Visit the battlefields of the Somme

  • History & culture
  • France
  • 6 min read
Visit the battlefields of the Somme

Travel with LeShuttle to the Somme memorials, and experience one of the Great War’s most poignant legacies.

There are many reasons for a trip to the key battlegrounds of the Western Front. 

Whether for personal remembrance, historical research or to further your studies, the memorials, cemeteries and museums of the Somme Remembrance Trail provide an incredibly moving experience. 

Driving to the Somme from Calais

You can drive to the Somme Battlefields from LeShuttle's Calais Terminal in just over two hours, taking either the A16 toll motorway, or toll free A26 and A1 routes.  If you have some time in Calais check out our whistle-stop guide

Peaceful poppies growing from a Great War trench, with blue sky background

1914-18, the Great War in the Somme

The Somme is the enduring symbol of the senseless slaughter on the Western Front during the First World War. 

While most remembered for the catastrophic losses of the battle between July and November 1916, the region was a key theatre throughout the conflict. It was in early 1915 when the British, French and German armies entrenched themselves in the gently undulating countryside of the Somme valley. 

Pitifully small amounts of territory were gained by either side over nearly four terrible years, despite repeated attempts to break the deadlock. For that, over a million lives were lost with thousands more casualties.

The Remembrance Trail from Albert to Péronne

The Remembrance Trail takes you in the footsteps of the fallen of the Somme conflicts, through an evocative series of cemeteries, museums, memorials and battlefields in the Picardy department.

The Thiepval Memorial and the Museum of Thiepval

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the 45 metre high Thiepval Memorial is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world, commemorating the 73,367 British and South African soldiers who were killed in the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and March 1918 and who have no known grave. 

To stand under the memorial’s arch and take in the almost endless lines of names is a truly humbling, emotional experience.

Thiepval Memorial with military cemetery and monumental cross in front of it

The Museum of the Great War, Péronne

Around half an hour’s drive from the Thiepval Memorial is the Historial de la Grande Guerre, a family-friendly museum in the small town of Péronne on the banks of the Somme. Here you will be able to explore the Great War from every angle and combatants from every nation. 

Multi-media tools and a fascinating collection of original artefacts give children and adults an understanding of what day to day life was like for those in the trenches, as well as for local people. 

The Somme 1916 Museum in Albert

A few minutes’ drive south from Thiepval takes you to the subterranean Somme 1916 Museum in Albert, one of the most strategically important towns during the battles of the Somme. Housed in a 230m long passage 10m below ground, this museum has a unique atmosphere. As you walk you are immersed in the sights and sounds of trench warfare. The best time to visit is after 3pm when the museum is less crowded.

The Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont-Hamel

Step into the reality of a Somme soldier’s life at this incredibly well preserved network of Great War trenches maintained by the Canadian Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The caribou statue, emblem of the regiment, remembers the fallen Canadian soldiers at the Somme, and is an ideal spot to survey the full scale of the 30 hectare site, the outlook over no-man’s land and the German defences. Allow 1 hour 30 minutes for this unmissable spot on the Remembrance Trail, just a 10 minute drive from Albert.

Visitors in a museum looking at displays showing Great War artefacts

The Ulster Tower near Thiepval

The Ulster Tower honours the sacrifice made by the men of Ireland during the conflict. The cream gothic tower, a replica of a tower in the Belfast training camp of the 36th Ulster Division, is one of the most peaceful places on the Remembrance Trail.

The Lochnagar Crater at La Boisselle

To aid its chances of success on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the British army triggered a series of huge underground explosions under German defences. The Lochnager crater is the largest of these, measuring an astounding 100 metres across and 30 metres deep.

Visitors are able to walk around the huge blast hole (even in wet weather, due to the addition of a paved walkway). Here you can appreciate the immense power of the military technology of the First World War.

The Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux

Just under half an hour’s drive from Albert is the moving memorial to the 11,000 Australian soldiers who perished with no known grave in France during the Great War. Again designed by Edward Lutyens (like the Thiepval memorial), the stone monument and tower affords breathtaking views over the Australian war cemetery and surrounding verdant countryside. A dawn ceremony is held at the memorial on ANZAC Day (April 25th) to remember the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fell from 1914-18. 

A monumental stone cross flanked by the flags of Australia and France with military gravestones either side

The memorial sites of Pozières

The small village of Pozières, 20 miles north east of Amiens, was an Allied target during the Battle of the Somme. It was completely destroyed in the fighting between Australian and German forces in July and August 1916, and is now home to several memorial sites, including the memorial to the Australian 1st Division, the Tank Memorial, Mouquet Farm and the Pozières British Cemetery.

Delville Wood and the South African National Museum

The sacrifices made by the 1st South African Brigade in capturing and defending the strategically important Bois Delville (renamed the Devil’s Wood) are honoured here. Over 2,300 South African soldiers were killed or wounded between July 1916 and September 1916. Visitors to Delville Wood today can see the remains of trenches, a museum and the South African National memorial. Delville Wood is just under 20 minutes easy drive from Albert.

The 'Chapelle du Souvenir Français' of Rancourt

Every French soldier killed during the Battle of the Somme is remembered at the Chapelle du Souvenir Français, a roadside stone memorial. Rancourt is also home to the largest French war cemetery in the Somme, as well as British and German graveyards. A small museum inside the French cemetery tells the story of the events of 1916.

Now you know what awaits you on the Somme Remembrance Trail, why not visit some of the other key sites of the Western Front in France and Belgium? Read our guide here.

Little Train of the Upper-Somme

Trundling between Froissy and Dompierre is a steam train on a railway line built in 1916 to supply the trenches. A museum is dedicated to the history of narrow-gauge railway lines from 1800 to the present day.

The Commonwealth cemeteries

There are over 400 cemeteries in the Somme region dedicated to British and Commonwealth soldiers, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. You can use the CWGC website to locate a cemetery.

A Commonwealth cemetery on a beautiful summer’s day, foreground of a monumental inscription and poppy wreath

The French military cemeteries

The 20 French cemeteries are maintained by the French Ministry of Defence. There are resources here to find out more.

The German cemeteries

The 13 German cemeteries are distinguished by rows of black crosses, with four names on each. The largest is between Vermandovillers and Foucaucourt-en-Santerre, where 22,000 soldiers are buried.

Start your visit to The Somme with LeShuttle

If military history isn’t your thing, there are plenty more reasons to visit northern France, from cheese to beaches and fine wines. But we believe that visiting the Somme is an experience you will never forget, and we can start the journey by getting you from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes.

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