‘It’s like being in a automotive advert!” The corniche highway alongside the western facet of Cap Corse, the spiny promontory pointing north from the physique of Corsica in the direction of Genoa, have to be one in every of Europe’s most dramatic drives. Cliff-hugging hairpin bends hurtle round rocky outcrops and throughout densely forested hillsides, with the ocean seeming each unnervingly shut and dizzyingly far beneath. The youngsters leaned with glee a technique and I leaned the opposite; taxis casually overtook us; at one level a wild boar (or probably tame pig) wandered into view spherical a bend, and at one other steel struts and picket planks carried the highway over a landslide.
Cap Corse
At simply 40km lengthy and 15km throughout, Cap Corse is sort of a miniature model of the island itself, with sandy seashores and spectacular peaks in shut, if terrifying, proximity. Till the corniche highway was constructed within the 19th century, it was successfully reduce off from the remainder of Corsica; the complete peninsula continues to be carpeted in maquis, the aromatic, dense scrub that, over the centuries, has been a hiding place for rebels as Corsica endured waves of invasion and management, from Greeks and Romans, Pisans and Genoese and, finally, the French (even the British on the finish of the 18th century).
At present, it stays appealingly wild and distant: look again alongside the coast and other than the odd village clinging to the hills on the jagged western facet, or tiny harbours nestled into the extra rolling east, it might be the island from Jurassic World. Passenger ferries stream into Bastia – the port metropolis at its japanese base that was Corsica’s capital till Napoleon moved it to his dwelling city of Ajaccio – however the vacationers appear to fade into the maquis.
We visited in early June with our daughters, aged 14 and 12, forward of the high-summer crowds and punishing warmth. Corsica is legendary for one in every of Europe’s hardest treks, the GR 20, a two-week clamber alongside its mountainous backbone, however we had much less difficult coastal trails in our sights. It was an excellent temperature for mountain climbing and a very stunning time for the maquis. Greater than 2,500 species of wildflowers develop in Corsica, and the panorama teemed with canine roses, orchids, broom and wild herbs – I’d by no means smelt curry plant on a seaside earlier than.

Right here come the ladies … Justine’s daughters in Cap Corse. {Photograph}: Justine Jordan
The youngsters, who’re extra used to the murky North Sea, had been most excited concerning the swimming. Corsican waters are an ideal turquoise, however we frequently needed to clamber over mounds of posidonia, a seagrass that accumulates on seashores and scatters the sand with tufty ginger balls that seem like camel poo. One resort was plastered with indicators assuring vacationers that the seaweed “IS NOT RUBBISH”; in actual fact, it signifies that the water is unpolluted. We determined to be taught to find it irresistible, however for fussy tweens jumpy about jellyfish or something brushing their ankles, the holy grail remained a pristine shoreline.
Working our approach across the cape, we stopped first on the japanese facet on the pleasingly small-scale Aria Marina campsite, on the coast highway just a few miles south of Macinaggio. There’s a flat subject for tents, and cellular houses are ranged up a hill in the direction of the beginning line of the maquis, with gorgeous views. We ate on the lined porch of our cellular dwelling, watching boats cross the bay.

Cellular houses at Tenting Saint-Florent
We had chosen this straightforward choice as combining the nice bits of tenting (scenic areas, outside residing, wallet-friendly lodging low season) with the nice bits of not tenting (actually every little thing else). The caravans could look from the surface like white lego bricks, however inside there’s not a millimetre of area wasted, with as much as three bedrooms, kitchen, bathe and bathroom, and sufficient room to hang around inside if it rains.
There are a dozen or so campsites alongside the east coast of the cape, and on the base of the west, however none is overwhelming in measurement or impression on the panorama. From Macinaggio, a coastal path snakes across the tip of Cap Corse via a wild panorama of sand, scrub and cliffs that’s gloriously untouched by roads. The path was initially reduce by Genoese customs officers a whole lot of years in the past, and the entire route, to Centuri Port on the japanese facet of the cape, takes seven to eight hours. The youngsters blanched on the thought of an eight-hour stroll, so we determined to catch a ship to Barcaggio, a village on the midway level, and after a fortifying lunch take our time wandering again, with loads of stops for swimming and siestas.
Anybody who’s been on a household vacation can guess what occurred subsequent. We arrived in Macinaggio to find there was no area left on the outward voyage. Our greatest guess was to snap up the final 4 seats for the one journey again from Barcaggio, thus turning a leisurely stroll right into a pressured march in opposition to the clock on one packet of biscuits, toting luggage of snorkelling gear we had no time to make use of. We jogged previous ruined Genoese watchtowers and abandoned seashores dotted with cows lounging on piles of seagrass, arriving simply in time for the 40-minute boat journey again (€17pp), swimming costumes nonetheless dry.

The coast path close to Macinaggio. {Photograph}: Getty Pictures
We had extra luck – or higher planning – with boat rides once we stayed within the bigger Kalliste tenting village, one in every of a number of backing on to the seaside alongside the extensive bay subsequent to the port of Saint-Florent, on the western base of the Cape. Right here, as elsewhere, we met few Brits – most holidaymakers appeared to have come from mainland France (or, as Corsicans name it, le continent). Although resorts and eating places had been full of life, all of the websites we stayed at had been pretty quiet, as had been the coast paths – bar the odd group of dedicated walkers extra serious about striding to the following headland than in stopping for dips.
The cape’s greatest seashores are additional to the west within the Agriates desert, a savagely stunning wilderness with a path tracing the shoreline. We loaded up on water and native delicacies for lunch: caramelised onion and chard turnovers, tacky breads, beignets (criminally good savoury doughnuts made with sheep’s cheese and chestnut flour). Then we took a 20-minute boat journey from Saint-Florent to Plage du Lotu (€10pp), one in every of Corsica’s most well-known seashores, the place there’s nothing however sand, surf, seagrass and the odd cow. It ought to have taken three hours to stroll again, however every excellent little cove we handed felt like a swim too good to move up, and it was late night earlier than we made it again to the campsite. As we walked, we gave thanks for the seagrass clogging up the river mouths flowing out to sea – with out it to bounce throughout, we’d have needed to take off our sneakers and wade.

The bronze age U Nativu statue close to Patrimonio. {Photograph}: Justine Jordan
There’s extra to Cap Corse than shoreline. Driving into the inside shortly takes you up right into a vertiginous granite panorama, with extraordinary views in all instructions. Corsica’s most well-known neolithic web site is within the south at Filitosa, however we made for the hamlet of Piève, the place we picnicked beside its three statue-menhirs, an enigmatic stone household staring out over the hills to sea. (We’d beforehand detoured to see an much more spectacular piece of prehistory in Patrimonio, close to Saint-Florent: the two-metre tall U Nativu, which was ploughed up by a neighborhood farmer within the 1960s and now glares out on the village from beneath thundering eyebrows.) Close by Murato is unmissable for its 12th-century Pisan church, an incongruous imaginative and prescient in chequered inexperienced and white marble, perched on high of the world.
It was at our last campsite that we discovered the simplest, most inviting swimming – proper on our doorstep. Though it’s simply outdoors Bastia and solely 20 minutes’ drive from the airport, the San Damiano campsite is on a sandy spit between the ocean and an unlimited lagoon, a haven for wetland birds. Over the week we’d realized the primary rule of cellular dwelling websites: location issues. The vans could also be equivalent inside, nevertheless it makes an enormous distinction when you’re nearer to the sanitation block or the ocean. With the latest “Capraia Mer” fashions set amid pine timber simply metres from an idyllic sandy seaside, and that includes massive terraces and heated outside showers, this felt as luxurious as household “tenting” can get. We spent many of the day within the sea, gazing out in the direction of Elba and Monte Cristo, whereas the youngsters lobbied to remain one other week – and never transfer a step from the seaside.
• The journey was supplied by Atout France and Air Corsica (aircorsica.com). Two-bedroom mobiles houses at Tenting Aria Marina value from €45 an evening, and Tenting Kalliste from €264 per week. Chalets for 4 at San Damiano value from €329 per week
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