Catching Ferries to France

Ferries To France

The notion of catching ferries to France has become an important one in the United Kingdom during the past half century. The era of ferries sailing to France began in earnest in 1965 when the first P&O ferry crossed the straights between Dover and Calais, capable of carrying cars, lorries and caravans. The continent, for perhaps the first time in history, stood open for British tourists like never before.

There are a number of different destinations from which you can catch ferries to France. The principle ports which serve the continent are Dover, Hull and Portsmouth and from these coastal towns you can be setting foot on Europe proper within a few small hours.
Catching ferries to France opens up a world of different possibilities. You can visit the beautiful French beaches, enjoy the soaring vistas of the channel and plunge yourself into more than a millennium of vivid history. Here are some tips on historical destinations:

1. Etaples

The northern French town of Etaples is one that has importance significance to the English Tudors. It was here in 1492, that Henry VII, father of Henry VIII, signed an important treaty with France ensuring peace between the two nations for the immediate future. The treaty is generally regarded to have been a spectacular early diplomatic success for the Tudors.

2. Battle of Arras

The Battle of Arras was one of the most significant of the battles that the British Expeditionary Force was involved in during the First World War. It was forced mainly by British and Canadian troops against the Germans who were deeply entrenched at the Hindenburg line. It is chiefly remembered for a number of phases, such as the Battle for Vimy Ridge and the successive Battles of the Scarpe.

3. Battle of Waterloo

Fought on Sunday 18th June 1815, the Battle of Waterloo stands perhaps as one of the most important battles in British history. The composite forces of Napoleon Bonaparte met the seventh coalition led by the Duke of Wellington in what the Iron Duke later referred to as ‘a close run thing.’ The site of the conflict is now marked by the famous grassy-green Lions’ Hillock.

4. St Quentin

The Spanish won a significant victory at St Quentin over the French in 1557 as part of the Franco-Hapsburg War. Further battles ensued at the same site during the First World War, notably in 1914 as the French stoutly attempted to fend off the advancing Germans and their swift Schlifflen Plan.

5. The evacuations at Dunkirk

Between 27th May and 5th June 1940 somewhere around 132,000 retreating allied troops were rescued from the beaches at Dunkirk as the invading NAZI forces overran France. The troops were rescued by a hastily assembled flotilla of boats that included fishing vessels and pleasure boats. Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the event as a ‘miracle of deliverance.’

6. Signing of the Maastricht Treaty

In 1992, The Maastricht Treaty was signed at this Dutch town, which laid out the future aspirations of the European Union. The treaty proved to be a controversial one around Europe and its ratification was fought with difficulty in Denmark, France and the United Kingdom. It signalled the beginning of a bitter European feud within the British Conservative Party.

7. Charleroi

Charleroi is one of the largest cities in Belgium and it was the scene of heavy fighting during the First World War because of its strategic importance on the Sambre. Charleroi is remembered for its famous belfry which is included in the list of World Heritage Sites and several fine museums.

8. Abbeville Conference

On 12th September 1939 an important conference took place in Abbeville, attended by dignitaries from the British and French government who decided that it was too late to send assistance to Poland after the German invasion as the Polish was already on the verge of defeat.

9. Fortress of Sedan

Sedan is known across Europe for its castle which is claimed to be the largest fortified medieval structure in Europe. It is the only relic of the extended fortifications that stood strong around the town. The fortress was originally constructed in 1424 and still towers proudly over the surrounding area today.

10. The Battle of Mons

The Battle of Mons was the first battle fought by the British in the First World War on the 23rd August 1914, just three weeks after the breakout of hostility. It occurred as British troops found themselves sandwiched between the advancing German forces and their target: Paris.

11. Battles at Ypres

Mud, blood and slaughter are linked in the public conscious with the Battle of Passchendaele which took place around the village of Ypres in 1917. Its brutality was only equalled on the Somme and during the French offensive at Verdun.

12. Tournai

Tournai is the oldest city in Belgium and is famous for its cathedral and churches. Tournai has been a place of significance for more than a millennium and each year the ‘Great Procession’ takes place each year on the second Sunday of September.

13. Ghent

Ghent is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Flanders. Ghent was the site of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent which formally ended the war between Britain and United States of America in 1812.

14. Bruges

Bruges is a Flanders city, full of waterways and canals that leads it to sometimes being known as the ‘Venice of the North.’ It has a rich heritage and it heavily connected with the wool trade that has flourished in Flanders for centuries. It is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the north of Europe.