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Thread: France, Spain, Gibraltar, ferries and ports

  1. #1
    Trailblazer Tim Cullis's Avatar
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    France, Spain, Gibraltar, ferries and ports

    Overland Routes through France



    The easiest and quickest way to pass through France is to use the autoroute (motorway) network. Many autoroutes in France are toll roads, however some are not, and there also is an increasing number of motorway-standard toll-free dual carriageways.

    The routes described below make as much use of toll-free roads as possible taking you from either Calais or Cherbourg to the Spanish border near Biarritz.

    toll = autoroute with tolls
    free = toll-free autoroute
    dual = motorway-standard dual carriageway
    single = single with perhaps some dual

    From Calais
    A16 free to Boulogne
    A16 toll to Abbeville
    A28 free to Rouen
    N154 dual to Chartres
    N10 single to Tours
    A10 toll to Poitiers
    N10 dual to Angouleme
    N10 dual to Bordeaux
    N10 dual to near Bayonne
    A63 toll to Spanish frontier

    From Cherbourg
    N13 dual, then N174 dual to A84 junction
    A84 free to Rennes
    N137 dual to Nantes
    N249 dual and N149 single to Poitiers
    N10 dual to Bordeaux
    N10 dual to near Bayonne
    A63 toll to Spanish frontier

    The Formule 1 chain provides inexpensive basic accommodation and the download files below include both of the above routes plus selected Formule 1 hotels along the way.

    GPS route and waypoint downloads (right click, save as...)
    Mapsource file
    GPS eXchange format
    Last edited by Tim Cullis; 12-02-11 at 02:35.
    "For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
    and enlarges the world in which you live,"
    Irving Mather (1892-1966)

  2. #2
    Trailblazer Tim Cullis's Avatar
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    French and Spanish Ferry Routes



    Services are subject to change, especially in the winter low season, so use this as a basic grounding in the routes and check them out for yourself on sites such as http://www.aferry.to.

    Coming from Ireland, the best route appears to be Irish Ferries Rosslare to Roscoff (in green above) with the option of then either riding through France or taking the LD Lines St Nazaire to Gijón (in blue) to northern Spain, then ride down the western route through Spain. Celtic Link Ferries operate a Rosslare to Cherbourg route.

    In addition to the Channel Tunnel and all the ferries around Dover-Calais area, there's a number of other cross-channel routes from England to France. Two of them that might be useful are Newhaven to Dieppe (sometimes are exorbitantly expensive) and Portsmouth to Cherbourg. There's also ferries to Le Havre and to Caen/Ouistreham.

    Santander/Bilbao route
    This is the easiest and the delux route to northern Spain. Run by Brittany Ferries the ships leave from Portsmouth or Plymouth in the UK and land 24 hours later at Santander or Bilbao in Spain. The cost might initially seem expensive but in addition to saving fuel, you don't have to buy a cross-channel ticket, you save one overnight accommodation in France, plus you save on the 'hidden' costs of servicing/tyres/depreciation.

    More services from 2014
    LD Lines has started a low-cost Pool to Gijon and Poole to Santander service.

    Probably in response to the above, Britanny Ferries has started an 'economie' service running Portsmouth to Santander.
    "For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
    and enlarges the world in which you live,"
    Irving Mather (1892-1966)

  3. #3
    Trailblazer Tim Cullis's Avatar
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    Overland routes through Spain



    Spanish autovias with an 'A' prefix such as A7 are non-toll roads, whilst autopistes with an 'AP' prefix such as AP7 are toll roads. R-prefix are also toll roads. Spanish toll roads are expensive for motorbikes as—unlike the UK or France—they are charged the same as cars. The routes below avoid toll motorways for most of the time, the exception is the AP7 along the Costa del Sol, see later note.

    Stop overnight at one of the excellent hostels in the 'via del servicios' (motorway service roads). Typical cost of €22-30 single ensuite room with TV and aircon. Bar and restaurant downstairs. Evening meal (menu del dia) might be as low as €10 including a bottle of wine!

    The winter weather conditions in central Spain are far colder than many people realise. If you check on the forecast for Santander it might be quite good, but as you leave the coast and start to climb into the mountains, the temperature plummets. Instead, you should use the forecast for places like Valladolid as a guideline.

    The GPS download files below include a number of hostels and hotels as well as waypoints for the new M50 Madrid peripheral motorway. All these routes are fairly scenic and considering they are main roads/motorways they are fairly interesting.

    French border to Burgos
    A8 west from the border then south on the N1 dual carriageway. For the final 50km from Miranda de Ebro to Burgos you have the choice of the N1 or the AP1 toll motorway. After Burgos follow directions for Santander to Algeciras.

    Santander to Algeciras
    Exit Santander on the A67 the follow signs for the N623 to Burgos which is a mix of single and dual carriageway. At Burgos take the A1 (Autovia del Norte) south to Madrid.

    Use the M50 peripheral motorway round Madrid then head south on the A4 (Autovia del Sur) signposted Jaen and Bailén. About 200km south of Madrid is Despeñaperros, an extremely curvy downhill section and in the same area is a brilliant coffee stop called Casa Pepé (waypointed) which is for history buffs is a timetravel machine into the Franco era with all kinds of francoist paraphernalia. It's only accessible on the way south near the top of Despeñaperros.

    Bailén is an otherwise insignificant town north of Jaen where the route splits and you can either follow the A4 via Cordoba or, as suggested here, the A44 via Granada. At Granada head south west to Malaga on the A92. Between Málaga and Algeciras you have the choice of the A7 (free autovia) or the AP7 (toll autopiste). The A7 is by far the most dangerous bit of road you will face on your Moroccan adventure and is often referred to as the 'Autovia del Muerte' (death road) so I would advise spending some money and taking the AP7.

    Algeciras to Santander
    Known as the 'Ruta de Plata', I've ridden this western route a few times and with the substantial road improvements in 2006-2009 much of it is now autovia and just as fast as going through central Spain via Madrid. There aren't so many roadside hotels and hostels as the central route and I'd appreciate any additional waypoints to include in the download files.

    This includes a diversion via Ronda and the Via Verde (Green Way). The directions after this are really easy--you join the A66 near Seville, then at Salamanca take the A62. North of Valladolid you take the A67 and this leads you all the way into Santander.

    Two interesting places to stop on the way are Merida and Caceres. Merida was founded as a retirement city for veterans of the 5th and 10th Roman Legions and has some of the best Roman remains outside of Rome, including an aquaduct, the longest Roman bridge in the world, theatre, amphitheatre, temples, etc. Caceres further to the north is the best-preserved medieval city in Spain.

    GPS route and waypoint downloads (right click, save as...)
    Mapsource file
    GPS eXchange format

    The above files also include waypoints in the Algeciras area for Lidl (beer), Decathlon (equipment and clothes), Casa Bernado Macías (inexpensive chalet accommodation) and hotels Marina Victoria and Reina Cristina.
    "For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
    and enlarges the world in which you live,"
    Irving Mather (1892-1966)

  4. #4
    Trailblazer Tim Cullis's Avatar
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    Visiting Gibraltar


    Views across the Straits of Gibraltar

    Gibraltar is an anglicisation of 'Jebel Tarik' or Tarik's mountain and is named after Tarik ibn Zeyad, the Moorish general who, in the 8th century, conquered much of Spain.

    At the time I lived in Spain in the 1970s, General Franco had closed the border with Gibraltar. I would sometimes ride my TriBSA 750 (cafe racer with a Triumph engine/BSA frame) up to the gates for a glimpse of a British-uniformed bobby and think to myself "there's Watney's Red Barrel on the other side." I'm glad to say my tastes have matured somewhat since then.

    If you have the time to spare Gibraltar is well worth a visit and you can fill up with cheap fuel whilst you are there. On a motorbike you can bypass the queues for the border formalities. Make sure you have pounds with you as the euro exchange rate in shops is terrible. Also make sure you don't get landed with any Gibralter pounds in your change as you can't use these back in the UK.



    For me, the interesting area is the Upper Rock which has more than 30 miles of tunnels. You need to buy a ticket and this gives you access to
    - St Michael's Cave
    - The Siege Tunnels
    - Moorish Castle
    - Devil's Gap Battery

    More information at the Discover Gibraltar website.


    The Gibraltar Regiment marching through the city


    More photos shortly
    "For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
    and enlarges the world in which you live,"
    Irving Mather (1892-1966)

  5. #5
    Trailblazer Tim Cullis's Avatar
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    Ferries to Morocco



    From central Europe
    As you can see from the above map, if you are coming from central Europe there are a number of ferries that will save you considerable overland travel with routes from northern Italy, southern France and north east Spain. For example, the Sète (southern France) to Nador ferry takes 36 hours (two nights and a day) and including accommodation and food costs around €450. These routes are particularly useful in the winter months when riding through Spain can be cold.

    Central Southern Spain
    I came down the coast from Barcelona one year and then used the overnight Almeria to Melilla ferry so that I could explore eastern Morocco. The Malaga to Melilla ferry has been used by many Dakar rallies. Melilla is a Spanish enclave on the African coast, another destination choice is Nador which is the Moroccan port next to Melilla.

    As of 2011 there's a new line running from Motril to Melilla, see Naviera Armas website. Motril is halfway between Malaga and Almeria, and lies south of Granada just off the A44 motorway.

    Straits of Gibraltar
    This is the shortest and fastest crossing to Morocco. You can travel from either Algeciras or Tarifa in southern Spain, landing at either Ceuta, Tanger Med or Tanger City ports. There is also a Gibraltar to Tanger Med service operated by FRS which seems to run mainly on Fridays. Ceuta is a Spanish enclave so there are no passport or customs formalities when you land, instead you then go through a land border a few km to the south. If you travel to one of the Tanger ports, passport control is performed onboard and customs clearance is carried out when you land.

    There are half a dozen companies plying these routes with both fast JetFerries and slower/cheaper traditional ferries, including Acciona, Trasmediterranea, Balearia and Nautas Al Maghreb). The cheapest JetFerry crossing to Morocco for vehicle owners currently appears to be Acciona from Algeciras to Tanger Med; you can check out ferry times and costs at aferry.to. The Tarifa to Tanger City route is operated by FRS.



    The new port of 'Tanger Mediterranean' opened spring 2010 in a phased introduction. As from May, all ferries from Algeciras that previously went to 'Tanger City' instead landed at 'Tanger Med' which, seeing as it is a shorter crossing, results in a faster transit. Ferries from Tarifa, Sète, Barcelona and Genoa will for the moment continue to land at Tanger City, but it is intended these will also transfer to Tanger Med or other ports, leaving Tanger City as predominantly a terminal for cruise liners.

    The map above shows the new ferry route in red. The road links from Tanger Med are excellent with a new motorway (shown in dark blue) connecting the port to the existing A1 motorway heading south to Rabat. Heading east is a new four-lane highway to Fnediq (next to Ceuta) that then connects to the new motorway to Tetouan.


    Vehicles unload at the right and drive 1km or so to the customs area above. In the left distance you can see the passenger terminal with banks, insurance offices and ferry company sales booths.

    Foot passengers would be better advised to cross to Tanger City or Ceuta.
    "For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
    and enlarges the world in which you live,"
    Irving Mather (1892-1966)

  6. #6
    Trailblazer Tim Cullis's Avatar
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    I'm planning my next foray into Morocco, taking the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in mid May, hoping to explore the Bardenas Reales 'desert' area in Spain, then heading south for Morocco.

    The ferries crossing the Strait of Gibraltar must be some of the most expensive in the world. The rates charged by the companies go up and down in unison in what looks like a cartel arrangement. A one-way crossing for one person with motorbike from Algerciras to Tanger Med, from Algeciras to Ceuta or from Tarifa to Tanger City is a tad under £50.

    So to save some distance in Spain and explore the north east part of Morocco again, I thought I'd check the rates from Almería. This is a much longer crossing, 190km against the 15km of the Strait of Gibraltar. The quote for the daytime sailing from Almería to Nador was £123, but if I took the nighttime sailing from Almería to Melilla the cost--including a shared cabin--is just £66. Wow!

    Melilla is the same situation as Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the North African coast, so I would then cross the border to the next-door port of Nador, From there I can head east for Oujda which is a calm university town on the Algerian border, or head west for Al-Hoceima which is an interesting coastal resort that acts as the capital of the Rif region.

    I'll have about four weeks in Morocco this trip, so lots of other things planned.
    "For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
    and enlarges the world in which you live,"
    Irving Mather (1892-1966)

  7. #7
    Trailblazer Tim Cullis's Avatar
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    Brittany Ferries increased its rates quite considerably in 2013 which encouraged another company, LD Lines, to start a lower-cost service between the UK and northern Spain, sailing Poole to Gijon. Information at http://ldlines.co.uk/

    Brittany Ferries is to start a new 'economy' service in March 2014, details at http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/economie

    The comfort levels and facilities on the two economy services won't be the same as on Brittany Ferries' Pont Aven flagship which is more of a mini cruise ship, but the costs are considerably less.
    "For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
    and enlarges the world in which you live,"
    Irving Mather (1892-1966)

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