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Verdun Battlefields

Shortest Day - 30 miles
Longest Day - 45 miles
Total: 5 nights, 4 days cycling. c.150 miles total

What you can expect

Verdun is the town that stood between the Germans and victory in 1916; it stood firm and the battle which lasted for 300 days was without doubt the most hellish of the entire war. It's an absorbing and incredible place to visit and one which has more battlefield relics than any other sector of the Western Front.

More detail

To visit the Verdun is to see a landscape barely changed in the last century; it is the most complete battlefield remaining on the Western Front, preserved as a memory to the hundreds of thousands of men who died there during the titanic struggle of 1916. Lasting 300 days and nights, 60 million shells were fired (to put that into perspective, 1.5 million were fired in the week before the Somme offensive) in an area of 20 square kilometres.

In a war of attrition, the German forces aimed to attack France at a place she would defend to the end, thus literally bleeding her dry. Verdun was identified as just this place and France did defend to the end, the famous order 'They Shall Not Pass' setting out the strategy and sacrifice that France would endure to save this small town in the Meuse region east of Reims and south west of the German border.

This tour is centre based and you are led by a knowledgable guide who will take you to all of the important places of the battlefield, both well-known and less so. The cycling is generally very easy with short days in distance, although due to the amount of places to see these are still long days out on the bike. We use a very comfortable hotel in the centre of the town allowing you to explore its delights at the end of the day.

Day 1: Arrive in Verdun, either by car of we collect from the local train station or Meuse station for the high speed TGV. Settle in to your very comfortable hotel before exploring the town on foot with a quick familiarisation walk, followed by supper in the town (included).

Day 2: If you imagine Verdun sits in the centre of a clock face, the area of the 1916 battle runs from 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock. Today, we will be looking at the centre of that section and riding to Douaumont which has three major attractions for the battlefield tourist: the fantastic museum (entry included), the Ossuaire and cemetery, and Douaumont fort. These three are very close together but on the way we pass the ruined village of Fleury. This whole area is now well covered by forest and autumn is a lovely time to visit. Heading north we visit the German front line at the outset of the battle on 21 February 1916 and see where the famous French hero, Colonel Emile Driant, fought and died. Dropping down to the Meuse river we return to Verdun. The evening is free to explore and eat as you wish (dinner not included).

Day 3: North east from the city we ride along the left bank of the Meuse. The attack in this area was launched later, as the initial German offensive lost momentum after the opening fortnight. Again, there are some fascinating sights including the memorial at Mort Homme, Hill 304 and the mine-scarred landscape of Vauquois. Returning to Verdun we will visit the Underground citadel to see how the town survived during the 300 day onslaught. Dinner in town (included).

Day 4: We make a short transfer out into the country of the Argonne, where we look at the battles of 1918. This allows us to explore further afield whilst still enjoying the benefits of thewonderful hotel in Verdun. 

Day 5: The St Mihiel salient bulged out to the south east of Verdun and the Germans wanted to take it so that they could envelope the town, and thus in one stroke force the capitulation of the considerable French forces in the larger Verdun Salient. As such, it had to be held. We will ride south first, before tracking back north along the battle lines visiting Point X and the Eparges ridge with its commanding views over the Woevres plain, thus understanding the strategic importance of this sector. Via forts Vaux and Souville we see how the German advance was halted and then repulsed, with the state of play in December 1916 being not dissimilar to how it had been in February. The landscape is still scarred and for the battlefield visitor Verdun offers a unique insight into the scale of fortifications and destruction seen here, and elsewhere on the western Front; here, however, far less imagination is needed as the battlefield remans much as it was in 1916. Dinner at the hotel’s excellent restaurant (included).

Day 6: Departure after breakfast

Current dates for this tour:

Starts:
02.09.18
Ends:
07.09.18
Rating:
Moderate
Price:
£995

Travel Information

Start: Verdun
Finish: Verdun

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