Visiting Beaumont-Hamel without a guide
Updated: Feb 14, 2019
While I was a guide at Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, many visitors commented that they found it challenging to plan their trip to Beaumont-Hamel on their own and were surprised by the facilities, (or lack thereof) once they had arrived on site. So here I share with you my tips on how to visit Beaumont-Hamel on your own without a private battlefield guide so that you can make the most of your time.
Where is Beaumont-Hamel?
Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial is located between two villages, Beaumont and Hamel in the Department of the Somme in the Picardy Region; approximately 40 minute drive south of Arras, which is the largest centre closest to the site. Arras is served by the TGV (high-speed train) out of Paris Gare du Nord and approximately 1.5 - 2 hours drive from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. See our How to get to Arras page for more information.
The next largest town to Beaumont-Hamel is Albert which is an approximately 2 hour train ride from Paris, (with a change in Amiens). There are taxis available in Albert for approximately 40 Euro for a return trip. You can arrange a time for pick up from the site with the taxi directly or the guide in the Visitor's Centre can call a taxi for you when you are ready to leave.
What is important to remember if you are travelling by train and taxi is that not every town with a train station necessarily has taxi service, so you would be best to arrive in Arras or Albert.
Due to its rural location, I recommend to rent a car as there are a number of nearby memorials on the Somme that also may be of interest to you, and the Vimy Memorial is only an hour's drive north. Visiting more than one site becomes cumbersome and expensive via public transportation.
To avoid the stress of navigating Paris traffic, I recommend you rent a car from Paris CDG as it is much easier to get to the A1 autoroute that leads to north to Picardie and it is easy to take the RER to the airport to pick up a car. There are a number of car rental companies in immediate proximity to the Arras train station as well, so you can also take the train to Arras and rent a car from there also.
Visiting by bicycle is also possible. Bicycles are not allowed on site under any circumstance and must be left in the bike racks in the parking lot. You should carry a bicycle lock with you.
Parking for cars, coaches and bicycles is available across the road from Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. Note that parking may be restricted on ceremony days and in periods of high-traffic volume.
Note that the parking has limited hours of operation which are posted.
How much time do I need?
I recommend you allow yourself at least 2 hours to have a proper visit. The walking trail around the site is about 2 km long.
When to visit
Between the very end of January to beginning of December is the best as most visitor services are available.
Opening hours and other visitor information is available on Veteran's Affairs Canada's website; note there is a annual closure from December to end of January where visitor services are not available on site.
The preserved trenches are accessible outside of site hours, however the Visitor's Centre and washrooms are not.
Please note that large group reservations, ceremonies and other special events may alter the availability of visitor services. I recommend you arrive sooner than later in the day and enquire about a free tour immediately upon arrival.
The Visitor's Centre holds an interpretive display and public washrooms. There is no gift boutique or food and beverage facilities of any kind.
Note that due to security regulations in France there is no baggage storage available on site. You will need to carry what you bring with you.
Upon arrival you will be greeted at the entrance by one of the student guides. They can tell you're Canadian by your red & white / maple leaf attire, so when they ask where you are from, tell them your actual town and province / territory.
You can explore the site on your own with one of the free self-guided brochures available in English or French or you can take a free tour with one of the student guides.
Free Guided Tours
Enquire at the entrance or in the Visitor's Centre about taking one of the free guided tours offered by the Canadian Student guides. This is the first thing you should do upon arrival as you may have to wait for a while for a tour in the language of your choice. Reservations are not accepted for tours. All tours are available in either French or English and are on a first-come first-served basis.
Overlooking the battlefield in the direction the Newfoundland Regiment advanced on the 1st of July 1916, the panels below the statue list the over 800 Newfoundlanders who lost their lives in the Great War and have no known grave.
Three Commonwealth cemeteries are also located on site; Y Ravine; Hunter's Cemetery and Hawthorne Cemetery No. 2. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission takes care of on-site gardening and maintains all the Commonwealth cemeteries and most monuments.
The sheep who graze the battlefield are provided by a local shepard and can be seen grazing the battlefield from spring to fall.
Eating & Drinking
Be forewarned that there are no food and beverage facilities on site, so if you are coming by taxi, I would pack some snacks or a lunch. While picnicking on the site itself is not allowed, there are a few picnic tables in the parking lot across the road from the site.
If you have a car, you can find refreshment in the nearby villages, such as Auchonvillers, Pozieres, La Boiselle or Albert. Lunch time in the area is between 12 pm - 2 pm; finding a meal before or afterwards can be a challenge.
The Visitor's Centre is accessible by wheelchair and in good weather a good portion of the site is accessible by wheelchair, (rain can cause very muddy conditions).
Commemorative ceremonies are held at the Caribou Memorial every July 1st and for Remembrance Day in November which can be attended by the public. Visit the Veteran's Affairs' website for more information.
See the post about etiquette before you go...
This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated to reflect new operational procedures at Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial.