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Europe’s hidden coasts: the Côte d’Argent, Landes, France

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This wild Atlantic coast, south-west of Bordeaux, is backed by forests and nature reserves and includes the finest sandy beach in France. Yet even in mid-summer you can have it to yourself

Halfway between the great sand dune of Pyla and the posh surf and golf resort of Hossegor, is the finest stretch of sandy beach in France. South-west of Bordeaux, the Côte d’Argent begins at Mimizan Plage, where a river splits the beach in two.

Looking south, it’s an uninterrupted, endless expanse of flat sand, a golden highway for sand-yachting, joggers and dog-walkers. Twenty minutes’ strolling along the shore and you could be all on your own, even in midsummer.

Daytrippers stay on Mimizan Plage Sud for surfing, or the riverbank Plage du Courant for swimming. Restaurant Ô Courant has views of both and a lunchtime special of starter, main course, cheese and dessert all on the same plate for €15.

The resort has a seafront church, Notre Dame des Dunes, with a witch’s-hat steeple and four surviving bornes de sauveté (medieval stone stacks which marked the limits of religious protection). A stone bell tower is all that’s left of the 13th-century priory, one side of which is covered in tiny chestnut-wood tiles. Most visitors, however, come to Mimizan for the big waves, jet skiing, beach volleyball, camping, gentle cycling and even gentler electric boats on Aureilhan lake, nearby.

One hundred years ago, the only sporting activity was hunting. Chateau Woolsack, a mock-Tudor hunting lodge, was built for the second Duke of Westminster in 1911 and modelled on Rudyard Kipling’s house of the same name in Cape Town. The duke entertained Coco Chanel, Salvador Dalí and Winston Churchill there and spent his summers chasing boar, deer and woodcock with a huge pack of hounds through the forest.

Chateau Woolsack is now in private hands, but can be seen through the trees on the banks of Aureilhan lake.

The first hotel to open in the Landes region is a converted manor house in Mimizan Plage. L’Emeraude des Bois (doubles from €89) has 17 rooms, bikes for hire and a direct link to the coastal cycle path from its back garden.


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