Should you Fly or Ferry to the Loire Valley?

Chenonceaux, Loire Valley, France

Why travel to the Loire?

My favourite white wines for special occasions have always been Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, and I have promised myself several times while drinking them that one day I will go visit the Loire Valley to taste the wine. The reality seems to be that in order to do this I will need to take the family along too, but I think there is lots to make the most of in this area, UNESCO listed the central area in 2000 and the committee commented: an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments – the châteaux.’ I’m sold, but how to sell to the rest of the family?

France can seem so fairytale like, it’s fairly easy to occupy everyone without needing to do too much. I remember our last visit in a more Northerly part of France, eating macaroons from a patisserie and marvelling at the chateau that twirled and towered above the village. It felt like we had stepped onto the set for Sleeping Beauty. In fact Chateau D’Usse in the Loire Valley is rumoured to have inspired Sleeping Beauty…

Ferry versus flying – the costs.

If you’re thinking about Western France, the ferry can save fortune. I’ve done the sums! Obviously it depends where you live, I am in the Midlands and the saving for us is still huge.

I compared flying from East Midlands to Nantes at October half term and found the cheapest flight was £300pp, plus car hire around £20 per day, plus any extra hidden car hire insurance costs you may choose to pay of course. £1320 

For the ferry, my quote came in at £367 for the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen for 4, plus a outside facing 4 berth ensuite cabin both sailings. It is a 6-7 hour sailing, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that a cabin, which is an optional extra, came in at under £30 each way – it seems like an affordable luxury. The approximate full cost from Derbyshire to the Loire Valley was £181.67 (at £1.40 a litre and 40mpg using the AA calculator) £548.67

I would mainly spend the extra on bringing wine back, how about you?

What are the practical advantages of ferry travel?

  1. Take as much luggage as you want to without paying extra, perfect for families, campers, cyclists and wine lovers!
  2. Take your dog.
  3. No parking, queuing or waiting around for 2 hours at the airport, the wait to get on the ferry is just 45 minutes and you drive straight on.
  4. Stretch your legs and get some fresh air on board the ferry or rest in your cabin, perfect for restless kids and long legged adults who need a proper nap after driving.
  5. No waiting at the other end for luggage or check out, simply drive straight off.
  6. No car hire to pay for, use your own car. French roads are generally much easier than UK to navigate and there is less traffic.

Any downsides?

The flight is shorter and the driving less, but arguably you may be hanging around for longer at the airport. Some people physically prefer flying to sailing, but I find sea sickness tablets make me pretty invincible and the thought of all the lovely wine I can bung in the boot and the kids faces at setting sail swings it every time.

Brittany Ferries have the widest choice of ferry crossings to France with multiple sailings each day to choose from to suit your travel itinerary and needs. You can check out their ferries to France, routes and prices here.

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If you're thinking about the Loire Valley or Western France, the ferry can save fortune. I've done the sums! Obviously it depends where you live, I am in the Midlands though and the saving for us is still huge, here is how to weigh it up financially and practically.

Photo: Shutterstock: Chenonceaux, Famous ChateauChateau d’uses.

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