Sports & Outdoors

Cycling in the Loire Valley

Check out our guide to cycling in the Loire Valley, from family-friendly routes to more challenging cycle paths.

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. With incredible views and historic sites. You can find easy family-friendly paths, as well as longer and more challenging routes.

What to take

A cycling holiday requires a little consideration when you’re packing clothing and accessories. You may be bringing your own bike, so be sure to give it a service before travelling. Make sure you can secure your bicycle(s) safely on your vehicle too.

If you are planning to hire a bike, you will still need to make sure you pack clothing that is made to make cycling more comfortable, especially if you are planning to try some longer routes.

Here are some items to pack:

  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottles
  • Saddle bag
  • Hand-pump
  • Spare inner tubes
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Cycling shoes
  • Pedals
  • Lights
  • Spare set of brake pads
  • Waterproof pouch for any tech
  • Bike lock

Remember to take weather into consideration and pack sun cream or waterproof clothing depending on the time of year you are travelling.

The most popular cycle routes in 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 are a few of the favourite places people stop along the route, but it’s easy to start and stop anywhere you please.

White brick French castle built over a river

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, this is a good place for a bite to eat before starting off.

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. The views of the Loire River between Rigny-Ussé and Villandry are stunning here, and it’s an 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 unique. Plan a leisurely stroll around the gardens, or, if you’re with a family, there are some fantastic kid’s workshops and guided tours, too.

A maze of green hedges shaped in a geometric pattern with fountains at the centre

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. As you cycle through L’Ile Charlemagne, stop 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. It’s important to know that the Loire Valley is filled with beautiful castles, read our guide to them here.

The Indre à Vélo: from Loches to Azay-le-Rideau

This route is considered by many to be the little sister to the Loire à Vélo. Leading you through the picturesque countryside between Berry and Touraine, this is a quieter route too, with nothing too tricky for beginners or smaller riders. You can choose ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ clearly marked cycle paths.

The entire route is 200km route from Chenonceaux to Azay-le-Rideau via Loches to Jeu-les-Bois, south of Châteauroux, but starting in the beautiful city of Loches allows you to take in the stunning medieval military architecture. The river Indre has plenty on its banks to see, including the Goupillières troglodytic valley, which is filled with caves that once provided homes for people but are now often used to store wine. The Troglodyte Caves of the Loire Valley are a unique stopping point, and you can book tours to see deeper inside for just a few euros.

Other points of interest along this route are ancient abbeys at Cormery and the village of Chédigny which hosts an annual rose festival each summer.

Colourful flowers in the foreground with a huge French turreted castle behind

Cycle routes leaving from bike rental points

If you are renting a bike during your stay, you will find it easier to begin a cycle route that’s close by your rental spot. Here are some of our recommendations.

Royal city and forest of Loches

Loches is classed as one of the most beautiful sites in France and sits at the heart of the Loire Valley. This citadel town has an amazing medieval complex within its walls. The cobbled streets are lined with history and there’s the impressive Saint Antoine Tower, a 52-metre-high former belfry that juts into the sky.

On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the town comes alive with a market that's considered one of the region's best, so leave some room in your saddle bags for local produce. You can hire bikes from a couple of locations within the city itself, Cultu'Raids Concept is just 570 yards from the Castle of Loches, with staff speaking both French and English.

After you’ve had your fill of the city, delve into the old royal woodland around Loches. The Kings of France used to come here to hunt, so you may spot deer or even a stag, although there are also a lot of plants and wild mushrooms to see, too. Peugeot cycles hire out bicycles for local bike rides around two circuits through the Loches forest, suitable for most abilities.

The royal road

Along this route that borders the Cher and the Loire, discover architectural jewels such as the Château of Chenonceau, the Royal Château of Amboise, and Clos Lucé which was once the home of Leonardo Da Vinci. This route is around 45 km-long and many people love it for its connections to the old royal families and the great artist Da Vinci, who’s tomb lies in the Château of Amboise.

Panoramic view of an old French city with sloped rooftops and a bell tower in the distance

Major wines and fine residences

For wine lovers, the Loire Valley is paradise. We’ve already explored some of the vineyards here, but there’s still plenty to say about this fabulous region. Cycling through the Loire Valley gives you more time to plan stops at vineyards and try some of the local grapes than by car.

At the starting point of the Loire a Vélo route, visit Cuffy (near Nevers), and stop in Sancerre for a lovely glass of their signature sauvignon blanc. We’d also recommend a detour into the historic town of Sancerre itself. The Loire Valley is most known for its fresh whites starting with Sauvignon Blanc from famous commune appellations including Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Menetou-Salon, but if you prefer red wine, you must try Bourgueil, made from Cabernet Franc grapes, which is available at Domaine de la Chevalerie, a family-run vineyard in Restigné in Chinon.

We already mentioned the gardens at Château de Villandry, but another to see is at Château de la Bourdaisière. Established by Prince Albert de Broglie in 1989, it holds over 400 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, which you can buy fresh and as preserves. If you like your French castles on the larger size, the biggest is Chambord, made from white limestone and a classic take on Renaissance architecture. It is, in fact, the inspiration behind Beast’s castle in Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast. King Francois began building it in 1519, but it was only completed a century later by Louis XIV. You can book horse and carriage rides around the grounds after admiring the extravagant interiors.

The three rivers circuit

Cycling by water is always a treat, enjoy the peaceful scenery surrounding the waterways of the Canal du Nivernais, River Yonne, and Canal Latéral à la Loire, all of which wind through the valley. Bike rentals are available at many points along the rivers and canals here, but Le Grand-Pressigny offers a mapped out 3 rivers trail, suitable for beginners and families. It’s 25km and recommends stops that celebrate the history of flint production in the area, in particular a prehistory museum showcasing the collections and expertise of the artisans who made large flint blades.

woman on a bicycle riding through a very green archway made by trees

Experience cycling in the Loire Valley with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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Experience cycling in the Loire Valley with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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