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Caen to Cantabria

Caen to CantabriaNo Fly Tour

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New for 2019, our Caen to Cantabria tour will take you through some of the finest regions of France and into Spain for an easy return to Portsmouth on the Santander ferry. Return ferry is included in our prices for this tour. You will ride through Normandy, the Loire Valley, the ancient Poitou region, Cognac, Dordogne and Gascony before traversing the Pyrenees at St Jean Pied de Port, for centuries the crossing point for pilgrims on their way to Santiago to Compostella. Four days in Spain will end in Santander, in the Cantabria region,  where the ferry return with take you back to where you began two weeks earlier - you may even spot some whales in the Bay of Biscay as you relax on deck. Spectacular scenery is guaranteed!

The route gets more challenging as you ride south with the Spanish section offering some good climbs; however the gradients are shallower than many hills back home and it should be within the grasp of all regular cyclists. For those who like a challenge there is also the opportunity to climb the mighty Col du Tourmalet.

Meals are included as follows: Breakfast every day; picnic lunch on 5 days; dinner on 12 nights. 

Daily distances range from 41 miles to 75 miles with the great majority being in the 60 - 65 mile range (see daily descriptions for details of individual daily distances). If you have never done a ride like this before the key, as always, is steady progress at your own pace and we will ensure that you are looked after by our support team. As the ride progresses you will find out what routine suits you and adapt your speed or strategy accordingly; we have great experience and one of the most satisfying aspects of the job is helping people to achieve a ride across France successfully.

Your Next Adventure Awaits

What you need to know...

Start Location
Caen / Ouistreham

Finish Location
Santander (Spain)

Region of France
End to End (UK and European rides)


Shortest Day
66 km / 42 miles

Longest Day
125 km / 79 miles

Total Days

Total Miles

Departure Dates & Prices

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Please choose an alternative Tour or check back soon.


Day 1

Meet at approximately 9pm at Portsmouth ferry terminal for the Brittany Ferries' overnight sailing to Caen Ouistreham. Your bike and you will be loaded into our van for the journey to France. Cabin and breakfast are included in the ferry fare. (Saturday).

Day 2

The ferry arrives early in the morning allowing plenty of time for a leisurely ride to our overnight stop in the Suisse Normande. After our disembarkation and briefing, we skirt east of Caen and stop for coffee in a wonderful old village full of half-timbered houses. Apples, cider and cream are everywhere in this landscape which is wonderfully rural and very pretty. The second half of the day is hillier as we enter the Suisse Normande but it is incredibly beautiful. The small, family-run hotel is comfortable and newly renovated. (100 km / 62 miles / 857m). (Sunday)

Day 3

Striking south we head through the lower reaches of Normandy along quiet roads through forests. There are lakes and rivers here to provide fine views and we stay the night west Le Mans. (113 km / 70 miles / 1329m). (Monday).

Day 4

Two famous rivers are crossed today - the Loir and the Loire - the latter being known the world over for its famous chateaux. The riding is benign and you will make good progress and arrive in plenty of time to explore the wonderful abbey at Fontevraud where we spend the night in a nice hotel with a great restaurant. (100 km / 63 miles / 568m). (Tuesday).

Day 5

From Fontevraud the coutryside is easy and you will make good rpogress across the lightly wooded arable farmland. They always say that south of the Loire the weather is a few degrees warmer, and this usually holds true in our many north to south rides. It is starting to get less populated here with further between the villages, slthough there are several options for lunch stops, and you begin to feel that you are really getting into rural France - 'La France profonde' as they say! Overnight we are near Poitiers. (104 km / 65 miles / 1156m). (Wednesday).

Day 6

Apart from the Loire where we saw a small area of vineyards, we have not yet seen much evidence of France's most famous product. That will change over the next few days, but first, another by-product of the vine, brandy, is the order of the day. We are riding to Cognac where the famous producers' warehouses still line the river and where, if in time, you can take a tour; in any case, tonight there will be the opportunity to try the delicious drink. It is a little hillier today as although the elevation figure is les than yesetrday, the height is gained in small climbs rather than very gentle long sections. Our hotel tonight is one of our favourites, in the heart of the town and extremely comfortable. (114 km / 72 miles / 997m). (Thursday).

Day 7

From Cognac to St Emilion; two towns of great charm with some great riding in between. The terrain is more varied with a succession of ups and downs but these are not big hills as the elevation figure shows. In fact, this is one of our favourite day's riding in all of France as it seems to encompass so much of what the country is all about. Our destination is a Roman town and a charming hotel right in the centre, from where you can wander the cobbled streets seeking out a wine bar or tasty morsel to eat. The produce of the land is at the forefront in this region and there is so much of it to enjoy! (116 km / 72 miles / 1215m ). (Friday).

Day 8

The Dordogne needs no introduction and we cross the famous river today; another landmark checked off on our way south. We only really skirt the Dordogne region, however, as we are heading into Gascony, an old and proud region and home of d'Artagnan. There are vineyards galore today and some really lovely countryside; the views are truly exceptional on a clear day. Tonight's hotel is impler but modern and spotlessly clean and they are used to welcoming cyclists. (104 km / 65 miles / 1389m). (Saturday).

Day 9

You have now spent a week on the road and are half way to our final destination in northern Spain! Along the way you will have seen famous sights and some unexpected delights, as so often happens when touring by bike, as you stumble across an old chateau or a pretty view. With the Pyrenees getting closer you may be thinking they look rather high but the crossing point is much lower than the section you can see today! There are some wonderful old villages and castles on the ride today and it is hillier, although the last third is predominantly flat or downhill. Our hotel is in the main square of an old bastide (a mediaeval village based around a central square) amidst glorious countryside. (98 km / 61 miles / 1574m). (Sunday).

Day 10

Today we cycle to glorious Pau. It is a short day, allowing you time to relax and enjoy this civilized town at the foot of the mountains which has been a favourite with the British for many centuries. With its old chateau, charming streets and abundance of cafes and bars, there is plenty to do whilst passing the afternoon, or you could simply sit on a bench on the Boulevard des Pyrenees looking at the glorious mountains. If sitting around is not your thing, there is the option to climb the famous Col de Tourmalet in the afternoon! There will be a van tranfser to and from the mountain for those who wish to take it on. (80 km / 50 miles / 961m). (Monday).

Day 11

With the mountains on our left we ride through the foothills to St Jean Pied de Port, a town which for centuries has been the crossing place for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella. Having exited Pau on the voie verte to avoid traffic, we enjoy several straightforward climbs and one proper last hill before arriving in the historic town. You will see many pilgrims today as the three routes through France converge near our hotel - they can be identified by the scallop shells on their rucksack or around their necks. You can feel the history, tradition and the sense of expectation as the pilgrims wait for their departure, and this is atmosphere is shared with you as a new country beckons tomorrow as we head into Spain for the last section of our momentous journey! (106 km/ 66 miles / 1978m). (Tuesday).

Day 12

Today is has two good climbs but with sensible pacing you will be able to complete the ride easily. Fantastic views and glorious descents make up for the uphill sections, and of course you will be well-supported by the vans feeding you cakes and flapjacks to keep you going. The open green pastures and mountain views of the Pyrenees are wonderful and are different to the alps, for example, being much more rural and less developed. We prefer it this way and the added bonus is the lack of traffic. We won't be surprised if at the end of the day you tell us this was one the prettiest rides you have ever done! (116 km / 72 miles / 1928m) (Wednesday).

Day 13

This is the 'Queen' (or 'King') stage and once you have conquered it you can relax knowing you have broke the back of the ride. The hills are all about 3 miles long or so, with gradients on average being 6-8% so not unacheivable by any means, and, by now, you will know how to pace yourself if you didn't before the trip. We are still in the Basque country and the ride continues to inspire with great views and pretty villages. The roads in this part of Spain are a little perplexing to begin with: when you first see them you imagine they will be busy because they are wide, well surfaced and modern. But no one lives here and the major routes run north-south which is not our direction of travel. (85 km / 54 miles / 3382m). (Thursday). 

Day 14

Leaving the Basque country we enter Cantabria, the region of our final destination. There is a hill to start with and a smaller one at the end of the day and apart from that not much to worry about. It remains a very beautiful area and one which will leave a very positive impression on you. (122 km / 78 miles / 2412m). (Friday).

Day 15

The final day! Caen will seem a long way away and indeed it as as you have ridden over 850 miles to get to this point. The last day always seems easier and as you head to the coast the hills ease off. You will arrive in plenty of time to have a swim in the sea and to enjoy a late lunch in Santander before boarding the ferry for 24 hours of relaxation on the modern cruise ferry. (75 km / 47 miles / 990m). (Saturday).

Day 16

Enjoy your cruise home and perhaps have a massage, swim in the outdoor pool or even see some whales in the Bay of Biscay! The ferry is comfortable with two restaurants, bars and coffee shope. There is a swimming pool, cinema and plenty of areas to sit and watch the world go by. Arrive in Portsmouth approx. 7.45pm. (Sunday)

Some Tour Photos...

Travel Information

On this tour return ferry accommodation is included in a shared cabin. If you would like a cabin for your sole use this can be arranged (a single cabin is included within the single supplement). The ferry is round-trip from Portsmouth so you can either catch a train to Portsmouth or park a car at the port or in various other locations nearby. The return ferry gets in at 7.45pm so you may wish to book accommodation in Portsmouth that night.

Click here for our Travel Information page.