Escape the Brexit hoo-ha and the daily grind with a holiday home in France – a place that’s easy to get to, where you can spend your holidays and also weekends and the odd few days throughout the year. Here are a few suggestions close to ports or airports in the north and south of France.
Just across that 19-mile stretch of water, la vie française awaits you. Instead of racing onwards to destinations further south or west, why not make life easy and base yourself close to the ports of northern France.
Close to Calais
Are you a beachlover? Then why not consider Le Touquet, so beloved of Parisians that it’s known as Paris Plage. Check out the the smaller resorts too, like Berck-sur-Mer or Hardelot. Or perhaps the historic fishing port of Boulogne will catch your fancy. The Côte d’Opale has huge sandy beaches and dramatic headlands, and is part of the Caps et Marais d’Opale regional park. Inland, try the Sept Vallées area, where you’ll find laidback towns like Montreuil-sur-Mer and Hesdin.
Don’t be put off by the battlefield connotations of the Somme department – gorgeous seaside towns like St-Valery-sur-Somme or Le Crotoy will soon change your mind.
Northern France also has some great cities for a pied-à-terre, full of history and culture, not to mention restaurants, bars and shopping – Lille or Amiens are just two.
Average house prices are just €121,000 in Somme, rising to €140,000 in Pas de Calais, and €148,000 in Nord, where prices are higher due to it being home to the regional capital Lille.
You have a choice of four ferry ports in Normandy: Dieppe, Le Havre, Caen and Cherbourg. Dieppe and Le Havre give you access to the Seine-Maritime department, the Côte d’Albatre and resorts such as Fécamp, Etretat and Le Tréport. Inland, historic Rouen is the capital of Normandy, while the Boucles de la Seine Normande regional park is great for walking.
Caen is the gateway to Calvados, renowned for its cider, brandy, cheese and butter. Calvados was the birthplace of William the Conqueror (visit his castle at Caen, and don’t miss the Bayeux tapestry). It’s also home to several of the D-Day Landing Beaches. Also on the coast is the beautiful town of Honfleur, with its striking colombage and slate houses around the harbour, along with a huge choice of restaurants. The area is known for its equestrian activities so is ideal for horse-loving house buyers.
Cherbourg is in Manche, literally ‘the sleeve’, with the Cotentin peninsula jutting out to sea. Here you’ll find Mont St-Michel, one of the most visited places in France, along with resorts like Granville, Barneville Carteret, Barfleur and St-Vaast. If you’re a fan of Escape to the Château, you’ll have seen Dick and Angel visit the copper workshops of Villedieu-les-Poêles to get their antique pans resurfaced.
Inland the Vire valley is particularly pretty, and St-Lo is another equestrian hub, nicknamed the ‘capital of the horse’. Househunters could also consider include Avranches and Coutances.
Manche is particularly affordable, with average house prices of €127,000, followed by Seine-Maritime at €159,000 and Calvados at €165,100.
Continuing west you arrive in Brittany, with ports at St-Malo and Roscoff. In the Ille-et-Vilaine department, the old walled town of St-Malo has sandy beaches, winding streets full of shops and restaurants, and a history of pirates. Resorts include Dinard, Cancale and St-Brieuc as well as smaller ones like St-Jacut de la Mer and Paimpol. Just inland, on the River Rance, Dinard is particularly pretty with its medieval ramparts, cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and riverside quays.
Roscoff is ideal for visiting western Brittany; resorts such as Perros-Guirec, St-Pol-de-Léon and Plouescat, as well as the Armorique regional park and historic towns like Quimper, Brest and Morlaix. The lowest average house prices are to be found in Côtes d’Armor (€122,500), rising in Finistère (€144,000) and highest in Ille-et-Vilaine (€172,000) where Rennes, the regional capital is based.
THE SUNNY SOUTH
You’ll find some of the priciest property in France on the Côte d’Azur (an average house price of €421,000 in Alpes-Maritimes!), so instead we’re heading west, along the Mediterranean coast towards Spain and into the Occitanie region. It certainly meets our accessibility criteria, with a choice of airports at Montpellier, Perpignan, Nîmes, Carcassonne and Béziers as well as Toulouse inland.
Bordering Provence, Gard is known for its Roman monuments, including the arena in Nîmes and Pont du Gard viaduct. It only has a tiny slice of coast, mainly around Le Grau-du-Roi, the sandy L’Espiguette beach and Port Camargue marina, while inland it contains part of the Cévennes national park. Historic towns include Aigues-Mortes, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon (across the River Rhône from Avignon, in neighbouring Vaucluse), Beaucaire, Tarascon and Sommières. Average house prices in Gard are €190,000, the highest of Occianie’s seaside departments owing to Montpellier being here.
Happy in Hérault
Heading west, Hérault is home to Montpellier, capital of the former Languedoc-Roussillon region, and one of the fastest growing cities in France. It has historic monuments, fine parks and a beach within spitting distance, complete with flamingos on the lagoons. Resorts include La Grande Motte, Palavas-les-Flots, Marseillan, Agde and the port of Sète, while popular towns and villages include Béziers, Pézenas, Minerve, Olargues and St-Guilhem-le-Désert. You can also explore the hills of the Cévennes or meander along the Canal du Midi. Average house prices in Hérault are €214,700.
Ode to Aude
The Canal du Midi connects the Atlantic, via the River Garonne, to the Mediterranean, and also winds through the Aude department. The most famous site here is Carcassonne, with its fairytale citadel. The canal runs through the lower town and on to Narbonne, another popular town with its own beach. Seaside resorts include Gruissan, Port-la-Nouvelle and Leucate.
Aude is known as Cathar Country after its castles, and it also has many historic villages, among them Rennes-le-Château with its rumoured links to the Holy Grail, and Lagrasse, one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages. Languedoc is known for its wine production; explore the Corbières, Minervois, Fitou and Limoux vineyards. The Montagne Noir has small villages dotted among forested hills.
Average house prices in Aude are a very reasonable €131,000.
Pyrénées-Orientales: sea and ski
The last department before you reach Spain is Pyrénées-Orientales. The main town, Perpignan, was once part of Spain – you can still visit the Palace of the Kings of Majorca here. The area is full of Spanish influences, with village names often in Catalan as well as French. The Pyrénées are home to ski resorts as well as mountain villages, while coastal resorts range from the sandy beaches of Argelès-sur-Mer to the quaint harbour town of Collioure, which is particularly sought-after, and therefore expensive, with holiday-home owners. The seaside town of Banyuls is famed for its fortified dessert wine, while inland Céret is known for its cherry production and is popular with artists. Average house prices in Pyrénées-Orientales are €173,000.