France // The north //

Calais and around

Calais is less than 40km from Dover – the Channel’s shortest crossing – and is by far the busiest French passenger port. In World War II, the British destroyed Calais to prevent it being used as a base for a German invasion, but the French still refer to it as “the most English town in France”, an influence that began after the battle of Crécy in 1346, when Edward III seized it for use as a beachhead in the Hundred Years’ War. It remained in English hands for over two hundred years until 1558, when its loss caused Mary Tudor to say: “When I am dead and opened, you shall find Calais lying in my heart.” The association has continued over the centuries, and today Calais welcomes more than nine million British travellers and day-trippers per year.