Worth a visit - Etretat

Nature has carved fabulous shapes out of the white cliffs at Etretat. The extraordinary site drew Impressionist painters aplenty. The picturesque resort was also chosen as the setting for the stories of a favourite French children’s character, gentleman burglar Arsène Lupin. Another startling attraction is the cliff-top golf course.

Not to be missed

> The cliffs and natural formations

Visiting Etretat, you’ll become familiar with the names given to the extraordinary rock formations either side of the resort, carved out of the chalk and flint of the Pays de Caux plateau: Courtine, Manneporte, Vaudieu Rock, the Aiguille de Belval… Some people think they can see the head of an elephant dipping its trunk into the waves in one spot, while others assert, as the great Normandy author Maupassant did, that a ship with all its sails unfurled could pass through the Manneporte Arch.

> The trou à l'homme

One day in 1792 a raging sea threw a Swedish ship against the cliffs here. The inhabitants of Etretat could only watch, horrified, as the vessel was wrecked before their eyes. The next day, the wind dropped and the waves withdrew, revealing a cave running up through the cliff, with the body of a man lying prostrate inside it. As he was being carried off to a common grave to be buried alongside his unfortunate comrades, he woke up and was saved. The extraordinary cavern in which he was found has now been opened up, although it is only passable at low tide, when it provides access to Jambourg Beach. Check the times of the tides before you set out.

> Notre-Dame Church

This substantial medieval Norman church, a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles, stands away from the beach, at the back of the resort. As well as admiring the architecture, you might pay your respects at the British Commonwealth graves in the church’s cemetery.

Notre-Dame de la garde Chapel

This chapel stands out up on the heights east of the resort. Built by sailors in the 19th century, destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt in its tremendous location in the 1950s.

Some people think they can see the head of an elephant dipping its trunk into the waves.

> The old market square

The square is dominated by a fine timber-frame covered market which holds charming boutiques inside. Plaques on the building recall British and American wartime links to Etretat. Notably, a British hospital was set up in town during World War I and c.550 British soldiers died there.

> Le Clos Arsène Lupin

Even if you are not yet familiar with the amusing, much-loved gentleman burglar character, Arsène Lupin, and his accomplice, Grognard, created by French author Maurice Blanc, it proves a delight to discover all about them at Le Clos Lupin, a fine townhouse once owned by their creator. English-speaking visitors are provided with specially adapted materials so that you can enjoy the playful mystery tour to the full. Young and old alike should be entertained by the detective adventure you embark upon.

> Nungesser et Coli Monument

This astonishing needle-like monument set up behind Notre-Dame de la Garde in 1963 recalls a pair of French aviation heroes from World War I who, in 1927, attempted the first flight across the Atlantic. Nungesser and Coli’s plane, Oiseau Blanc, was last seen flying over the white cliffs here.

> Golf d'Etretat

This golf course lies in an exceptional position, perched on the cliff tops west of the resort, more than 150 ft above the sea, making playing golf at Etretat a memorable experience. British fans of the resort were central in founding the course early in the 20th century; in fact the first president was Viscount Bernard Forbes, 8th Count of Granard and a Liberal politician. The course was designed in 1908, in association with Arnaud Massy, an exceptional professional who taught golf at Etretat and has gone down in golfing history as the first non-Briton to win the Open Championship, or British Open. The famous N°10 hole was redesigned 100 years after the course was created and is now even more spectacular than before.

Playing golf at Etretat is a memorable experience