Published by Lyn on 12 May 2013
We checked out Eurocamp's cycling facilities at its campsite near Le Bugue in the Dordogne.
Around the time I was working on the new section for accommodation for cyclists, I started chatting to the guys at Eurocamp, a UK-based company which offers on-site mobile homes, cabins and tents (some of them those posh safari-type ones) on campsites across Europe.
They offer what I call 'safe camping', which means it can be organised and booked ahead (in English, although they also have Dutch and German sites), and they have staff on site to help book local tours and coordinate kids' activities.
These are generally pre-planned camping holidays, as opposed to the types of places you randomly show up, although they do also cater for independent travellers with their own tents or campervans.
Eurocamp sets its accommodation up inside existing parks, meaning you can use their services and the support of their staff, but also take advantage of the facilities offered to other parc guests, such as restaurants, playgrounds and pools. Increasingly, however, they are offering more of their own cycling facilities, such as local tours by bike and free learn-to-ride sessions for kids. The latter is an idea I hope will catch on at other campsites because campgrounds are perfect places to learn to ride – lots of space and mostly traffic-free.
We've been staying with Eurocamp thisi week at the St Avit Loisirs campsite, near the tiny village of St Avit de Vialard, just north of Le Bugue in the Vézère Valley of the Dordogne. We've rented a 3-bedroom cabin – the forecast was bleak and the thought of a toddler confined to a small family tent didn't correlate with our idea of a relaxing family break. On rainier days, our 5-year-old (who previously could not swim) has been taking advantage of the free swimming lessons in the indoor pool and, thanks to swimming instructor Rosie, is now able to butterfly – albeit not quite to Olympic standard.
Overall, we've found the facilities here great. At the main reception, we picked up a map of two local bike routes that start in the village – the 6.7km Boucle de la Font du But and the 7.1km Boucle de Vialard – plus the Eurocamp staff produced a folder of additional routes of varying lengths scouted by their staff.
We've hired mountain bikes from the main parc reception and, while they are fine for 10-mile trundles, the quality of the bikes differs and you'd want a hybrid or a touring bike rather than a VTT for longer routes if you were using the campsite for fixed base riding. Child seats are available, however, as well as 14- and 16-inch kids' bikes – great for family riding (although I'd always recommend the provision of a trailer and a tag-along to give families the option of exploring farther afield each day).
At some Eurocamp parcs, you can hire bikes directly from their staff (as opposed to the main reception), and also take guided bike rides of the local area as part of their Lifecycle programme. Their cycling programme may soon be expanded – good news for cyclists arriving without their own wheels, or those who need more support.
All in all, I've been pretty impressed with the Eurocamp offering, and always impressed to hear of accommodation providers – be they campgrounds, gites, hotels or B&Bs – who want to make it easy for cyclists to enjoy riding in their area. If you know of a cycle-friendly place in France, drop me a line (email@example.com or leave a note below) and I'll see if they, too, want to be featured in our Where to stay section.