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Roads between Lille and Zeebrugge


Ian

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I'm just back from a round trip to Edinburgh, via Dover. It's been my normal route, and the M25/M1/M6 was OK going up. On the way back however, it was hellish. The M6 was especially bad- traffic jams and stop-start traffic all the way. Never again!

So, I'm looking at the Zeebrugge - Hull ferry for the next trip. The last time I drove to/from Zeebrugge was several years ago, and the Belgian roads weren't very good. Can anybody tell me how good or bad they are nowadays?

Cheers

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All I can say is 'Better than they used to be' which isn't saying a lot I know.

The E403 (A17) is 2 lane and as with many Belgium motorways, the surface isn't the best.

If you can avoid the usual rush hours on weekdays you should be OK.  Oh yeah, Sunday afternoons in the summer can get bad as everyone in Bruxelles returns from the coast.

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Thanks, Pierre.

I was hoping they'd all been upgraded, but no such luck. Since we're going to travel that road, I guess we'll just leave plenty of time.

Late February, mid-week, mid-afternoon, shouldn't be too bad.

Cheers

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Force of habit, mainly, Judith.

When we first started looking for a house in France, about 12 years ago, I tried all roads south from Edinburgh. The A1M/A1 was a death trap - motorways suddenly turning into country roads with tractors pulling out. The M1 was overloaded, and stopped well short of Scotland. But the M6 was fast and predictable.

As I said, "was"....

The next trip will be by way of Zeebrugge/Hull and the M1, but I suspect that ferry will be very expensive in the summer, so I may be forced back to Calais/Dover. In which case, I'll try the M1 rather than the M6. Or fly, and hire a car.

Cheers

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Ian,

Whilst I will admit to not having been much north of Yorkshire on the A1 recently, certainly up until that point (about Scotch Corner possibly), but may be more by now, the A1 has been so much improved in the last few years, that it is almost impossible to recognise it as it was ... almost every roundabout has been made into a flyover ..

I did drive (was meant to be my father, but I drove most of it, in his new car, not easy!) up to Teeside ... and it was indeed very good up until then.  I think you will also find that south of Edinburgh is also good (did it once about 7 years ago from Newcastle airport to Edinburgh / Glasgow, and honestly not at all bad.

Personally I wouldn't touch the M1 or M6 unless I had to do ...

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That's good to hear.

On your recommendation then, the next time I travel via Dover, I'll take the A1/A1M as far as Newcastle. After that, has anybody any suggestions?

I used always to take the A697 via Coldstream, but I hear the A1 has been improved?

If it all works, I'll be glad to see the back of the M6....

Cheers

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Ian

The thing about the A1 is that for the most part (unless it is the motoway'd bit) you can get off if you want, and find alternative routes, whereas with the motorways, once stopped, you are stuck.

The A1 is definitely busier than it used to be, and can have traffic jams, esp on Friday afternoons and bank holidays, but as I say, you can get off, if needed.  I think that in the main the very heavy stuff uses the M1/M6 combo too.

And the A1 is much more direct to Edinburgh as well!

Good luck.

If I am recovered from my hip op in time, I might well be driving as far as Newcastle in April - if I do, I'll let you know what it's like!

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The ability to get off the road and take an alternative route, if necessary, is an advantage. I've acquired a new satnav which, in theory, gets traffic news and then guides me away from jams. We shall see....

Good luck with the operation - if the next posting is from Newcastle, I'll assume it was successful.

Cheers

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 How are the roads between Lille and Zeebrugge!

We used it in May and got very lost, and I reckon ended up in Holland at one point. We are old hands at this route and have been lost on many occasions, however, this route suits us, we lived in SE France, the Alpes and have moved back to NE England which was our usual UK destination when living in France.

Must add we were not in a rush last time and visited places we would never have seen otherwise and it was very nice. As ever we called in at Blankenburg and had waffles and moules and hot chocolate......miam, miam, the belgians do do some things exceedingly well!!!!! NB very poor meal on the crossing.

I would NEVER use the M1 to get to Dover, timing on the A1 east roads via the Dartford Crossing is essential and apart from an accident on the M25 last time we used it, we usually have very very good runs in both directions if we chose to use Dover (awful awful port now) or the Tunnel. Basically for us, trying to get to Dover between approx 15h and 17h heading south and catching about a 9h ferry heading north.

IF I was heading to western France as you are, I would frankly cross to Caen or St Malo from Portsmouth. Ok obviously the M1 as far as Oxford, but then a decent straight run down. We have used this route when visiting friends in Wales.

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Idun, you're correct - timing for the M25 is important. I always try to hit it around 4PM-ish, and take ferries to suit.

I've used the Portsmouth-Caen crossing several times. It's good for going south, but timings are wrong or going north. It's not my favourite, though - the section from the M1 to/around Oxford is messy/busy/substandard.

Cheers

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From my point of view getting to say Southampton or Portsmouth from NE England, one uses the M1 and then cuts across country to Oxford and then heads south. Road numbers???? no idea, just look at the signs.  And a far better route for us than going via London.

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  • 1 month later...
If you have a commercial vehicle....van, 4x4 pickup etc....you can get on the freight sailing from Rosyth to Zeebrugge.

Booking is not easy, takes patience and perseverence, and the ferry is very, very basic compared to a passenger ferry but you save a lot of driving in UK. Its still a fair trek from Edinburgh to Hull.

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Well, round trip to Edinburgh done, and I'll never use Dover again.

The journey to/from Zeebrugge was easy - the N. France/Belgium roads are good(-ish). The overnight ferry including the cabin cost the same as (maybe even less than) a channel crossing plus hotel, and there was NO driving on the M20/M25/M1/M6. From Hull, a mere 5 hours or so to Edinburgh, on good and (relatively) empty roads.

I just wish I'd discovered this sooner - would have saved hours and hours of stressful driving.

Now, I accept that in high summer, the prices will be higher, the ferry will be full of passengers (our sailings were fairly quiet) and the roads will be busier. But, the same goes for the channel crossing route.....

@dave21478

I wish I could use the Rosyth route, and I'm glad it's open to smaller vehicles than artics, but mine is just a normal car - no way could I describe it as "commercial" or "freight". Mind, if I stuck a couple of magnetic banners on the doors ("Ian's Onions"?), would that work?

cheers

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Ian

though the ferry companies do not openly advertise it they do (or at least did) take a limited number of non-commercial vehicles.

Not done Rosyth but I have used the Teesside Rotterdam and a Dover Zeebrugge back in the day.
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There is no harm in trying it from Rosyth for your next trip.

You need to phone the freight depot there to get sailing times and prices, but they cant (or couldnt when I did it) book via phone, it had to be done by email.

Arrived at the terminal on time...all the old passenger side is closed so I wandered into the big shed where artics were passing through and they told me to just wait outside till they finished loading and I would go on last.

They missed the scheduled sailing time by a couple of hours, which is apparently normal - without the public to please, they sail when they are ready, not when the timetable says.

I had a 4x4 pickup truck and was the only vehicle that wasnt an artic trailer. Most dont even have lorry cabs, just the trailers are loaded by tugs and unloaded at the other end and picked up by local trucks.

On board It was the Mary Celeste. I was the only passenger and I never saw any of the crew the night we sailed. There was one cabin from about 10 that had a bed made up so I slept there. Basic but clean and comfortable enough. Single bed, toilet/shower and a TV. The only other thing to do was the "drivers lounge" which had a pile of dusty old board games, a big screen tv and a few couches.

Around lunch time a Polish guy in officers uniform appeared in the lounge and gave me a plate of stew and mashed potatos with two cans of coke. When I was finished he took away the plate and came back with an opened box of wee Mr Kipling cakes and said I could choose two of them!

This was exactly repeated at dinner time.

Arriving in Zeebrugge late in the evening, they let me off the car deck and I drove around the unlit freight yards for ages trying to find a way out....its all completely unsigned, dark and no barriers o stop you driving off the edge of a pier! Eventually I found a security booth with barriers across the road but it was empty. Nobody around anywhere, I thought "screw it" and forced the barrier up high enough to drive under and off I went.

On the plus side, it wasnt outrageously priced, saved an entire day driving from Aberdeen to Dover, fuel costs, hotel, meals etc....so probably worked out about evens financially, maybe slightly dearer, but saved a lot of fatigue and missed all the stress of driving through lower England.

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Very tempting. Rosyth is the perfect port for me - 20 miles and I'm where I want to be.

I could cope with the empty ship and lack of restaurants - would suit me fine, in fact. (Me? Anti-social?) The odd departure/voyage/arrival times might a show-stopper. A quick look at the timetable shows it's not geared to civilians. However, I'm going to keep it in mind. I'm up for it, but maybe not my wife....

Hull, for us from Edinburgh, isn't bad - much better than Dover (I agree about "the stress of driving through lower England"). Plus, I reckon that the Hull route is noticeably cheaper - no Channel ferry, no hotel, no hotel meals (we can take food and drink with us on board - cheaper and better), no M6 toll.

Even if it is more expensive, to avoid "the stress of driving through lower England" is worth a lot.

Cheers

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When we holidayed in France we always used Hull -Zeebrugges being just the other side of the river from Hull. Meant holiday started Thursday evening after a 40 minute drive from home. Also-As you say no long drive down to south coast. Buffet restaurant on board is good-there's also an a la carte restaurant. Must admit haven't used it much recently as one of our daughters lives in the South so we use Caen or Le Havre to Portsmouth mainly. However used it for the first time in about 3 years over Christmas and it was very good. Will be using it more in the future as our daughter has just been posted to Cyprus so no reason to go to south of England en route to visit family.
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We used the  a la carte on Zeebrugge / Hull last spring and it was rubbish, absolute rubbish.

Friends used the buffet last year  and said it was good, will not be making that mistake again.

IF you are using that route, if you get to Zeebrugge early, then I would thoroughly recommend just popping to Blankenburg, hardly any distance and if we have time, always do.  Last time we had a lovely stroll along the sea front, and a good meal in one of the restos there, I also had gauffres...... they were the best I have had in ages. Sometimes we have moules frites and I think next time would take sandwiches on board and have moules frites in Blankenburg before boarding.

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  • 5 months later...
Thank you for all the ideas, people.

Having done one trip so far via ZB/Hull, I don't think I'll ever cross the channel any other way now! It's civilised, relatively stress free, and costs about the same. What's not to like?

The roads around Lille were OK - busy, and the signeage is iffy (but a good satnav helps) but otherwise OK. Paris, on the other hand, was, well, Paris. Lots of traffic, lots of bouchons. Even on the A86.

For the next trip, I'm considering my old route west of Paris - Tours/Le Mans/Rouen/Calais, then follow the A16/A18 up the coast to Zeebrugge. Apart from the bit north of Calais, I know it quite well. It's longer - yes. More tolls - yes. But apart from that, are there any major problems I've overlooked?

Cheers

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Thanks for this thread. Its pertinent to us who also live in a rather affluent area in the West Midlands (just)!

For those in the absolute heathen north then your decision seems to make absolute sense.

For those further south and for those around our multicultural capital your last question is even more pertinent.

We do use the dover calais route regularly but in France have mainly used your previous route that avoids Paris. Every time we use the Paris route (based on a sighting of the Eiffel tower expected or not) we get caught in traffic but its quicker than the Rouen etc route. It has worked very well.

My question, though, relates to taking a break at a hotel or not en-route. Our house is in the booze ridden area of the Dordogne and so the journey is quite long.

Once started, though, I really do want to complete the journey rather than linger en-route. With kids in the car it was impossible but with just the two of us now it it was possible. I do admit that once I had reached the point where I was dangerous to ourselves and others. OH makes sure that I take multiple rests in the car nowadays.

Last journey back we stopped off at Giverny and enjoyed a day and 2 nights at a b and b there. Whilst that was enjoyable sometimes we (sorry I) just want to complete the journey.

We have a dog who we are taking this time and have decided to use a hotel in Chartres to break the journey for him. I think that it will be strange for me to delay during the journey.

Any comments?

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The distance from where we are (Indre) to Edinburgh must be about the same as for you (Dordogne to the Midlands). Even pushing on (possibly a male thing), it's two days travel so a break is needed. For us, it was a dash to the channel, an hour or two's break on the ferry, then another hour or two till the M25 was behind us. After that, Day 2 was easy.

For you, I guess you need a stop this side of the channel. Where and when? For me, it would depend on the M25. It's always busy, but much more so during rush hour - I'd want to avoid that, and time the journey to suit.

Have you considered one of the other crossings? Caen/Portsmouth for example would avoid the M25 entirely. Timings for you are inconvenient (southbound departure is 07:30) but it gets you to France mid afternoon. Find a nice hotel on the coast, have a good dinner, and the next day is easy.

Best of luck, anyway. I'm going to cruise the North Sea in the future, and if I'm lucky I'll never drive the M25 again.

Cheers

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In terms of the 'Paris route' the best option is.....

A10 - N118 - D7 - N315 - A15 - A16

A10 - N181 - D7 is the route that I take to go to Courbevoire (suburb of Paris) where we live/used to live. I never get stuck. You just have to judge the timing.

From Tours it is 2:15 mins in flowing traffic.

From Courbevoire to Calais ( D7 - N315 - A15 - A16) it is exactly 2:5 hrs.

It is such a simple route. In fact, since I posted that route on a forum some time ago, I see more and more UK reg cars.

If you want to go around Paris.......that is the route. Also, the Paris bit is actually very interesting and nice.
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