22 days
Duration
British Isles, Europe
Destination
Level 2 - Moderate
Activity
Anglo French Map

Normandy, Brittany, Channel Islands tour

Odyssey Traveller's fully escorted Anglo French small group tour is designed for senior or mature travellers, couples, solo travellers, or friends travelling together. This Normandy, Brittany, Channel Islands tour shows how - despite the long and famous rivalry between the two nations - English and French history are deeply intertwined. We begin by exploring northern France and then cross the English Channel to the tiny autonomous Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, and Sark. The tour finally spends two nights on the historic Isle of Wight before concluding in London, England.

Itinerary of the Normandy, Brittany, Channel Islands tour

Our fully escorted Small group history tour combines the dramatic scenery of Normandy and Brittany with the quirky history and natural beauty of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Wight.

After an initial night in Paris, we move towards the peaceful verdant landscape of Normandy. On the way, we stop in at Giverny, the rural idyll where Claude Monet created the world-famous Water Lilies painting series. After a walking tour of the Gardens, we continue to Rouen where we have time to explore the surrounding area.  Our coach continues to Bayeux, Normandy for an overnight stay and dinner at a local restaurant.

In Normandy, we delve into the region's diverse landscape and turbulent history. Our small group tour explores Normandy's medieval prestige at Bayeux, home to the famous Bayeux Tapestry, and Caen, where William the Conqueror made his capital. We also pay respect to the sacrifices of British, American and Canadian soldiers during World War Two at Normandy’s D-Day Beaches, war museums, and monuments.

We then travel to Brittany. While here, we learn about the strongly separate Celtic culture on a wild seafaring peninsula dotted with mysterious standing stones and dolmens - including Brittany’s Standing Stones at Carnac. We also explore the fortified port of Malo and the ancient Concarneau.  Before departing for the Channel islands we stop to explore the heritage listed medieval monastery, Mont St Michel.

Leaving the Carentan peninsula by ferry, we make a ferry trip to the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, which boast charming historic ports such as St Helier and St Peter amid a stunning island landscape. You learn on the Anglo French small group tour that the islands are not part of the United Kingdom but are British Crown Dependencies, with a delightful mix of English and French culture. We also make a visit to the tiny island of Sark, a medieval time warp where motor vehicles are banned and the Seigneur of Sark has continued to rule since the Middle Ages. Garden lovers will particularly appreciate the formal gardens of La Seigneurie, set beside a 17th century castle. The Channel Islands enjoyed a resurgence in interest following recent films

Finally, we also have the chance to see the Isle of Wight, a favoured holiday spot for Britain’s royalty in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  The Isle of Wight is known for its stunning coastal scenery, its world-famous sailing, and the old world charm of its Victorian seaside resorts. We will enjoy a private tour of Queen Victoria's summer residence, Osborne House, before ending our journey in London.

For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.

You might also check out our profiles on France and the Channel Islands, where all other Odyssey tour departures are listed to these destinations.

About Normandy, Brittany and the Channel Islands:

Normandy:

Apple orchards, contented cows, and pungent cheese: these are the charming images that spring into most people's minds when they think of Normandy. But the province's bucolic image belies a turbulent history. The name Normandy (French: Normandie) derives from Vikings - or Northmen/Normans - who established a capital at Rouen in the 10th century. These Vikings adopted the French language and culture, and established the Duchy of Normandy, one of Medieval Europe's great powers. In 1066, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded England - changing world history as we know it. For almost two hundred years afterwards, the Duchy of Normandy was contested between England and France; while in the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) England reclaimed Normandy. Finally, in 1450, Normandy came under French control, and has since been ruled as a province of France.

During World War Two, Normandy yet again became a flashpoint of international conflict. The liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation began on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The cities of Normandy, such as Caen and Le Havre, saw extensive damage and population loss during the fighting. Today, Normandy is home to many of Western Europe's most moving memorials to the sacrifice of war.

For more information on Normandy, take a look at our article, Ten things to do in France, which discusses the history and culture of the region.

Brittany:

The wild coastal peninsula of Brittany is perhaps France's most independent region, with a history and culture that connects it as closely to the Celtic world as the rest of France. Brittany (Breton: Breizh) was settled by Celts from Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries, seeking refuge from Anglo-Saxons then settling in England. Through the Middle Ages, Brittany fought to maintain its independence from Carolingians and Vikings, but was incorporated into France in 1532. Today, Brittany remains fiercely independent. Locals speak Breton, a language closely related to the Celtic languages of Ireland, Scotland, and Cornwall, and continue to perform Celtic song and dance at the annual Festival de Cornouaille held in Quimper. In addition to its distinctive Celtic culture, Brittany offers rugged coastal scenery, prehistoric standing stones, and delicious cuisine (after all, this province is the birthplace of the humble crêpe).

For more information on prehistoric standing stones, take a look at our articles on standing stones in England: Exploring Britain's Neolithic Past and Standing Stones in Prehistoric Britain.

Jersey:

The island of Jersey - like the rest of the Channel Islands, so called because of their English Channel location - is an independent bailiwick of the British Crown, self-governing and not part of the United Kingdom. This strange legal status dates back to the year 1204, when the King of England renounced all claims to territory on mainland France, but maintained rule of the Channel Islands.

The largest and most populous of the Channel Islands, Jersey is the most French in culture. With a landscape resembling Normandy - apple orchards, overgrown country lanes, and stone farmhouses - Jersey is an agricultural paradise, which brought the world the famous Jersey cow. The capital, St. Helier, is a pretty beach town, while Jersey offers some of the best beaches under the dominion of the Queen of England.

Guernsey:

Guernsey, the second-biggest and second-most populous of the Channel Islands is more English than Jersey, a place where 'politeness is a way of life'. Literature buffs will enjoy visiting Hauteville House, where Victor Hugo found exile from Napoleon III's France and completed his masterpiece, Les Miserables. Guernsey is also home to fascinating war museums commemorating the occupation of the Channel Islands by Nazis during World War II. Flatter than Jersey, bucolic Guernsey is ideal for exploration on foot - head to the secluded beaches of Pemboke Bay, Vazon Bay, and Côbo Bay, and watch out for 'hedge veg' stalls, selling fresh produce straight from the farm.

For more information on Jersey and Guernsey, check out our article on the Channel Islands: Wildflowers, Potato Peel Pies and Rebels.

Isle of Wight:

Inhabited since the Bronze Age, the Isle of Wight is home to fascinating historical sites, from the Brading Roman Villa, one of Britain's best preserved, to Carisbrooke Castle, where King Charles I was imprisoned before his 1648 execution. But the island came into its own as a fashionable holiday destination in the Victorian Era, led by Queen Victoria herself. 'It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot', said Queen Victoria of her Isle of Wight estate, Osborne House. Decorated in the exuberant Victorian taste of the Queen and her beloved husband, Prince Albert, Osborne House is a view into the private world of the royal couple, where they raised their children - and where Victoria mourned for years after her husband's death. In 1878, Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated an early version of the telephone to the Queen at Osborne House, placing calls to Cowes, Southampton, and London. Following the Queen, the Isle of Wight became a magnet for Victorian-era celebrities, ranging from Charles Dickens and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, to the leading impressionist Berthe Morisot. Today, visitors are drawn to the island for its beautiful scenery and Victorian charm.

 

Articles about the Channel Islands published by Odyssey Traveller

For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.

External articles to assist you on your visit to the Channel Islands

Articles about France published by Odyssey Traveller

The following list of articles, represents some of the articles  published by Odyssey Traveller for mature aged and senior travellers to maximise their knowledge and enjoyment of France when visiting;

For all the articles published by Odyssey Traveller, please click through to this link

External articles to assist you plan your visit to France

Frequently Asked Questions About Anglo-France

The historical and cultural connections between Britain and France will be apparent on this tour. Normandy has long played an important role in European history: it was here that William the Conqueror reigned before (and after) his conquest of England in 1066 and here that the famous D-Day invasion was launched bringing World War II to a close.

Brittany, or Breizh, a rugged Atlantic ocean peninsula, is one of the most distinctive regions of France. Only incorporated into France in 1592, here the Breton language – closely related to Celtic languages such as Cornish and Welsh – is still spoken. Local festivals celebrate Celtic-influenced Breton music, dance, and poetry.

The Channel Islands are not part of the United Kingdom but are British Crown Dependencies with their own distinctive culture and history. They are situated only a few kilometres from the French coast, but were controlled from Britain for many years. As a result, the islands provide a delightful mix of English and French culture.

The Channel Islands are said to have more sunshine year-round than any other part of the United Kingdom, so is a popular location for English visitors seeking out sun and beaches, particularly in the summer! While the weather is mild year round, the exposed islands do attract storms, fogs, and winds, particularly in winter.

Our tours leave in the ‘shoulder season’, May and September. At this time, the weather remains good, while the summer crowds are mostly gone, allowing for atmospheric walks along deserted beaches.

The climate in France varies considerably, with four major climate regions. The western coast of France has a rainy and cool climate, with little variation between seasons, while inland has a continental climate of hot summers and cold winters. The Mediterranean has a hot dry summer and a mild winter, and the final region, the French Alps have a mountain climate, with snow three to six months a year.


PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

Overview: Upon arrival in Paris, we will come to the hotel individually. There is time to relax and freshen up before our welcome meeting and dinner, where the tour host will introduce you to the rest of the group.

Accommodation: 1 night at Hotel Relais Monceau or similar.

Overview: In the morning we depart from Paris, stopping first to visit the Fondation Monet House. We have lunch individually before continuing to Rouen, where we will have time to explore the area with the Tour Leader. Our coach then continues to Bayeux, where we will have dinner at our hotel.

Normandy, with its diversity of landscape and rich heritage, derived its name from the Viking Norsemen, who made Rouen their capital. After the conquest of Britain it became part of the Plantagenet Empire, and is now regarded as a typically French region of apple orchards, contented cows, cider, and pungent cheeses. Normandy’s peaceful pastoral landscape belies its historic conquests and devastating experiences during World War II. We will learn about how Normandy’s history has been inextricably linked to that of Britain and how its history, heritage and culture have been influential since the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 through to the 20th century. We will experience Normandy’s historic cities, its typical villages, its artistic heritage, local produce, and cuisine.

Accommodation: 4 nights at Hotel Churchill or similar.

Overview: Today we will have a city tour of Caen, where William the Conqueror’s favoured residence was located. We will visit the Abbaye aux Hommes and the Abbaye aux Dames, both of which were constructed in the 11th century under the instruction of William the Conqueror and his wife.

Accommodation: Hotel Churchill or similar.

Overview: Today we will have a full day touring the D Day Beaches with a battlefield expert, making visits to Omaha beach, the D Day Landing Museum and a German artillery battery.

Accommodation: Hotel Churchill or similar.

Overview: Today we will visit the medieval city of Bayeux. First stop is a visit to the see the famous Bayeux Tapestry, the 70 meter long strip of embroidered linen that tells the story of the Norman’s conquest of England in 1066.  We then transfer to Ducy Vergers de Ducy, where we will taste the regions ciders, juices and calvados.

Accommodation: Hotel Churchill or similar.

Overview: En route to Brittany we explore the impressive island of Mont-St-Michel. Linked to mainland France via a narrow causeway, the fortified island has had strategic value for over a millennium. Walking up the island’s winding streets, the town’s architecture survives as the final manifestation of the ideas of feudalism. Tourists first walk past the houses for the fishermen and farmers at the bottom of the island, then up through the twisting commercial district, before climbing past the great halls of the nobility and finally reaching the monastery, perched at the top of the island. We then continue to Rennes, arriving in time for dinner at the hotel.

Accommodation: 1 night at Mercure Centre Gare or similar.

Overview: We have a guided tour this morning of Rennes viewing the main historic sights.We travel onto Vannes with free time in the afternoon to explore. Late afternoon we travel onto Fouesnant on the west coast of France in Brittany, with a dinner at the hotel in the evening. Its rugged shores washed by the Atlantic, Brittany has a strong Celtic heritage. . It is a wild seafaring peninsula dotted with mysterious standing stones, dolmens, and cromlechs. Bretons have their own language and cuisine, with the Duchy of Brittany not becoming part of France until the 15th century. The gentle scenery of the southern Breton coastline contrasts with the rugged grandeur of the north.

Accommodation: 4 nights at Hotel Mona Lisa Cap Coz

Overview: Today we will enjoy local treats in Benodet, before travelling on to the ancient cathedral city of Quimper for a city tour.

Accommodation: Hotel Mona Lisa Cap Coz or similar.

Overview: Today we will have a guided tour of the megalithic standing stones in Carnac, which are as old as Stonehenge, and explore the Quiberon Peninsula. We then drive on to Lorient, where we will have a guided tour, followed by a visit to the Flore submarine museum. To finish the days activities, we will take an hour-long boat tour of Pleasure Boat Harbour, renowned for its scenic views.

Accommodation: Hotel Mona Lisa Cap Coz or similar.

Overview: Today we will have a guided tour of the main sights of Concarneau. The town has two distinct areas: the modern town on the mainland, and the medieval walled town Ville Close, which sits on an island and is separated from the mainland by a drawbridge. Having walked through the city, we will take a boat cruise across the town’s beautiful bay. You will then have some free time to explore the artistic village Pont-Aven, before we return for a group dinner at the hotel.

Accommodation: Hotel Mona Lisa Cap Coz or similar.

Overview: Today we make the trip from Fouesnant to Trebeurden. We stop off at several points to visit a few of the region’s quintessential parish churches in the morning. Continuing our journey in the afternoon, we will also stop to take a tour of the 7 Isles in Perros-Guirec.

Accommodation: 1 night at Hotel Aigue Marine or similar

Overview: In the morning we transfer to cote d’Amor, before heading on to Tregastel, where we will visit the local aquarium and delve into the town’s wartime history. Next we travel to Dinan, one of the most attractive and well-preserved towns in Brittany, where we will have a guided tour, followed by dinner in the hotel.

Accommodation: 1 night at Hotel Le Challonge or similar

Overview: In the morning we depart Dinan and enjoy a walking tour of St.Malo before heading to the port of St. Malo where we take our ferry to the Channel Island of Jersey. We will have dinner at the hotel. Measuring less than 120 square kilometres, the Bailiwick of Jersey is a British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, and together with the Bailiwick of Guernsey (less than 80 square kilometres) it forms the grouping known as the Channel Islands. These are separate possessions of the British Crown and are not part of the UK. Their history and culture are influenced by their strategic location between the northern coast of France and the southern coast of England. Formerly under the control of Brittany, invaded by Vikings, and annexed to the Duchy of Normandy, they emerged as miniature self–governing territories. The islands have a seafaring tradition and their trade with the Newfoundland fisheries gave rise to the name New Jersey in the US. Trade further laid the foundations of these attractive islands’ prosperity as well as agriculture (Jersey and Guernsey cows are recognisable the world over), milling, fishing, shipbuilding, and financial services. Each island has its own heritage and patois, but during World War II they were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by Nazi Germany. Both islands boast charming historic ports and towns such as St. Helier and St. Peter Port as well as famous former residents like the actress Lillie Langtry (the Jersey Lily) and Victor Hugo, who wrote some of his best-known works while in exile in Guernsey.

Accommodation: 3 nights at La Pomme d’Or or similar.

Overview: Today we will tour the town and port of St. Helier. We will visit the Jersey Museum and see the Occupation Tapestry, made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Island’s liberation, this richly coloured tapestry tells the story of life in Jersey during the Second World War. We will make the short journeys to to Grouville and Gorey, where we will visit La Hogue Bie site and the dramatic Castle of Mont Orgueil respectively.

Accommodation: La Pomme d’Or or similar.

Overview: On Jersey we learn about the island’s history and culture as we explore the capital St. Helier on a guided walking tour. We learn about the occupation of the island with a visit to the Jersey War Tunnels. Built by the Germans during World War II, over 1km of tunnels maze their way beneath Jersey’s surface. We then finish the day with visits to the iconic lighthouse in Corbierre and stop off at the beautiful St Aubins Bay.

Accommodation: La Pomme d’Or or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we visit Elizabeth Castle, which has stood guard over Jersey for more than 300 years. We will have some free time for more exploring before boarding the ferry to Guernsey, where we will explore the bustling cobble-stoned streets of St. Peter Port. We tour the island and view its soaring cliffs and rural backdrops, before making our way to the hotel for a group dinner.

Accommodation: 3 nights at Duke of Richmond Hotel or similar.

Overview: Today we will make our way to the Occupation Museum, which houses a rare collection of original documents and items from the war. We will then continue on to les Vauxbelets, where we will visit the Little Chapel, before having lunch as a group at a local farmhouse restaurant.

Accommodation: Duke of Richmond Hotel or similar.

Overview: We will take a ferry to the neighbouring islet of Sark to visit its Seigneurie Gardens, where we take a scenic carriage ride. The island has no cars and has been traditionally run almost feudally by its Seigneur under powers granted by Elizabeth I. There has been some recent reform and Sark now comes under the government of Guernsey, but it is still a fascinating and tranquil place to visit, known for its dramatic seascapes, abundant wildflowers, and seabirds.

Accommodation: Duke of Richmond Hotel or similar.

Overview: Before we head off to Portsmouth, we have a guided tour of Hauteville House, Victor Hugo’s former home. We also take time to explore the Dorey Centre with entrance to see the Guernsey Tapestry. From Guernsey we take the Ferry to Poole, which takes approximately 3.5 hours. On arrival we’ll transfer to Portsmouth for an overnight stay.

Accommodation: 1 night at Holiday Inn Portsmouth or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we take the ferry to Isle of Wight and on arrival enjoy a full day exploring the island. Late afternoon we transfer to Cowes where we stay overnight, where a meal is provided. The Isle of Wight is England’s largest island, separated from the mainland by the Solent. The island is known for its outstanding natural beauty, its world-famous sailing, and the old world charm of its Victorian seaside resorts. It has a rich history, including a brief status as an independent kingdom in the 15th century. Until 1995, in common with Jersey and Guernsey, the island had its own Governor, most notably Lord Mountbatten. It was home to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and to Queen Victoria, who built her much loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes. The island’s maritime and industrial history encompasses boat building, sail making and the manufacture of flying boats. The island has some exceptional wildlife and is one of the richest locations of dinosaur fossils in Europe. On the Isle of Wight, we learn about the geology and history of this island with a guided tour to include the historic Victorian seaside resorts of Ventnor and Shanklin. We will see the dramatic coastal scenery of the Needles, the old port of Yarmouth, ancient Carisbrooke Castle which once held Charles I prisoner, Newport, the island’s capital, and Cowes, famed for its sailing regatta.

Accommodation: 1 night at Holmwood Hotel or similar.

Overview: In the morning we will visit Queen Victoria’s Osborne House and local sights in Cowes with some free time. We take a coach to Fishbourne Port and then take the ferry to Southhampton with a coach transfer to London. Our farewell dinner this evening will be in a local restaurant.

Accommodation: 1 night at Copthorne Tara or similar.

Overview: Our tour concludes after breakfast.

1
See Brittany’s Standing Stones at Carnac, the fortified port of Malo, and the ancient Concarneau.
2
Explore the Isle of Wight, favoured holiday spot for Britain’s royalty in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
3
Visit and explore the World heritage site Mont St Michel.
4
Explore Normandy’s D-Day Beaches, museums, and monuments.
5
Experience the French atmosphere of the British Channel Islands.

What’s included in our Tour

  • 21 nights hotel accommodation.
  • 21 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 10 dinners.
  • Touring by comfortable modern coach with ferry links between islands.
  • Transport and field trips as indicated.
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
  • Services of a Tour Leader.
  • Gratuities and necessary tips.
  • Detailed tour information booklet.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • Return international airfares and departure taxes.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
mount of Mont Saint Michel, France
View from Monet's house in Giverny
French Odyssey
Mont-Saint-Michel at sunset, France
Channel Isles & England small groups history tour
Carnac, France
Dinan, Ille et Vilaine, Brittany, France
Carnac stones travel sunrise
things to do in France
St. Malo in French Brittany
Jersey port channel islands
Elizabeth Castle , Jersey
Elizabeth Castle, Saint Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, UK.
Le Pulec Wildflowers, Jersey, U.K.
Jersey UK Channel Island
mount of Mont Saint Michel, France