June 1, 2016

Cycling-in-the-Loire-Valley-Hero Explore the stunning Loire Valley, with such sights as the Château de Chenonceau -- Image by Flickr user Dennis Jarvis

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or an eager beginner, the Loire Valley in France is one of the best places in the country to enjoy a cycling holiday. I’ve lived in France for some time now, and it’s still my favourite place to go cycling, with incredible views and historic sites. You can find easy family-friendly paths, as well as longer and more challenging routes.

The Loire Valley

Surrounding the Loire River, between Chalonnes-sur-Loire and Sully-sur-Loire, the Loire Valley is an incredibly picturesque part of France. Sully-sur-Loire is less than five hours by car from Calais, so it’s an easy drive, and once there, you’re surrounded by natural beauty. Spend as much or as little time as you like exploring the valley’s beautiful chateaux, cathedrals, sleepy villages, and the pathways which guide you along the Loire River.

Loire à Vélo

The most popular cycling route through this part of France is undoubtedly the Loire à Vélo. Covering about 800 kilometres, this tourism trail goes from the coast at Saint-Nazaire, inland towards the city of Nevers, alongside the Loire River. The route is well-marked, safe and is generally very flat, with each stage covering about 40 kilometres. This, coupled with the fantastic scenery, makes the Loire Valley the perfect place to cycle with family or friends. Below I’ve feature a few of my favourite places to stop along the route, but it’s so easy to start and stop anywhere you please.

Loire à Vélo
Cycle the stunning Loire à Vélo © Flickr user Luiyo

Candes-Saint-Martin to Tours

One of France’s ‘most beautiful villages’, Candes-Saint-Martin is a stunning location. Don’t miss the 12th century fortified church and chapel of Saint-Martin in the village centre. With houses built in white stone and old cobbled streets adorned with flowers, I love stopping here for a bite to eat before starting off on my bike.

As you cycle towards Rigny-Ussé, you can enjoy unspoilt natural surroundings, before stopping to see the incredible Château d’Ussé, once a stronghold in the Middle Ages, today it features stunning gardens and exhibitions featuring clothes from the Bell Époque. I love the views of the Loire River between Rigny-Ussé and Villandry, and it’s a really easy ride so you can take it all in.

Built during the Renaissance, remember to check out the Château de Villandry. The gardens here are incredible, while inside the château is really unique. I love strolling slowly around the gardens, but if you’re with a family there are some fantastic kid’s workshops and guided tours, too.

gardens at Villandry
The beautiful gardens at Villandry. © Flickr user Guillaume Baviere

The cycling route in and out of Villandry is incredible fun, with fantastic riverside views. When you eventually reach Tours, be sure to check out the Place Plumereau, which is surrounded by half-timbered houses and is bustling with locals who enjoy a cold drink and lunch in the sunny square.

Orléans to Sully-sur-Loire

Leaving from the great city of Orléans, this is a great family route following the greenways along the Loire River. I love cycling through L’Ile Charlemagne, stopping to enjoy a spot of lunch on the beach. Perfect for families with young children, Ile Charlemagne boasts a huge play area, sports pitches and opportunities for water sports such as canoeing and windsurfing.

Next, you’ll ride through quiet roads, passing the commune of Jargeau over a raised embankment, which provides beautiful views of the River Loire. The next town, Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, has a beautiful park with a small river, dozens of species of birds and animals and the remains of a castle. I love stopping here for a picnic and a little rest, before continuing along my route.

River Loire
Ride to Candes-Saint-Martin and stop by the River Loire. © Flickr user ho visto nina volare

At Germigny-des-Prés you’ll find a beautiful church, which dates back to the year 806, while another great spot for history lovers can be found further down the river, at Fleury Abbey, in Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire. The Abbey was founded in 640 and boasts a stunning church and tower, and is steeped in history, with parts of it having survived the French Revolution. Eventually you’ll reach Sully-sur-Loire, with its impressive 15th century castle and gardens.

gardens at Villandry
The church at Germigny-des-Prés. © Flickr user Daniel Jolivet

Inspired to travel to France’s Loire Valley?

With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle you can get from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes – and take your bike!

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