France 19: Dives-sur-Mer and Cabourg

In August 2019, we had a trip to Normandy, staying at Camping Village La Vallée. This is part 2 in the series, part 1 looked at our campsite, Camping Village La Vallée and the town of Houlgate.

While Houlgate was the closest town to where we were staying, the towns of Dives-sur-Mer and Cabourg were very close by, just along the coast. We visited both towns a couple of times on our bikes during our stay in Houlgate.

Dives-sur-Mer

To get to Dives-sur-Mer, we went along the path that runs alongside the coastal road and railway line. The road was pretty narrow and busy, and understandably, we didn’t fancy riding down it with the kids.

Walking along the coastal path to Dives-sur-Mer, no space to cycle, but pretty fantastic views

We’d been told it was fine to cycle along the coastal path though, which we did at first, but got a few comments, so ended up walking most of the way. There’s definitely demand for providing a better walking and cycling route from Houlgate to Dives-sur-Mer and Cabourg, but I guess it’s quite a tricky spot to do something.

Entrance to Port Guillaume, spot the Bayeux Tapestry

The port of Dives-sur-Mer is famous for being the starting point of William the Conqueror’s campaign to claim the throne of England, something we find out more about when we visited Bayeux (more on that to come).

Being a strategic port of military importance, it’s seen a few naval battles over the years. Nowadays though, it houses the rather upmarket Port Guillaume marina, housing many apartments, yachts and sailing boats.

Some pretty fancy boats at Port Guillaume

We passed through the port a few times, heading to and from the bridge over the River Dives. Unfortunately, it’s a footbridge only, so we had to get off the bikes and walk. It’s quite a busy bridge too, so crossing with the bikes was a little awkward.

Crossing the footbridge over the river Dives

There’s a road bridge you can cycle over too, but it’s a bit of a detour if you’re heading to the beach. A few times we went over the road bridge as it was a bit less hassle, even if it was a bit longer. There’s quite a decent walking and cycling path to and from the road bridge with pleasant views of the river, so it’s a quite pleasant going that way, especially in the sunshine.

Cabourg

Crossing either bridge over the river Dives takes you to Cabourg, with the seafront being just a short distance from the footbridge. The beach at Cabourg is much longer than the one at Houlgate and Cabourg is a bigger town.

The beach at Cabourg

We ended up at the beach in Cabourg a couple of times as we enjoyed it there. It did get a little busy, but there was lots of space, so it never felt particularly crowded. As with Houlgate, the beach is flat and the sea was pretty gentle, so it was great with the kids.

No cycling along the busier part of the seafront

There’s no cycling along the busier areas of the seafront, so you have to get off and walk. This was a little annoying, though there’s a parallel road not far away that’s a lot quicker, if you want to head to the other end of the beach. That road isn’t too busy, though there’s a lot of parked cars, so you’ve got to watch you don’t end up in the door zone, with cars overtaking.

Two-way cycleway at Cabourg beach

Once you reach Boulevard des Diablotins, a two-way cycleway starts along the seafront. This was pretty good, mostly separate from the footpath and generally clear of people walking. At the time we came across cycleway, it was the first bit of dedicated cycling infrastructure we’d seen! Just a shame it doesn’t go the full length of the seafront.

There’s also a pretty good two-way cycleway along Boulevard des Diablotins, going away from the beach. This carries on onto Avenue des Tulipes, though ends abruptly at a roundabout, which is a bit of a shame. Some of the busier roads around Cabourg aren’t great for cycling with kids. They tend to be quite narrow with no cycling infrastructure to speak of. It’s better to seek out the smaller roads, that are generally pretty quiet.

A busy main street in Cabour, Avenue des Tulipes

We thought the town centre in Cabourg was really pleasant. It’s mostly based around Avenue de la Mer, one of the streets radiating from the beach where the casino and hotel are. This street was pedestrianised at the time we were there, but it looked like that might not be the case all the time, possibly just for the summer.

People queuing for ice cream on Avenue des Tulipes

It was a lovely place for a wander, especially when the market was on. We stopped at one of the many restaurants that spill out onto the street, and sat out for a meal. This was fantastic on a warm sunny afternoon, with people wandering past.

Something I was interested to see on the streets behind the seafront on and around Avenue de Dives, was what looked like a pretty substantial SuDS-type landscaping scheme. There were large beds of plants with drainage channels to catch the run-off from the road. The green car parking bays were built to allow the water to drain through and not collect on the surface.

Having a look at how this location used to look on Google Street View, you can see the road has been narrowed and made one-way. The whole area has been traffic calmed in a sustainable way, with varied planting and drainage.

Riding back to Houlgate meant following the route we came, across one of the two bridges and along the coastal path. We did try to vary the route a little, but it mainly involved crossing the river and going along the coast.

Back to part 1 – Camping Village La Vallée and Houlgate

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