Starting day 1 at the Somme in Albert or even a bit further in Compiègne (département Oise) we make a 4 days Battlefield Tour through Northern France and Flanders Fields in Belgium.
Very touching cycling tour with optional adjustments according to your own nationality. Whether you want to focus on the British, German, French, Belgian, Irish, Canadian, New-Zealand, Australian, South-African or even Chinese-Indian and Portugese presence during the First World War in these areas, it will always become an unforgettable experience. It makes you having a look on all aspects and so many human concerns that are at stake when a war rushes through so many lives.
Where to start on DAY 1 ? a matter of choices!
Péronne, Albert or even Compiègne are very interesting locations from where we head up to the north, following the old battlefields that were situated here during 1914-18.
If you choose to start in Compiègne, the first itinerary also passes along the Armistice location of ‘la Clairière‘ situated in the woods. It’s a long trip to Arras or you choose to stop in Péronne? Since we have an accompanying car with us, the car might bring you to your hotel in Arras, so skipping part of the long distance-ride.
If you choose to start in Albert, we do pass the Newfoundlanders Memorial in Hamel as well as the Ulster Tower and Thiepval Memorial (can be compared with the Menin Gate in Ypres). Including Pozières (first time ever tanks were involved in 1916) we pass also the South-African Memorial at Delville Wood before reaching Arras.
Part 1: 65 KM or 90 KM or 140 KM Location: Albert - Thiepval/Beaumont-Hamel - Arras
First option: Albert – Arras
The first stage is about 65 km from Albert at the Somme to Arras in Artois. Depending on your own priorities we consider stops at Thiepval, Ulster Tower, Beaumont-Hamel, or go another way from Thiepval up to Pozières (the first Tanks-offensive) up to South-African monument of Delville Wood before we have a lunch stop in Bapaume. Optional extentions may be the Memorial Park of Bullecourt & the Cariboo in Monchy-le-Preux, before finishing our daytour in beautiful Arras.
Suggestion: a visit to the Wellington Quarry (do not arrive later than around 16.30 hrs for last visit), if not this afternoon, perhaps first thing in the (next) morning?
Second option: starting in Compiègne (see description above)
see what has been told in the introduction already…
Part 2: 55 KM Location: Arras - Vimy Ridge/N.D. de la Lorette - Lens
In the morning you might visit first the Wellington Quarry to learn about the underground war (if not yet done the evening before). We have more underground stories for you once we arrive at the Canadian ‘Sanctuary’ of Vimy Ridge. A little guided tour by Canadian students (free of charge) is a must as well as taking time to walk around the imposing Mother Canada Statue with large view on Lens and even the Hills of Flanders (Belgium). We continue on some partly off-road tracks towards the silence of Notre Dame de la Lorette, the French Memorial including Chapel, Mausoleum and a quite interesting museum with trenches! We also recommend to have a lunch/drinking stop here, before heading up for next overnight-place: the former coalmine city of Lens.
2nd Option: straight to Lille or Ploegsteert (on French-Belgian border) – 75 à 80km
If you wish to go a bit further on your second day, we recommend an overnight stop in Lille or on the French-Belgian border at the river ‘Leie/Lys’. In that case your itinerary would be 75 – 80 km.
Part 3: 65 KM Location: Lens - Fromelles/Plougstreet - Ypres
Another fascinating day-trip, first on the mainly flat and open lands around the slack hills. Hill 170 and the cemetery that reminds to the Battle of Loos. Then up to the Australian Memorial of Fromelles – lunch stop. We approach and will cross the French-Belgian border (perhaps we sing about the Mademoiselles from Armentières, Australian soldiers song…). We arrive in Plougstreet with the Christmas Truce. Continue to the (Irish) Peace Park of Messines and the New Zealanders Memorial. We follow the traces of the Mining Battle up to our final destination of today: Ypres, heart of Flanders Fields. Of course we will not skip the Last Post at 8.00 pm under the Menin Gate!
Did you choose option 2 on day 2 ?
In that case whether we leave from Lille following gravel roads to Belgium (Warneton), where we cycle along rivers like ‘the Deûle’ en ‘the Leie’ (la Lys in French) up to Plougstreet (Ploegsteert) and Messines… From that point same as described above.
Or you passed the night already in Ploegsteert on the French-Belgian Border? In that case see described program but we add some Flemish hills including the famous Kemmelberg, before following the traces of the Mining Battle up to final destination Ypres.
Part 4: 50 KM Location: The Great War In Flanders Fields (circle formed itinerary - no luggage transfer)
Last day of our tour, but so many things to see and perhaps you still want to visit the In Flanders Fields Museum (morning?). Or we stop in one of the many Great War museums along this circle formed ‘only’ 50 km long cycling day. Today you witness a maximum of stories on the many and highly concentrated Battlefield memorials, cemeteries, craters, trenches and bunkers. We experience the 4 Battles of Ypres today. Our briefing the night before will certainly be an important one in making the right choices.
Geniet na van een lekker drankje of versnapering in onze fietsbar, in het historisch centrum van Ieper!