Dune du Pilat visit – Gujarat-Mestras, France

Today was Sand Dune day! Not just any old sand dune, the Dune du Pilat is the largest in Europe at approximately 115m above sea level and apparently still growing at 1.5m a year eastward, 500m wide east to west and 2.7km long. So, it is on of those must-see items along the way.

Our campsite is approximately 8.5 miles away by cycle track the whole way. So we waited for the weather to heat up a little and headed off. Google maps usually has the cycle tracks marked but it does not seem to here, we have a local cycle track map from reception but it does not show much else, so working out how to get them is a bit tricky. Nonetheless Kevin had deduced from our recent trips the general direction and off we all went, Lizzy and Lola in their bike seats. The signage along the way was a bit tricky, unless you wanted to go to Arcachon, in which case it seemed to be sign posted from every junction. After a few stops to compare google maps and our cycle route map we eventually picked up signs for the Dune and were pulling into the car park.

The reception area is being renovated at the moment so there was a bit of a road works / building site feel to the entrance. However Dune was well sign posted and there were dozens of people to follow. During the summer, 150-160 steps are added to help you get to the top, but being winter these have been packed away. Luckily, we had advance training from a mountain guide in Iceland used to mountains in the snow who made steps with his footprints for us to get up a dune. So we made our way up in the compacted footprints of those ahead of us. It really is impressively steep and it’s hard to imagine how this have formed naturally. The view from the top across Arcachon Bay and along the dune though is worth the hike and the sun came out for us for some photos at the top.

We then joined the many families having a picnic on the sand at the top to admire the view. You can see across to Cap Ferret across the bay. As ex-sailors the sight of the boats navigating the swirling channels of sand banks below was good to see. The wave crashing heavily on the outside sandbank providing a protected channel, albeit one which likely moves with the season.

Considering it is 11th November, even if a National Holiday here for Armistice Day, it was pretty busy. So we decided to head back to the calm of Clouline after our picnic.

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