Lille & the Battlefields of the Somme by First Class rail
Prices from £540 per person
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Visit some of the most important sites and landmarks of the First World War on this superb 4 day holiday by First Class rail, including 3 nights’ B&B in a double/twin room at the luxurious Hotel Barrière (5 star). Based in Lille, you take a private guided tour of the Somme battlefields and have time to discover the attractions of this charming city with its rich French and Flemish history.
Day 1 – London to Lille
Your holiday begins as you arrive at “the cathedral of railways” the magnificent St. Pancras International. Take the time to admire the station’s impressive architecture – including its vast glass roof – then sit back, relax and watch the countryside swish past as you travel by Eurostar to Lille at speeds of up to 186mph. Enjoy the light meal and drinks served on board in Standard Premier service (Eurostar’s First Class for leisure travellers). On arrival at Lille Europe station make your own way the short distance to your hotel for the next 3 nights, the Hotel Barrière (5 star), ideally located for exploring Lille just a short walk from La Grande Place.
Day 2 – The Battlefields of the Somme
Today you are collected from the hotel by your local guide for an insightful private tour of the Western Front at the Somme. This was the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the First World War. Whilst here you visit the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which bears the names of 72,000 missing soldiers. Here you can also visit the fascinating visitor centre which tells more of the story of the massive conflict that took place here. During the day you also visit Lochnagar Crater, a crater which is almost 300ft wide and 70ft deep, formed by the detonation of an explosive-packed mine on 1st July 1916. You continue to Beaumont-Hamel, a memorial site dedicated to the bravery of the Canadian soldiers from the 1st Newfoundland Regiment. A preserved section of the front line can be seen here.
Your private tour also includes the Pozières Memorial, which relates to the events of March to August 1918, when more than 14,000 soldiers fell here before the final Advance to Victory. You also take in the imposing Ulster Tower, which is Northern Ireland’s national war memorial, and the Devonshire Trench Cemetery, which is the final resting place for a number of Allied soldiers.
It is worth remembering that, being a private tour, it is often possible to tailor the visits to align with your particular interests and associations. If there is a particular site or cemetery you would like to visit, then please let us know.
Day 3 – At leisure in Lille
Make the most of a day to explore the delightful city of Lille (Rijsel in Flemish). Perhaps start with a stroll through the attractive old town, where the highlights include the Palais Rihour, the Vieille Bourse, the Cathedral Notre-Dame de la Treille and the Hospice Comtesse, a reminder of the city’s Flemish past. The old town of Lille is a charming area to stroll around and admire the architectural diversity of the city and its pleasant shops.
The main square, Place du Général-de-Gaulle, better known as the “Grand’Place” has many lovely historic houses, like the neo-Flemish headquarters of local newspaper La Voix du Nord and a fountain with the statue of goddess, “la Grande Déesse”. Alternatively you might like to visit one of the renowned art museums the city has to offer. These include the Museé des Beaux Arts (pictured), which contains canvases of Goya, Rubens and other big names in its towering galleries, and the Museum of Modern Art, located in the green leafy suburbs, exhibiting works by Picasso and Modigliani.
Alternatively, you may wish to take in more landmarks of the First World War. Perhaps take the train to nearby Arras and visit the Carrière Wellington, a network of tunnels and galleries where as many as 25,000 Allied soldiers lived under the city during the conflict. You can also learn more about the 1917 Battle of Arras, in which much of the city was damaged. Alternatively, you may prefer to head to Noyelles-sur-Mer and join the heritage Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme steam-hauled railway (pictured below). You can learn more about the role this line played in the war as you take in the attractive coastal scenery.
Day 4 – Homeward bound
After a relaxed start to the day, you make your way back to Lille Europe station to join the Eurostar to London. Take the time to reflect on the sights and experiences of the last few days over your light meal and drinks, as you return to St. Pancras International ahead of the final leg of your homeward journey.