We made a daytrip from Guernsey to Dinard during our two week holiday. I’d been to Dinard a couple of times before – once as a landaway with another pilot, and again when diverted due to bad weather on return from our holiday the previous year. In both cases, I’d not made it outside the airport.
Apart from some early fog around Guernsey (the fog horn woke me up early!), the forecast was for a bright sunny day. On requesting a start clearance, I was issued a Special VFR “not above 1000 feet” departure clearance. This was almost immediately revised into a VFR clearance because the visibility had improved to “not above 2000 feet”. The clearance toggled back and forth between these two a couple of times as the fog came and went. After departure we saw the bank of fog to the south of the island with clear skies above. It seemed strange to have to stay lower down when the poor visibility was also at very low level only. A few miles south, the fog bank cleared and we had lovely blue skies to our destination.
Handed over to Rennes Info, who gave us a French squawk code, then to Dinard Tower when we reported airfield in sight. The ATIS was a little hard to decipher and fully understand, but I got the QNH and runway in use (17). This meant a straight in arrival with no delay. We parked on the grass (I was given the option of either hard or grass – they weren’t busy). Tried to pay the landing fee on arrival but told by the fireman who deal with that to pay on departure.
With the airport deserted, we phoned for a taxi which came fairly quickly (which you can’t rely on – best book in advance if you can). 15 Euro into the centre of Dinard. It’s a delightful French seaside resort which in the warm sunshine and low tide was busy with all sorts of activity at the seaside. We walked around and found a great place for lunch.
A “seabus” ferry service plies between Dinard and St Malo. There are a couple of departure points from Dinard, so you need to check the timetable for which one. It runs about every 20 minutes and takes 10 to make the crossing. I’ve walked around the walled city of St Malo before – well worth a visit – then we headed for some relaxing beach time.
I was keeping a close eye on the potential for early evening fog. Alderney had been fogged in most of the day (17C/17C), Guernsey was warmer with a larger split between dew point and air temp (16/21C) while Dinard was the best with 28C.
We had some difficulty finding a taxi and walked around a lot before locating the taxi stand. Stupidly, these don’t actually state which taxi stand you are at, so when you call for a taxi by phone as indicated, you can’t tell them where you are! One turned up in five “taxi minutes” and drove us directly to the airport via the river barrage for 25 Euro. St Malo has one of the few tidal powered hydro-electric schemes, which the high tidal range here makes particularly worthwhile.
We could see passengers from a RyanAir flight leaving the terminal as we drew up. Filing a flight plan using SkyDemon over free Wi-Fi in the terminal building, we were ushered through security via the GA door without delay (the Ryanair pax had almost completed boarding). [Hint: take your pilot licence and passport with you – they do check both thoroughly]. A fireman was available in their special little hut to take our landing fee. After a quick preflight, there was no delay departing on the reciprocal runway to that we had arrived on – runway 35 put us on track back to Guernsey.
Cleared into the Jersey Zone VFR not above 2000, I was asked by Guernsey Approach to descend to 1000 as we closed on Guernsey due to a couple of eastbound departures from runway 09. Making a left base, another aircraft was cleared for immediate departure when we were about 4 miles away. I extended the base leg west for spacing and vacated the runway just as another commercial aircraft was cleared for take-off.
It took about 25 minutes airborne each way for the 55 miles direct route. While there is a commercial service between the two airports, it wouldn’t have been nearly as convenient (and much more expensive) to have a day out that way.
From the south of England, Dinard can be almost as accessible as other European coastal destinations. It got the thumbs up from my family who marked it slightly higher than Le Touquet. While there is a longer water crossing involved, it’s certainly an easy choice for a cross channel daytrip or weekend. From any of the Channel Islands, it’s a very easy day out.