île de Ré, France: the sunshine isle

Why go there?

île de Ré is a dreamy, glamorous island of whitewashed cottages amid rampant wildflowers, fishing boats and seafood restaurants. Ré is reached via a sensational curved two-mile toll bridge from the mainland at La Rochelle. The best time to visit is in sunny spring, before the sandy beaches and pretty harbours are filled by France’s rich and famous in the summer.

What to do

This flat island is only 20 miles long but offers 60 miles of scenic cycle trails, dozens of perfect sandy beaches and ten pretty fishing villages crammed with cafes, galleries and gift shops. If you’ve any time left, there’s horse riding, watersports centres and luxurious day spas too.

île de Ré, France

Where to stay and eat

The cheery little Hotel Les Colonnes (doubles from £56) stands on St Martin’s waterfront overlooking the best view on the island, the historic harbour. You’ll also find the acclaimed L’Ecailler restaurant on this waterfront with its dark-green shuttered windows looking out across the fishing boats.

How to get there

If you arrive in Brittany, St Malo, Mont St Michel and Dinan all deserve a visit. Those travelling down from Cherbourg can explore the old walled town of Fougeres and the beautiful Loire Valley. Whichever way you come, investigate the historic port city of La Rochelle just before leaving the mainland.

The route