On a catamaran on the Bairon lake - D. Truillard

A Family countryside break at the bairon lake

Profile picture for user Nathalie Diot

Nathalie Diot

Member for 5 years 7 months

Alone or with my family

Simplicity is the key

On Monday, a few grains of sand in our shoes remind us that our weekend wasn't a dream…

A family weekend in the depths of the countryside at the bairon lake

1 weekend by the waterside

By choosing a weekend stay at the Bairon lake, we allow ourselves to plunge into the depths of the countryside. Two reinvigorating days away from it all. Disconnection from the rat race guaranteed.

A seagull against a background of a field of corn, an orange sailboard against a green forest, a calm lady swimming...  We had only just arrived at the Bairon lake, and already we'd left our daily routine far behind us. Sitting on a bench, we looked at the countryside and enjoyed a romantic moment as a couple. The kids were playing in the many playgrounds set above the beach…

Family in a catamaran on the Bairon lake in the Ardennes - D. Truillard

A family outing on a catamaran

The green flag is flying and the lifeguards are keeping watch. It's nearly time for our appointment at the Bairon Nautic Club. This French sailing school was set up in the 1950s and offers a  range of nautical activities for both families and experienced sailors. Pedalos, canoes, paddle-boarding and sail-boarding are available for optimists… Always keen to try a new experience, we have chosen a family catamaran lesson.


A warm welcome at the Bairon Nautic Club

Aged  7, my younger son Samuel can hold his own, and my older son Gabriel, who's 9, loves playing pirates. We enjoy a warm, relaxed welcome at the club. Martine, Jean-Pierre and Hugo have prepared everything we need to make the most of our two-hour lesson. We are complete novices and have no idea of how to navigate a boat, but the instructors reassure us.

The family listen to the briefing before taking to the water in the catamaran

Our boat glides over the water

The catamaran is waiting for us, ready to be rigged: jib, rudder, mainsail... We are learning the basics of nautical vocabulary before the practical test. Finally we put on our life-jackets and are ready to set off onto the water. The kids are positioned at the front, and we sit at the back to steer and manage the mainsail. "The sails are your motor" explains our instructor Jean-Pierre, "and the wind is your fuel and the tiller is your steering-wheel". Now he's told us the basics, he pushes the boat off onto the lake.

There's an instant sense of magic as our boat glides with no apparent effort over the water. 

Filip understands quickly the moves he needs to make. Gabriel trails his hand in the water and observes how fast we are moving forward. Hugo is keeping an eye on us from the Zodiac inflatable motor boat that's accompanying us. The water reflects the sunshine, the breeze is lovely, and the countryside looks even more beautiful from the lake. Sailing feels tranquil and energising at the same time. We would never have believed ourselves capable of sailing a catamaran. Our attentive, patient instructors are a big help. Time flies past.


There's an instant sense of magic

Joyful mother and son paddle-boarding

We're already back on dry land, but Samuel definitely doesn't want to stay there for long. He's got his eye on the brightly coloured family paddle-board. So he and I set off for some mother and son joyful paddle-boarding. Before letting us get on with it, Martine explains to us how to stand up and balance. Once out on the lake, we get to know this new object by starting on our knees. We make a fine couple! We soon manage to handle our board. Still close to the shore, we try standing up. A total success! We've risen to the challenge.

Mother and son on a paddle board on the Bairon lake - Nathalie Diot

Cocooning atmosphere at Kota

As the afternoon draws to a close we make our way to La Résidence du Lac, a stone's throw from the Finnish kota where we'll spend the night. We feel the kota's atmosphere as soon as we walk inside. Nature is omnipresent. Our charming little house is under the trees and the interior is infused with a delightful woody scent. The cocooning atmosphere of the kota is particularly good to share with my family. For dinner this evening, we have chosen the restaurant option at Le Panoramic with views over the lake, but we could equally imagine grilling some food on the barbecue provided.


A fairytale little house


After a short rest, we walked back to the beach along the lakeside. What a peaceful place. The kids run and play… The disconnection from the rat race is complete. In ten minutes, we arrive at the restaurant, where we dine on trout from Vendresse, a nearby village. Afterwards we hurry back to our little fairytale house, impatient for the night ahead. And you've guessed it, the enchanted kids fall fast asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows.

Family breakfast by our kota - Nathalie Diot

Listening to the birds and breathing in the scent of the trees

Early in the morning, before waking the family, I decide to slip outdoors to enjoy the warm summer weather and lie down on one of the lounger chairs to listen to the birds and breathe in the scent of the trees. we're sharing our kota with a blue tit. I saw it sitting on the lounger chair yesterday and this morning it's pecking the picnic table. There's not a sound in the campsite as everyone's still asleep.

We are in the depths of the countryside. Le Chesne, the nearest village, is 3km away. We picked up some croissants there yesterday for a French-style breakfast just as we like it, and now it's time to enjoy them!

The waymarked Natura 2000 trail around the Bairon lake - Nathalie Diot Swans seen from the Natura 2000 trail - Nathalie Diot

Exploring an old pond and its reed bed

At 10am, we have an appointment with our guided Aurélien, who's going to take us to explore an old pond and its reed bed, in a nature reserve where more than 200 species of birds have been recorded. It's advisable to wear hiking boots if you want to walk along the 4.5km Natura 2000 exploration trail. Once we'd all got to the main dyke, our guide plunged us into the history of this place, which begins with the Carthusian monks from Mont-Dieu Abbey and fish-farming from the fifteenth century onwards.

Trails to explore in complete freedom

We continue into the reed bed and then the alluvial forest. This place is amazing. Herons, swans, coots, moorhens and grebes live here. In spring and autumn, geese, cranes and northern shoveller ducks like to stop off here. Our guide has a real passion for this place and answers all our questions. All year round, nature walks are organised in partnership with local natural history associations, to explore the secrets of this bit of paradise and several hiking trails enable you to explore the surrounding area in complete freedom.

Archery at the lakeside

Before we leave, we have a picnic lunch on the beach in the shade of a large tree. The kids enjoy the activities organised each afternoon on the beach. Archery, badminton, karate and swimming, of course.


On Monday, a few grains of sand in our shoes remind us that the weekend wasn't a dream

Archery at the Bairon lake - Nathalie Diot

Enjoy this experience


Bairon lake, France
Swimming supervised by lifeguards: from 15 June to 30 August, from 1pm to 7pm.


Bairon Nautic Club 
Equipment rental available to the public in July and August, from 1pm to 7pm. Closed in bad weather. Nautical activity lessons for groups and individuals. Sailing lessons for reduced-mobility people.
Tel: +33 (0)6 82 85 44 92


La Résidence Lac de Bairon
Unusual accommodation including kotas and campsite, from April to the end of October.
Tel: +33 (0)3 24 30 11 66


Nature walks

Throughout the year, a programme of themed walks, hikes and educational workshops on flora and fauna is available free of charge. Fore more information and to book places, please contact Aurélien Musu, Natura 2000 co-ordinator, 44-46 rue du Chemin Salé, 08400 Vouziers, France
Tel: +33 (0)3 24 71 59 93 or +33 (0)6 37 73 33 18