Cycling London to Paris
The classic Dover/Calais route and the Avenue Verte
By Mike Wells
Guidebook to the London to Paris Bike Ride, including both the 500km traditional route, which makes use of cycle tracks and quiet roads plus a ferry crossing from Dover, and the 400km Avenue Verte, a waymarked route via Newhaven/Dieppe which makes greater use of dedicated cycle paths. Each takes 5-7 days and they can be combined for a round trip.
SeasonsBoth routes can be cycled at any time of year, though April-October is the best period. Off-road sections of Stages 2 (Pilgrims' Way) and 8 (Coulée Verte) of the classic route are best done after a period of dry weather.
CentresThe classic route passes through London, Rochester, Ashford, Folkestone, Dover, Calais, Desvres, Hesdin, Abbeville, Amiens, Beauvais, Chantilly and Paris. The Avenue Verte passes through London, Crawley, East Grinstead, Newhaven, Dieppe, Gournay-en-Bray, Gisors, Cergy and Paris.
DifficultyBoth routes are straightforward, with gently rolling hills and a few short ascents (the maximum altitude reached is only 204m). City street riding in London and Paris can be avoided by using trains to reach the edge of town. Much of the route follows dedicated off-road cycle tracks along old railway track-beds and canal/river towpaths. Where roads are used, these are mostly quiet country lanes or suburban streets. Mainly asphalt or compacted gravel surfaces in good condition, suitable for hybrid or touring cycles. Off-road options in Stages 2 and 8 of the classic route are suitable for mountain bikes at all times and hybrids or tourers in dry weather.
Must SeeThe two cities of London and Paris, with their many tourist sights, cultural offerings and gastronomic opportunities; the maritime centre of Greenwich; the North Downs with the Pilgrims' Way and White Cliffs of Dover; the Wealden landscape of Sussex and Kent (England) and the Bray (France); the medieval French towns of Calais, Hesdin, Montreuil, Abbeville and Gisors; the Somme and Oise valleys; the cathedral cities of Rochester, Amiens and Beauvais; the chateau of Chantilly; the limestone plateau of the Vexin
This guidebook describes two cycle routes between London and Paris: the 490km 'classic route' and the 387km Avenue Verte. Passing through rolling chalk downland and characterful market towns, the trails link these two great cities with their grand buildings, famous museums and iconic monuments. Ideal both for cycle-touring holidays and charity challenges, both routes are well within the capabilities of cyclists of moderate fitness and will generally take between five days and a week – meaning that a round trip, including a few days sightseeing in Paris, can easily be accomplished in a fortnight.
The routes are described in both directions, with the primary route description running from London to Paris. The classic route is presented in eleven stages; the Avenue Verte in nine, with clear step-by-step directions accompanied by mapping, elevation profiles and notes on local points of interest. A comprehensive introduction covers all the practicalities, such as Channel crossings, accommodation and what to take, and also offers a fascinating historical overview of southern England and northern France. A summary of facilities, useful contacts and an English-French glossary can be found in the appendices.
The classic route crosses the Channel between Dover and Calais and makes use of quiet country roads, rural tracks and dedicated cycle paths, with a number of off-road sections. Developed to celebrate the 2012 London Olympics, the Avenue Verte is fully waymarked and makes maximum use of Sustrans off-road cycle tracks in England and voies vertes (rural cycle routes) in France: it uses the slightly longer Newhaven-Dieppe crossing. Cycling from London to Paris draws on the best of both worlds: England and France; the bright lights and vibrant attractions of the city and the delightful scenery of Kent, Sussex, Hauts-de-France and Normandy. The journey offers a wonderful cycling experience, as well as a unique insight into the cultures of both nations.
Getting there and back
Food and drink
Amenities and services
What to take
Safety and emergencies
About this guide
Classic route (via Dover–Calais)
Stage 1 Tower of London to Rochester
Stage 2 Rochester to Ashford
Stage 3 Ashford to Dover
Stage 4 Calais to Desvres
Stage 5 Desvres to Hesdin
Stage 6 Hesdin to Abbeville
Stage 7 Abbeville to Amiens
Stage 8 Amiens to Beauvais
Stage 9 Beauvais to Chantilly
Stage 10 Chantilly to St Denis market
Stage 11 St Denis market to Eiffel Tower
Avenue Verte (via Newhaven–Dieppe)
Stage 1 London Eye to Redhill
Stage 2 Redhill to Eridge
Stage 3 Eridge to Newhaven
Stage 4 Dieppe to Neufchâtel-en-Bray
Stage 5 Neufchâtel-en-Bray to Gournay-en-Bray
Stage 6 Gournay-en-Bray to Gisors
Stage 7 Gisors to Neuville-sur-Oise
Stage 8 Neuville-sur-Oise to St Denis station
Stage 9 St Denis station to Notre Dame cathedral
Appendix A Facilities summary tables
Appendix B Tourist information offices
Appendix C Youth hostels
Appendix D Useful contacts
Appendix E Language glossary
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pretty much step by step accuracy that [is] hard to fault
on the day that the hot chillee london to paris ride left imber sports club in south london at stupid o'clock this morning, it is particularly appropriate that i am able to review this recent publication from the excellent range of guides from cicerone press, dealing as it does with two routes designed to get you from one city to the other. having ridden the hot chillee version last year, i don't mind admitting that at no time did i have the faintest idea of where i was; i simply followed everyone else following the lead car, which in turn drove through red lights, roundabouts, road crossings and through road junctions, all closed by the accompanying motorcycle outriders.
sadly, the cicerone publication does not come with a free motorcycle escort.
last year's hot chillee route appears to have been remarkably similar in intent to the first of the two explored in this guide, particularly in its parcours including the city of amiens, with its stunning cathedral, a view of which i discovered was mine for the taking on opening the curtains in the hotel room. if you're ever struggling for a convincing reason to undertake a ride from london to paris, amiens cathedral ought to be the clincher. taken in conjunction with the arc de triomphe and the eiffel tower, you can subsequently park the bike in the shed on arriving home and retire as a happy cyclist.
until the next guidebook arrives, of course.
in common with all cicerone guides, this publication is designed to hold your hand on leaving from either london's tower hill station or, perchance, the london eye, the starting point for the avenue verte, a route conceived to celebrate the 2012 olympics. the latter departs british soil from the port of newhaven, near brighton, while the former, more traditional means of getting to the eiffel tower, travels through ashford and folkestone, en-route to dover. the latter disembarks at calais on france's northern coast; the green route takes the itinerant, yet intrepid cyclist to the port of dieppe.
mike wells' narrative, offering pretty much step by step accuracy that it strikes me, would be hard to fault, opens his guide by providing a historical account of the regions through which velocipedinal activity is about to take place. hot chillee take all the potential strain from the peloton by carrying everyone's luggage from départ to overnight stay, having booked each individual hotel along the way, including rather sumptuous surroundings in central paris. however, should you prefer more rustic means of accommodations, such as bed and breakfast, camping or hostels, advice is provided to metaphorically and literally point you in the right direction.
it has often occurred to me to ask, when perusing other guides in the cicerone series, just how one might return homeward without actually retracing each page from back to front. in the case of the london to paris guide, return by eurostar from gare du nord station or by air is dealt with, prior to sending you frenchwards. the author has also the perspicacity to deal with the subject of road safety, a different prospect on each side of the channel (and how), along with suggesting what to eat, what to wear and what sort of bicycle might be the most appropriate. were i attempting either route under my own steam, i'd be less than inclined to ride the rather superb campag equipped sarto carbon fibre that put a smile on my face last year. in that particular case, the only cargo transported was a selection of gels in a back pocket.
the guide is copiously illustrated with both images of scenes to be viewed along the way and highly detailed maps. it's perhaps worth my pointing out that the avenue verte undercuts its compatriot by half: 240 miles against 490, meaning that once you've completed the shorter one, you can start planning for the other. twice the fun for one price. there are several organised london to paris charity rides that exist alongside the hot chillee version, with every likeihood that participants are as oblivious as was i, to their exact whereabouts. if that's not the way you roll these days, mike wells' potential ministrations on your behalf offer a more than viable and enjoyable alternative.
the washingmachine post, thursday 26 july 2018
All you need to plan and enjoy an iconic cycle ride between London and Paris.
Followers of Cicerone cycle guides may well recognise the name Mike Wells. This is his seventh cycling guide for the renowned publisher.However, this is a bit of a departure. Mike Wells loves river routes. The Danube. the Loire, the Rhine, the Rhone, the Moselle, have all been within his scope (all reviewed on this site). This latest opus eschews source to sea riding in favour of starting and finishing in two of Europe’s capital cities. Both are popular destinations for cyclists. Even better, you get two routes for the price of one, offering you a single guide to a round trip, if you have the time.
London-Paris is a popular choice for charity rides with a challenge. Guides like this are, however, aimed very much at the touring cyclist, though how long you take and how great the ratio of cycling to visiting is your choice. The guide is divided into four sections; "Background" (including the what, wherefore and advice on bikes, when to go, ferries and trains, and so on); "The Classic Route" (Mike’s take on the best leisure route using a ferry from Dover to Calais); "The Avenue Verte" (A British/French collaborative signed route, crossing the Channel between Newhaven and Dieppe); and a series of appendices with useful information.
In reverse order. The days of extensive lists have been swept away by the mass of information on the internet and ready access to it whilst on the road. Not only helpful in keeping weight down, but less likely to be wildly out of date. The summary tables of distance for each stage of the two routes also contains an indication of where accommodation of different types, repairs, refreshment and access to a railway, are to be had. the other appendices cover tourist information, youth hostels, useful contacts - such as ferry companies and Eurostar - and a basic glossary of useful terms. So, useful both before an during the ride.
It would be perfectly possible to use this guide for planning and to follow either of the routes without carrying any other map. Just the right size for most cycle jersey rear pockets. Once bought, up-to-date route files can be downloaded form the Cicerone website. The Avenue Verte is signed (sections of NCN in the UK and as a specific route in France). A guide, published by Sustrans, was reviewed here a few months back. As you would expect, the route uses plenty of country lanes and traffic-free cycle routes along old railways - Voies Verte, in France. The Classic Route is a different cup of tea when it comes to finding the way. Utilising some sections of different signed routes as well as none, you’d expect to be fishing the guide out of your jersey pocket more often than on the Avenue Verte.
Mapping for both is excellent, in conjunction and the clear written instructions - as you’d expect. Mike suggests using a tourer or hybrid bike, pointing out that a pure road machine would struggle on either route. He goes further, pointing out that there are sections which will be very tricky after heavy rain. In all but one case - where the Classic Route coincides with the Pilgrim’s Way - alternative road routes are given. To avoid the Pilgrim’s Way, you would need an appropriate map to find a suitable alternative - and be prepared for more leg-work amongst the steep hills of the North Downs.
The routes are divided into convenient sections. These are generally shorter than in Mike’s other guides. Of course, sections can be combined or split. It would be quite possible for a moderately fit leisure cyclist to combine the two routes into a satisfying round trip, without biting of more than could be chewed and leaving plenty of time for exploration, over two weeks.
In that context, it is very useful that the route directions are also given in reverse, at the end of each section. Notes on places of interest and so on, are only given once - in the London to Paris direction. The Background section is neatly done. All the usual information is there, of course. However, the introductions to the history and natural environment focus on similarities and differences on the two sides of the channel. Chalk downland, cloth, beer, and cider, are far from all Normandy and Picardy have in common with Kent and Sussex.
One thing we do not have in common with Normandy, for better or worse, is Andouillettes. Our guide describes these as “coarse sausages made from pork intestines with a strong taste and distinctive odour. Not a dish for the faint hearted.” This is moderate language. Having eaten one at lunchtime on the first day of my first cycle tour of Normandy, I’d go further: this is a very moderate description.
With this guide in your pocket you’ll have all you need to plan and enjoy an iconic cycle ride between London and Paris. With so much to see, you should have happy memories. Eat Andouillettes, and your memories will be even stronger - possibly, positively pungent.
Steve Dyster, Seven Day Cyclist
A comprehensive, blow-by-blow account of not one but two routes
London to Paris is a well-travelled charity route, but don't let that put you off doing it. Mike Wells's guide provides a comprehensive, blow-by-blow account of not one but two routes linking the two capitals: The Classic Dover-Calais route and the Avenue Verte.
Having ridden both in the past, Mike's routing brought back fond memories of my trip and will help anyone planning these rides in either direction.
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Mike Wells has been a keen long-distance walker and cyclist for over 20 years. He has walked all the major British trails, the GR5 through the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean and has explored the Italian Dolomites' Alta Via routes. He has also walked in Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Norway and Chilean Patagonia.
Mike has cycled the C2C route across northern England as well as the Camino and Ruta de la Plata to Santiago de la Compostela. He has completed an end to end traverse of Cuba, a circumnavigation of Iceland and a trip across Lapland to the North Cape.
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