can never tell what you might find! See also our business Website, Chilcotts, Auctioneers and Valuers. 


Wet Days

The house offers various board games, videos etc. Going out try - Shopping at the Auchan centre, exciting swimming at the Collignon Beach Complex, Tourlaville (Cherbourg) - note: wear briefs or trunks, not baggy beach shorts and The Cite de la Mer in Cherbourg (Submarine and Aquarium), The Planetarium just outside Cherbourg, D-day landing museums, and if it is just showery Champrepus Zoo is not bad because there are many shelters throughout, including a sheltered picnic area.