D-Day Beaches and the Battle of Normandy

Shortest Day - 60km
Longest Day - 78km
Total: 5 days total / 5 days cycling; 355 km / 221 miles

What you can expect

Thought-provoking sites and museums, with a professional battlefield guide bringing alive the momentous events of the world's biggest amphibious landing and the fierce fighting throughout Normandy as the Allies tried to establish a foothold on mainland Europe. 5 days' cycling; 4 nights’ half board with wine; luggage transport, full back-up and assistance throughout the day.

More detail

This trip is a meander from Caen through the Calvados, Orne and Auge departments which saw most of the action in the summer of 1944. It makes for a good short excursion with plenty of time to stop and look at the sights and soak up the atmosphere and history. You don’t have to be a veteran to appreciate what went on here 71 years ago. You will see the place where the only Victoria Cross awarded on D Day was won; where Panzer ace Michael Wittman caused havoc on a British convoy; the smallest Commonwealth War Cemetery in France; and where a fleeing army desperately tried to escape. The hotels are all friendly and family run. Days 3 and 4 have some hills hence this trip is rated as moderate.

Accompanied by experienced professional battlefield guide, you will gain a unique insight into the D Day landings and the subsequent battle for Normandy whilst also enjoying some very fine cycling.

If you arrive by the overnight ferry from Portsmouth you will see Sword Beach to your right as you approach shore; on your left a couple of miles inland are the guns of the Merville Battery, which we will visit on day 5.

Day 1: After disembarking at Ouistreham we familiarise you with the first morning's ride by way of original intelligence maps used by a friend of ours as he came ashore on the Landing Beaches in the first wave on D-Day. We follow the coast road west, along Sword and Juno beaches, before a brief detour inland to Montgomery’s HQ in Normandy, the Chateau de Creullet. Then it’s back to the coast and, passing Gold beach, we arrive in Arromanches where remnants of the artificial Mulberry Harbour are still very much in evidence. Along the way you will pass the spot where de Gaulle and King George VI landed on 14 and 16 June 1944 respectively. After lunch we continue along the coast to the Longues Battery, a well preserved part of the 'Atlantic Wall' and used in the opening scenes of the film 'The Longest Day'. From here we pedal to Bayeux, where there is plenty more to see in the form of the Bayeux Memorial, and of course the famous Tapestry commemorating another invasion 900 years previously. We stay the night in Bayeux. (71km / 44 miles).

Day 2: From Bayeux we head south through the country that saw much of the fiercest fighting of the Normandy campaign. Passing the small Jerusalem war cemetery, we go on to Tilly sur Seulle and then to Hill 112, where the 43rd Wessex Division met fierce resistance in late June to early August 1944. From this highpoint you can see Caen in the distance and Rommel said that ‘whoever controls (Hill 112) controls Normandy'. From here we travel west to Villers-Bocage, where British forces took a pounding, and onwards to our hotel in Aunay sur Odon, a town demolished by Allied aerial bombardment as it served as a crucial and strategic crossroad. (70km / 44 miles).

Day 3: Mont Pincon is a short ride from Aunay and this, the highest point in the Calvados department, was the objective of Operation Bluecoat. The climb up here is well graded so that whilst quite long, it is not steep. Once again, German reserves were forced to be used here, meaning that American forces could break out more easily from the west. Mont Pincon fell on 6 August and the Americans advanced rapidly from the south and west, encircling German forces in the Falaise pocket. The approach to Falaise crosses the beautiful 'Suisse Normande'; this is a hilly area but once at Falaise the hard work is done for the day. Falaise was virtually destroyed but William the Conqueror's castle remains and the church was rebuilt from the ruins. Heading south through lovely countryside, we overnight in Ecouche which was the first major action of General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division. (72km / 45 miles).

Day 4: From our hotel we ride first to Argentan which was spared, and then on to Chambois, where the Falaise Pocket was closed on 19 August 1944. In the last days of the Battle of Normandy the entire German 7th Army was attempting to escape through the jaws of the pincer movement and we see the place where this occured; relics are often found here, such was the destruction and the desperation of the Germans to get out with or without their equipment. It’s a short (but uphill) ride to Mont Ormel where Polish troops, encircled by the enemy, fought off counter attacks from the 2nd SS Panzer Division before being relieved by Canadian troops on 22 August 1944, thereby ending the Battle of Normandy. The rest of the day is spent heading north to Lisieux, passing through the villages of Camembert and Livarot on the way, and some lovely and unspoilt countryside. These are home to the two most famous cheeses of the region, which we will taste tonight at dinner. (78km / 48 miles).

Day 5: Lisieux back towards Caen is a pretty ride through unspoilt countryside, predominantly flat, including the lovely village of Beuvron en Auge. This is apple and cider country. When we approach the coast it is at Merville, where the 9th Battalion Parachute Regiment, who with only 150 out of the planned 750 men reaching the rendezvous, nevertheless destroyed four German gun emplacements which could have wiped out the Sword landing beach on D Day. Our route brings us in the same way as these brave men. There are various displays here and it is well worth the entrance fee. Afterwards, we go south to Ranville with its war cemetery, then the short distance to Pegasus Bridge, where there is also an excellent museum. The last site of our trip is the first house to have been liberated, on the far side of the bridge, and then it’s a quick 5km ride up the canal towpath back to Ouistreham, or south to Caen, for the journey home. (64km / 40 miles).

The ride above visits predominantly British and Canadian beaches and sights; if you would like to visit other sites we can tailor it accordingly. Similarly if you have a reason for visiting a specific site in Normandy please let us know and we will do our  very best to incorporate it in our tour.

Transfers to / from: Caen rail station, Ouistreham ferry terminal

Requested Single Supplement (see our FAQ page): £225


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Travel Information

Start: Ouistreham (Caen)
Finish: Ouistreham (Caen)

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