The Sunday telegrafh article 22 may 2011

Camping in France: Perfect pitches on the Atlantic coast

Jonathan Knight, the editor of the new Cool Camping guide to French campsites, selects his favourites on the Atlantic coast.

Camping à la ferme in a basic aire naturelle site is one approach to simplified summer living, but L’Étournerie is even smaller than that. It’s a non-classified campsite, which means it must have no more than six pitches. Sisters Jacky and Renée and their families also have a chalet and a stylish gîte, so the site is a truly bijou alternative.

It’s not basic, though, as it has a small heated swimming pool, meals can be ordered and it sits in its own land in the hills of the southern Vendée. The site is run by a Dutch family, who has realised their dream of living in the beautiful light and sweet air near the Atlantic coast and have created a place specifically for people who enjoy the same sort of things.

The Vendée and its sandy beaches traditionally attract mainly French tourists – Jacky and Renée speak French, English and German, as well as Dutch – but the links with Holland go back a long way. Dutch engineers helped build the dykes and drain the marshes of the Marais Poitevin in the 17th century. Now nicknamed “Green Venice”, it’s a maze of waterways and islets best explored in boats, but there are walks and cycle routes, too.

The site also has access to a nearby reservoir, where you can fish, swim, or mess about in boats. Though not designed for sports and leisure, this is a great site to hike around or cool off on hot summer afternoons.

85320 Château Guibert (02 5128 7768; Open early May – end Sept (the gîte is open all year). Two adults plus tent/caravan € 17.50 - € 20, including electricity; additional persons € 4 - € 6.

On site Five to Six pitches, some with shade, all with electric hookups. Clean, bright lavatories and showers, fridge, washing machine and dryer available. Small (heated) pool and boules area. There are also geese, chickens and a goat.

Off site The lake, around 300 yards away, is nearly on site. Guides to walks and cycle routes within 30 miles, plus golf courses and vineyards. Surf beaches on Atlantic coast, but Renée recommends the sheltered sands of La Faute-sur-Mer. “Green Venice”, aka the Marais Poitevin, lies to the south, but for a historical spectacle and family fun experience the Grand Parc Puy du Fou (

Food and drink
Meals available on site, as is local Pineau des Charentes. Bread and croissant deliveries during summer months. Nearest shops two and a half miles away in Mareuil-sur-Lay-Dissais.

No facilities for children.

The Telegraph, 22-5-2011