I’m back from my camping Ilbarritz trip to Yelloh Village Ilbarritz near the French town of Biarritz in south west France. It was my first visit to Pays Basque and my first experience of camping in France. We usually head to the French Alps for winter skiing. I was looking forward to discovering what the region had to offer and seeing if the Basque region differed from the rest of France. I wasn’t disappointed. Fabulous beaches, the friendliest of people, excellent food and a few surprises along the way made it a brilliant weekend. Let me tell you about camping in Ilbarritz and what the area has to offer.
My Camping History
Before I tell you about my stay at Yelloh Village let me fill you in on my camping back story.
I first went camping when I was a kid with the local Girls’ Brigade in the 70s. Except it wasn’t strictly camping. We weren’t in tents but all lined up like sardines on raised camp beds in an old church hall. I can still remember the smell of the floor polish, midnight feasts and Mrs Arlott’s rosy face as she brought us cups of tea as dawn broke over the Sussex countryside. The stuff of Enid Blyton and a lot of fun.
My next camping foray was in my early twenties with my boyfriend. We pitched our tiny two-man tent amid the swanky camper vans and multi-roomed tents in the New Forest. After going for a walk we came back to find the arse end of a pony sticking out through the tent flaps. The curious creature had trampled mud into everything and was munching its way through our supplies. I didn’t go camping again for nearly three decades.
September 2015 and I attended Blogstock and attempted glamping. A tipi you could stand up in with colourful rugs, cushions, bunting and fairy lights. Bliss? No. It was only September but so cold that I slept in every item of clothing I’d brought with me including my bath towel and was still numb with cold. The thought of a second night had me heading for home and a steaming hot bubble bath to thaw out. Here I am below smiling through the pain…
And then there’s the time we spent the night in a yurt near Amiens, France during storm Brian…
By now you’re probably wondering why I thought camping in Ilbarritz in the French Basque would be a good idea. Well, my good friend Kathryn invited me on a girl’s getaway camping break to experience the campsite and local area. Weekends away with friends are always a good idea. Well, hello Yelloh Village. Here’s why camping in Ilbarritz turned out to be a weekend par excellence.
Camping in Ilbarritz
After a 15-minute taxi ride from Biarritz airport we checked in at the campsite’s reception housed in a Basque-style white-washed house with green wooden shutters. The staff there were exceptionally friendly and helpful and gave us loads of information and directions to our cabin.
The site is set in a rustic woodland area with blue and pink hydrangeas and agapanthus plants adding splashes of pastel colour to the greenery. We passed by the restaurant and bar, kid’s club, outdoor swimming pool and tennis court before arriving at the premium area where our Haitza Cottage was located.
Our Cottage at Yelloh Village
Our home for the weekend was one of the contemporary two-bedroomed cabins in a quiet area near the woods. Let me show you around. The front of the cabin has an outdoor deck area with sun beds, picnic table and planters. Large patio doors lead into the light and airy living area with table, chairs and corner sofa. There’s a fully equipped kitchen area in white and grey with pops of colour. There’s a hob, microwave, dishwasher, large fridge-freezer, kettle and coffee maker. In fact, everything you’d need to prepare family meals with all the crockery and utensils needed. Not that we cooked much as we mainly ate out. Everything was spotlessly clean.
On the first evening, we had a cheese and charcuterie fest with freshly baked bread all bought at the small on-site supermarket. Now that’s my idea of camping!
There are two bedrooms one double and one twin both with en-suite bathrooms. The double room had a door leading out onto the deck. There’s a very spacious shower cubicle, hand basin, hairdryer and separate W.C. The bedroom also had a wardrobe, safe, mirrors and small dressing table.
I took the second bedroom which is perfect for children. That said I was very comfortable (I’m 5ft 2!). I had my own en-suite shower, loo and hand-basin. The beds had crisp cotton sheets and duvets – luxury compared to my previous camping experiences. Free WiFi is available throughout the site.
Where is Ibarritz?
Ilbarritz is in the Pays Basque in the South West of France on the Bay of Biscay. Yelloh Village is in a superb seaside location where the Pyrenees meet the ocean just 10-minutes walk from the beach and 15-minutes by bus from glitzy Biarritz. There’s a bus stop right outside the campsite so Saturday morning we hopped on a number 13 for just €2 for a 24-hour ticket we set off for Biarritz.
Originally a small fishing village, Biarritz was transformed into a fashionable beach town after Empress Eugénie took a shine to it. Turreted mansions and a grand palace hint at its regal past and there are shopping opportunities aplenty. I partook. The town still has an air of glamour and sophisticated ambience with elegant cafes overlooking the sea and beautiful gardens lining the wide promenade. Hydrangeas in pink and blue soften the landscape.
Hôtel du Palais Biarritz
Lartigue 1910 has sold traditional Basque linen weaves for over a century. I loved the beachy vibe fabrics and could easily have gone overboard if I’d not had hand luggage. Lartigue sells everything from table linens to espadrilles and beach bags in their colourful fabrics.
Surf’s Up in Biarritz
Le Grand Plage, the town’s main beach, is a pristine stretch of golden sand rolling with surf and breakers. It’s the reason Biarritz now calls itself the surfing capital of Europe.
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There’s a definite surf vibe going on in the town which we discovered in some of the shops leading down to the beach and where we had a delicious lunch at Cafe la Plage.
Cafe la Plage, Biarritz
Lunch – Cafe la Plage, Biarritz
To the Lighthouse
The iconic lighthouse, Phare de Biarritz, stands sentry at Pointe Saint Martin in the distance. The energetic may want to climb the 248 steps and take in views of Biarritz and the Basque countryside.
Le Grand Plage
Leaving Biarritz around mid-afternoon we hopped on the bus for our return journey. We passed the campsite, and carried on to rural Bidart, just over a mile away from Yelloh Village.
Bidart is the prettiest of French Basque towns with two old churches, a rustic town square and a traditional Marie (town hall).
Cafes and bars line the square and in the side streets you’ll find artisan shops filled with local crafts, artwork and pottery. A moocher’s paradise.
It’s worth a climb up the hill to the cliff top to check out the coastal views and the tiny chapel. Blue and pink hydrangeas pepper the gardens with pastel hues.
Houses are in the traditional Basque style; white-washed walls with shutters and balconies painted ox-blood red. The area is known for Espelette peppers which are harvested each September. The peppers are hung on the facades of buildings to dry out before the big pepper festival in October.
A Chilli Fest in Bidart
Peppers are big in the area and we had a bit of a chilli fest while we were in Bidart. We stepped into a delicatessen called Etxe Peio. It’s a small chain with seven shops in the Basque area including Biarritz and Bayonne. Bayonne ham, cheeses and other local specialities are sold alongside a myriad of products infused with a dash of Espelette pepper. Bayonne chocolate festival must also be worth a visit.
We discovered chilli beer, chilli chocolate and big fat jars of chilli pepper sauce. The shop staff plied us with nibbles of Bayonne ham, chocolate and cider. There was a fun atmosphere in the shop with plenty of lighthearted banter and laughter. I bought plenty of Basque Specialities to bring home and help my French Basque experience last a little longer.
Mahaina Restaurant, Bidart
We stayed in Bidart into the evening as we’d spotted a lovely looking restaurant called Mahaina in Rue de Madeleine. The restaurant serves local specialities and Basque family cuisine with a modern twist. The restaurant had just one table available so we booked there and then and happily mooched around Bidart until the restaurant opened for the evening.
Book well in advance if you’d like to eat at Mahaina because it’s popular, and for good reason. The owners are passionate about Basque produce and cuisine and this shone through as we ordered. Mahaina aims to seek out the finest ingredients which are as local as possible. They offer family-style, simple yet generous cooking based on quality ingredients. A restrained menu allows them to focus on freshness and quality over quantity and it’s the perfect ethos. I ordered catch of the day with vegetables, including peppers, and bacon. Emmanuel suggested I eat a mouthful of all three together for a fabulous flavour combo. He was spot on. This was Basque cuisine at its best.
We walked back to the campsite after our meal which only took around 35 minutes. This gave us enough time to pop down to Plage du Pavillon Royal to catch a stunning ocean sunset.
This gorgeous beach is just 800m from Yelloh Village and has something for all ages. A huge swathe of golden sand stretches into infinity, perfect for building sand-castles or for just sitting and taking in the views. Rock pools busy with seaside creatures will delight younger children and there’s surf for the sporty.
Something that struck me particularly about our stay in the French Basque was the friendliness of the people we met. Taxi drivers, shop keepers and especially the staff at the campsite without exception were incredibly friendly and interactive. At one point, there was 3-way banter going on in French/Spanish/English in a Biarritz shop.
We packed an awful lot into our limited time camping in the French Basque but I’d love to go back and spend more time in the area and in Yelloh Village. If that’s what camping is all about then I’m a convert.
Need to know
Yelloh Village Ilbarritz is suitable for couples, families with all ages of children from babies to teenagers and for friends. As well as the cottages, there are pitches for tents and camper vans. The site is on a slight hill and it’s a good 7-minute uphill walk from the cottages to reception so those with walking difficulties may struggle a little. We found the site to be nicely quiet as the main facilities were away from the accommodation areas. A wristband must be worn for the duration of your stay.
The beautiful beach is just a ten-minute walk away and Biarritz with restaurants, bars, beaches and shopping is just 15 minutes away by bus. There’s also a golf course very close by.
Biarritz airport is just 15 minutes away by taxi at a cost of around €20.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Yelloh Village Ilbarritz for hosting our stay in the French Basque. All thoughts and opinions on our stay are, as always, entirely my own.
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