One of the advantages of being so far from the Ferry Ports is there are plenty of alternative routes to take when you travel regularly to the Auvergne.

If this is your first visit and your main aim is to just get there and get stuck in, we suggest the first route, but here are several routes to choose between, including one which avoids Paris, and one with a non-motorway section if you prefer to see more as you drive or avoid tolls.

We usually take the Rouen and Chartres route, either starting early and doing it in one day, or catching a ferry around 7pm and stopping overnight just north of Rouen.

WARNING – from July 2008 you must have HiVis jackets in your car.

Most Obvious Rote – Paris, Orleans, Clermont.

The most obvious route when you look at a map, and what would appear to be the most direct, though experiment has shown that the Lyon route takes about the same time and the Moulins route only takes longer if you’re unlucky with traffic on the non-motorway section, is

A26/A1, or A16 to Paris

A86, A/N104 or Bande Peripherique to the A10 (Note – make sure you leave the BP on A6B not A6A if you want to end up on the A10 by the most direct route.)

At Orleans switch to the A71

Follow the A71 all the way to Clermont-Ferand.

At Clermont, you need to go “straight” on to the A75. This is signposted Montpellier.

Once on the A75 you are nearly there – just 20 minutes or so brings you to Issoire. Exit and Junction 13 and follow the local directions.

Note – if you want to shop or fill the tank, exit at Jct 12, where you’ll find a large Carrefour. Then re-join but stay in the right hand lane as Jct 13 is less than a mile past Jct 12.

Autoroute péage tots up to €49 on this route.

Avoiding Paris – the Lyon route.

This looks further on the map, but there actually isn’t much in it, and it avoids Paris which can add a couple of hours of stop-start traffic if you pick the wrong day. It also takes in Reims which is a great town for a stop-over, lots of cafes and bars on Place D’Erlon, a safe warm underground carpark, and handy for the Champagne region if you want to visit a fizz factory. It runs to about the same Autoroute tariff.

From Calais, A26. Don’t switch to the A1 for Paris, stay on the A26 all the way to Reims. On passing Reims the A26 is “merged” into the A4 (southbound) for a few miles until the A26 re-emerges in its own right near Chalons-en-Champagne. It will be signposted all the way “Lyon”.

After Troyes you join the A5, stil following Lyon, and Dijon. After Dijon and Beaune, you’re looking to join the A6, still following “Lyon”.

Once you reach Lyon, follow the signs to pick up the A47 to St Etienne.

Once you reach St Etienne, stay on the main road through the city and pick up the A72 Autoroute until you come to St Etienne airport at Boutheon.

There are two route from St Etienne. You can stay with the A72 and follow it up and around the Forez Livradois to Clermont-Ferrand, then pick up the A75 and follow the directions as for the Obvious Route.

Or you can go over the mountains. This is much shorter, and takes you through some fantastic scenery, but, due to the need to go over three mountain passes, will be slower. If you’re coming in midwinter, check the passes are open!

The Moulins route.

As for the obvious route, A16 or A26/A1 to Paris

A104 or A86 to the A6.

Leave Paris on the A6 but look out for the A77 for Montargis.

The A77 doesn’t “go all the way” and until it does, the toll from the north end to where it ceases is only about €2.50. The motorway currently runs out just before you reach the formula-1 (et al) racetrack at Magny Cours. That’s a big hint – do NOT use this route if there’s a major race weekend at Magny Cours, unless you like tailbacks.

Once past Moulins, continue on the N9 road towards Vichy until you can pick up the A719 motorway spur – at Gannat – that links Vichy to the A71. Take this *away* from Vichy towards the A71 and on south towards Clermont-Ferrand.

In our experience the non-motorway section should take you 60-90 minutes. Total journey time is slightly longer for us, in a 10-year-old Land Rover with which we rarely exceed 70-75mph anyway – if you tend to faster speeds on the Autoroute this route will slow you down more, of course. The motorway tariffs on this route tot up to about €32

The Rouen / Chartres route.

This is new, for us at least, for 2007. Only done it once so far, seems to work quite well. The travel software puts it at 30 mins longer than the “default” via-paris route. Given how long you can queue on the BP or the Francillienne, it’s hart to imagine that you won’t lose more than 30 mins that way making this quicker. Like the Moulins route it has a non-motorway section. In brief it’s

from Calais/Bolougne, A16 down the coast towards Paris (NOT the normal A26). That is, when leaving Bolougne, turn left and head south, when leaving Calais, go VIA BOULOGNE.

As you approach Abbeville, watch out for the sign and switch motorways to the A28 “Rouen”.

As you approach Rouen, follow the signs for the A13 towards Paris. This will take you around centre of the town. Once you join the A13, you will travel only a couple of miles before you see the signs for the A154 towards Evreux. Take this branch. Follow it around Evreux and down until it becomes the N154. The N154 briefly becomes (joins) the N12, then as you reach the edge of Dreux the N154 resurfaces again signposted to Chartres.

At Chartres, continue on the N154 – this will now be signposted Orleans. About 2/3rds of the way to Orleans you can join the A10. At Orleans, just keep going as this becomes the A71, and in 350k you’ll be at Clermont-Ferrand. (See main route).

Motorway tarrifs for this route are €34. (The A16, the short section of A13/A154, and the A71) (as at 2007)