Les Grèbes du Lac de Marcenay
Marcenay, in the Châtillonnais area of Burgundy, is one of 23 villages famed for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. At one time the lake here was used by local monks as their source of piscatorial sustenance: however today it attracts a somewhat more diverse collection of people, who come to sunbathe on its sandy banks, paddle across the large expanse of water, watch the wildlife or, in the lovely campsite nestled right next to the waters, tune their instruments for musical nights around the campfire.
Les Grèbes du Lac de Marcenay has got all the ingredients for an old-school camping experience: a remote location far away from any road noise, a substantial lake, an incredibly friendly welcome in the guise of Dirk Jansen, the owner, and a laissez-faire attitude to where you pitch your tent. That it’s off the beaten track won’t appeal to people who like to be within walking distance of a choice of bars and restaurants, but we kind of feel that this isolation is all part of its appeal.
When Dirk took on the site it was an old-fashioned municipal affair. One of the first things he did was remove the barrier at the entrance and throw away the rules telling campers what they could and couldn’t do. "People don’t want to see that when they’re on holiday", he explains in his dulcet Dutch tones. Since then, he’s been transforming the regiment into its antithesis – a thoroughly rustic, bohemian, chilled-out retreat. The pace of life here is as suitably slow as you would expect in a place where the roads are practically car-free and you can cycle peacefully in the sun.
The site itself seems to attract a mixture of people: young couples touring around France who just want to stay for a few days, and older couples who come back year after year for week long vacations. There’s a regular crowd of musicians too, who seem to appear for impromptu concerts around the campfire or in the main music hall. Theres a piano, guitars, amps and microphones available, usually set up alongside rows of tables for an evening feast. "Sweet musical vibrations bring us all together", Dirk extols, "musicians of all ages capacities and walks of lives thrive at Camping Marcenay". Most people here certainly agree and, in summer, the place seems to be one long musical jamming session.
The main camping area is a lush, wooded plot with reasonably spacious pitches. Each is set in a clearing, partially surrounded by shrubs or trees, so there is a real sense of privacy. Open fields and vineyards on one side contrast with the lake on the other, though, set just beyond a bank, you cant actually see the water from your tent pitch. The lake is about 3 miles (5 km) all the way round and on the edge of a forest. Despite Dirk’s various plans, this ancient natural feature remains the site’s greatest asset. There is something very special about living near the water and, though you can’t actually camp on the lakeside itself, you’re a mere hop, skip, and a jump away across the footbridge to its edge.
All in all, Les Grèbes du Lac Marcenay ends up being a campsite that's more about ambience and setting, then it is about facilities. The relaxed, bohemian atmosphere mark it out from the crowd and if your an out-going musical type you'll be sure to fit right in. If not, maybe take a walk across to the lakeside; take a blanket and a bottle of wine and sit on the sand, watching the sun set. With the campsite just meters away, there’s never a need to rush.
There are 13 toilets, 17 showers, 2 disabled toilets and showers and a baby-changing room. A small play area is provided for children, with kids’ bikes and a free-standing outdoor pool. In the main reception there is a games area with a pool table and free WiFi. Main music hall space with guitars, a piano, amps, drums, microphones and more (all frequently used, so expect some music while you are here). The laundry area is also in the main reception building and there is a backpacker style kitchen free to use along with a wood-fired stove. There is a facility for freezing ice packs. No individual campfires are allowed, but there is a communal fire just to the side of the main site.
Tents, campervans, caravans, dogs, large groups (owner checks details before confirming) – yes.
There are 3 different walks around the lake, ranging from 3 miles (5 km) to 6 miles (10 km). Dirk will rent bikes to you at a reasonable €3.50 for 2 hours and lend you some local maps, the quiet roads are ideal and not too hilly. Or you can try pony-trekking next door for €18 an hour (ask at campsite reception). There’s also a hidden bird-watching tower for the more ornithologically inclined. And if the attractions of the lake aren’t enough, there’s a recently opened assault course in the trees at Forêt de l’Aventure d’Auxerre-Laborde (00 33 6 69 06 34 17), which is a 45-minute drive and costs €14 for kids and €22 for adults. If you like the idea of nosing round other people’s cast-offs, you’ll be able to find a car-boot sale (vide grenier) most weekends in one of the nearby villages (ask reception for a list). We found that this was more tailored towards locals than tourists, but there’s bound to be something to pique your interest.
Food & Drink
You can pre-order fresh bread and pastries at reception every day and they carry a very small selection of food and drink, including the local tipple: we’re in Crémant de Bourgogne country after all. Dirk is also a fan of hosting traditional crêpe evenings every now and then, whipping them up outside reception for just €2 each. For those interested in fully immersing themselves in local culture, there is free wine-tasting in Marcenay courtesy of Monsieur Guilleman (00 33 3 80 81 40 03). Just around the corner, in Balot, there is a snail farm, which you can visit and even taste the produce for €7 per person. For traditional French food served in what feels like someone’s front room, complete with dressers and a mounted boar’s head, with its friendly welcome and reasonably priced fare Auberge de la Baume, also in nearby Balot (00 33 3 80 81 40 15), is well worth a visit. For a special treat, why not try the Michelin-starred, 12th-century chateau-hotel, Abbaye de la Bussière in Bussière-sur-Ouche (00 33 3 80 49 02 29)?
May–September. Advanced booking rarely required.
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The Owner Says
Make-music-camping – Welcome to Lac de Marcenay, where musicians meet and play.
Inspired by the flow of visiting musicians, we are now officially a make-music-camping site, where musicians meet. Since 2015 this is a great success, especially in high season. For further ideas of this, please view our videos on youtube.
Mosts nights there is lovely music making by spontaneously meeting musicians all in a unstructured way. We have instruments available for you, such as piano, guitar, bass, drums and more. It is an open project and we love to see it grow and give good vibrations. Feel free to come plat here!
When camping, you can still sleep peacefully. The music happens in the front of the site or inside. It is not too loud and all the bush and trees and distance keeps the camping pitches real quiet. We have to alert our campers by bicycle and invite them to come and enjoy, if not they will not notice that there are sessions going on!
All of this creates an unbelievably lovely harmony between all of us.
Thank you to all you great and gifted musicians for all the unforgettableness :)
Les Grèbes du Lac de Marcenay, 5 rue du Pont Neuf, 21330 Marcenay, Côte-d'Or, France
The site is on D965 between Laignes and Châtillon-sur-Seine. Follow signposts to Lac de Marcenay and ‘Camping’.
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Rated ★★★★★ over 17 reviews
A swinging campsite.
An incredible stay
No need to book...
Dirty and unkempt.
Its all about playingmusic together and enjoying the sweet sounds of music sessions by the campfire.
We absolutely loved this campsite
OK as a stopoff.
I don't know why everyone raves about this campsite. It's pretty run down and dull.
Really tired after our journey, we stopped here and only intended to stay a couple of nights- this stretched into a week- because it was so relaxed and welcoming. Lots of stuff for kids, toys, bikes, a tent and a drawing area in the reception ( which has free wifi ) , lots of good things which you can buy in the fridge and freezer at good prices and though the campsite was busy all day, it was still peaceful, and silent at night. It is rural and quiet, so possibly not for those who want a big night life, but the lake has a beach and we swam every day. The site itself has 2 small pools, which the kids love. On July 14, we caught a free concert in the village of Laignes- chansons d'amour- just wonderful. A magical holiday.
I noticed that fishing was not mentioned? but it,s fantastic I caught my first pike there, on a great/calm campsite , dirk speaks english dutch and french,helped, me out on restaurants/adresses and such,good helping advice all round as my french ain,t 2 good and forget dutch,the music was good, and I thinck this summer dirk,s doing french pancakes, will be going back this september for the wine season/ and lot,s of tasting of coarse, cheers for all,again/ regards mr lucas
A little update about the music camping theme that has been started this year. Every other day there is live music (dont´worry it´s unplugged) on the camping. Guests may play on the instruments that are present, or you may prefer to pluck your own guitar. Me, Ton the inhouse musician, will be glad to join you playing: jazz, gipsy, blues, folk, sixties, seventies, etc. Of course you´re welcome too when you just want to listen.
Beautiful campsite in a wonderful location, run by a guy so laid back he was happy to take my Nectar Card as security on arrival. The pitches are spacious and the facilities are clean. The overall ambience of the place, much to Dirk's credit, is very chilled ... A place of complete relaxation and easy going charm. We will definitely go back.
Memories of Marcenary
Lac de Marcenary was our first port of call for myself-my wife Emma, daughter India & son Floyd. We had chosen les grebes because of it's shining review in cool camping and we where not disappointed!
First contact was with Dirk in the main reception- what a cool guy! He made us feel at home and relaxed from the off. We needed a drink after the journey from north wales and Dirk was quick to recommended the Cremant de Bourgogne (as good as champagne but half the price) which was chilled to perfection - this became our daily tipple! The fridge was also stocked with other essentials which was very handy and if there was no body about you could help yourself and settle up later! How cool is that! Again this trust set a relax atmosphere around the site.
The children loved Marcenary! The rope swing over the lake draw the camp site children together and gave the parents an hilarious spectacle on an evening. The fleet of assorted vessels which you are free to us were a real bonus- especially for retrieving lost crocs from the swing!
The lake at dawn was breathtaking and well worth an early rise. Sitting sipping a coffee watching the bird life and continues fish swirling as the sun rose, Magic!
We had a couple of BBQ's at the beach which were fantastic. The swimming was great- the only weed free area on the lake. There was also a wc/shower block at the beach, which came in very handy. The country side surrounding us was breathtaking with lot's to see and do.
As the week came to an end and the next destination beckoned we really didn't want to leave. Dirk had arrange a crepes party on the Sunday night, helped by his wife and by his right hand man necko - who as a team made fantastic hosts. The salmon and crème fresh crepes were sublime.
We will definitely be returning next year! 10 out of 10!
A great location, well set out pitches and good facilities. Wish we could have stayed more than a couple of days.
Great start to our Holiday.
We stopped at Lac de Marcenay en route to the Jura for 2 nights. It was a lovely start to the holiday and we wished we could have stayed longer ( we had reservations for our next site). The pitches were spacious and private and we all (especially 10 yr and 13 yr old) enjoyed the hospitality and laid back approach to the site. Would recommend this site to anyone it is set in a lovely location amongst the vinyards of the Champagne/Bourgogne border. Looking forward to a return visit.
I had a fabulous stay in Lac de Marcenay in July. It was my first time experiencing true French campsite hospitality and it didn't disappoint. It was very relaxing and I loved the fact you could pre-order breakfast and lunch in the form of baguettes and pain au chocoloate. Dirk creates a lovely atmosphere - one evening we arrived back to a crepe night being hosted in the campsite, another evening karaoke.
A recommended local restaurant made the trip a truly French experience as we sat amongst locals and dined on escargots! Although it rained for part of the trip, being nestled among the trees in this campsite made it feel cosy. Dirk was very helpful, giving us cycle maps and recommending bike routes - we cycled right in to a champagne festival which we didn't complain about!
Overall excellent stay.
Peaceful and friendly
We stayed at Lac de Marcenay 2 weeks ago on our way home. The site is very beautiful, we chose our pitch and the lake was only 2 minutes walk away. The owners were really friendly and helpful, offering a map and advice on bike routes and nearby towns to visit. We swam in the lake and the pool, made use of the free rowing boat and canoe and used the games room to play pool and access the WiFi. We loved the laid back feel and the 'can do' approach. Shame we had to leave before we could sample Dirk's gauffres and crepes!
Chilled out site
I stayed in Lac de Marcenay in July and had a great time. The owner is super friendly and the atmosphere is really laid back: pitch where you want, wander to and from the lake, access the games room any time, just ask to borrow the canoe e.t.c.
It is certainly fairly 'middle of nowhere', but the small villages around are really nice. We visited the recommended restaurant in Balot and, despite accidentally wandering in through the fire exit and crashing through our minimal french, had the most amazing meal! It rained for a bit of our stay which was a little restricting when we wanted to do things like cycle around and swim in the lake but our time on the bikes was amazing: Last weekend of July = Champagne festival through the local villages. Highly recommended. €18 for a flute, breathalizer and 28 tickets, then pootle through the villages to grab a glass of all the different champagnes!!! amazing!
Great relaxing campsite, real countryside location.
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