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France

Cycling the Loire Valley

Self-Guided Leisure Cycling Holiday

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

8 days

Prices from

£1,295 P.P.
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Few places in the world are as well suited to a cycling holiday as France’s Loire valley. With a mostly flat landscape covered in vineyards and littered with Medieval history, combined with an excellent network of signposted cycle routes and bike paths, it is little wonder that cyclo-tourists have been flocking here for decades. This route in particular takes in some of the valley's most lovely areas, on an easy-going route suitable for most riders. 
The region’s biggest claim to fame is its abundance of spectacular châteaux, some of the finest examples of which can be visited by bicycle on this tour; those in Villandry, Saumur and Chinon being particularly noteworthy. Expect immaculate gardens and grand architecture, the kind of things you would expect from rival nobility trying to one up each other and display their wealth to the world. We think our route provides guests with the perfect mix of some of the most iconic châteaux alongside some lesser-known gems, which whilst often a little less over the top, are often even more interesting for it.
The châteaux alone make the Loire valley a fantastic destination – but when you add the fantastic array of local delicacies and a world-renowned wine industry, it becomes hard to justify not going! This tour takes you through the appellations of Saumur, Bourgeuil and Chinon, riding through the intricate patchwork of vineyards as you make your way around. Expect light, easy-drinking reds, crisp whites, and some super sparkling wine, served with meals including excellent local cheeses, mushrooms and fruits.
With relaxed routes knitting all of these threads of the Loire Valley’s distinctive culture together, as well as our expert local team being on hand for you, you can explore at your leisure and enjoy it all with the minimum of fuss.
Château d'Ussé with bikes, Loire-photoshop.jpg

Holiday Highlights

  • Visiting a selection of the region’s most interesting châteaux; including Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau
  • Enjoying fine local produce and local red, white and sparkling wines
  • Following relaxed routes, along quiet country lanes and traffic-free paths
  • Learning about the Loire Valley’s rich history
  • Meandering through quaint, picturesque villages
  • Cooling off in the hotel pool after a day out on your bikes

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Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival in Villandry

On arrival into Villandry, you will be welcomed by a local representative who will hold your welcome meeting and fit you to your bikes (should you be renting).

Depending on when you arrive, there may be time for a short acclimatisation ride to nearby Savonnieres or Langeais, to get into the pedalling spirit.

Alternatively you can spend the afternoon / early evening exploring Villandry; renowned for its magnificent and intricate gardens which provide an enchanting setting for a relaxing stroll.

Day 2
Villandry to Fontevraud l'Abbaye
34 Miles / 54 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Ascent: 240 Metres Approx.

Heading out of Villandry, you will make you way along the Loire a Velo cycle path, following the banks of the Loire on ancient roads full of fellow cyclists before turning inland and passing through the towns of Avoine and Savigny-en-Veron. In the latter is a delightful Écomusée that celebrates the local environment, wildlife and culture.

Continuing on, you’ll cross the Vienne river at its confluence with the Loire, which offers a great viewpoint, before passing the picturesque villages of Candes-St-Martin and Montsoreau, with its castle built into the riverbed. The village itself is part of the Loire Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site and a lovely village to meander through.

You’ll end the day with a cheeky climb, taking you through sunflower fields to the historical village of Fontevraud l’Abbaye. The village is built around a spectacular abbey that dates back to the 12th century and is home to the sarcophagi of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine as well as some gorgeous gardens and contemporary art installations. Whilst today’s ride is the longest of the trip, it is mostly made up of relaxed, riverside riding, so just take it easy and soak it all in!

Day 3
Optional Loop Ride to Saumur
24 Miles / 39 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Ascent: 360 Metres Approx.

Today you can either take it easy after yesterday’s exertions, and enjoy the hotel pool and gardens, or, if you‘re still raring to go, we have a lovely circular route to Saumur to tempt you back into the saddle.

The circular ride mostly follows the Loire a Velo cycle route and is well signposted, allowing for some stress-free pedalling (with just a few short sharp hills to keep you on your toes!). As it’s the same route there and back, you can turn back at any point if you change your mind about jumping in that pool.

If you ride the whole route though, you’ll be rewarded with châteaux, rolling vineyards and troglodyte dwellings. You’ll also be able to take in the beautiful flower-filled, narrow streets of Montsoreau, the hillside village of Turquant and the medieval town of Saumur, nicknamed the pearl of Anjou. The Chateau de Saumur, resplendent with a huge gold weathervane, sits perched above the town, which is full of boutiques, cafés and bars and a perfect place for a mid-ride pause. Ride home along the riverside and keep an eye out for the interesting cave houses as you go.

Day 4
Fontevraud l'Abbaye to Chinon
16 or 27 Miles / 25 or 43 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Ascent: 275 Metres Approx.

Today you’ll head east, riding through woodland and rolling farmland for the first part of the day, passing the Abbaye de Seuilly and Museum Rabelais en route to the stunning Chateau du Rivau, our recommended stop for the day. As a small, privately owned chateau, it doesn’t have the same ostentatious grandeur as some of the others in the area, but it’s brimming with charm and beauty. Be sure to try a lunch made from the produce of their own gardens before picking up the Voie Verte for an easy cruise into Chinon, a gorgeous town on the banks of the Vienne river.

Chinon is known for its medieval fortress that sits above the town. It was here that Joan of Arc sought permission for her attack on the English at Orléans. Below the fortress is a beautiful medieval town with countless bars serving the finest local wines.

Note: A shorter, more direct route of 25km (with no hills!) is also available if you’d prefer to head straight to Chinon for an afternoon of relaxation.

Day 5
Chinon to Azay-le-Rideau
21 Miles / 34 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Ascent: 190 Metres Approx.

You’ll start the day today using the public lift, that will take you and your bikes up and out of the town centre (saves you riding up the hill!).

Leaving the lovely Chinon behind, riding past its ancient fortress, you’ll follow a well signposted route through the village of Huismes, the former home to Dada artist Max Ernst, and onwards to the banks of the Loire.

After a few kilometres on a quiet cyclepath, you turn back onto the road to the famous Château d’Ussé, the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. The route from here continues to hug the banks of the Loire on a road atop the levy which is perfectly flat. You pass the peaceful river port of Bréhémont before branching off and following the Indre river into Azay-le-Rideau, passing another little-known gem of a place at Château de l’Islette, just outside of town.

The town centre of Azay, is a winding maze of narrow streets, surrounded by riverside Renaissance chateaux, rolling green vineyards and immaculate, verdant gardens.

Day 6
Azay-le-Rideau to Montbazon
16 Miles / 25 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Ascent: 170 Metres Approx.

It’s a short route today, so we recommend starting the day with a visit to Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, one of the region’s finest.

Back on the bikes, and your route for the day continues to follow the Indre river eastwards, through charming villages like Saché and Artannes-sur-Indres on the way to your destination; Montbazon. Saché is a particularly charming little village and home to a small castle and museum dedicated to Honoré de Balzac, who whilst not so well known outside of France, is one of country’s most treasured literary icons.

After a little more riverside riding, you should arrive in Montbazon with plenty of time to visit the spectacular fortress – or just to take a dip in the hotel pool, located just outside of town.

Day 7
Montbazon to Villandry
23 Miles / 37 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Ascent: 170 Metres Approx.

Today you’ll be travelling back towards the Loire, meeting its meandering course in the city of Tours, one of France’s most historically important cities.

Your route out of town follows the Loire a Velo cycle route down the grand Avenue de Grammont, something of a miniature Champs Elysees (with cycle paths!), before you continue west passing the caves at Savonnieres en route to Villandry.

You‘re welcome to ride into Tours centre if you’d like a look around (this will add 3 kms into the city, and 3 kms back out onto your route).

Once back in Villandry, you’ll have the chance to visit the château if you didn’t earlier in the week, or just to kick back, relax and enjoy a well-earned glass of sparkling wine in the hotel’s grounds.

Day 8
Departure from Villandry
  • Meals: Breakfast

After a final breakfast it’s time to say au revoir! Extra nights in Tours or Paris can be arranged on request.

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The Cycling

Terrain

Generally the riding is flat and easy going. You’ll find some short hills when you leave the river valley but nothing long or too steep. There’s a lot of cycling infrastructure in place, so most of the cycling takes place on signposted cycle routes that are designed and managed by local tourist boards. These routes mostly use very quiet roads that zig zag through vineyards or along the river bank.

Although much of the route (70% approx) is on roads shared with traffic, the majority of the routes outside of towns usually have low traffic levels and its very unusual to see more cars than cyclists. There are stretches of traffic free cycle path as well, notably outside of Chinon and Rigny-Usse. One day of cycling passes through the outskirts of Tours, a small city. This however is done on a signposted route on cycle paths alongside the road and through a park. It’s still generally very safe and easy to navigate.

We’d recommend a hybrid bike for this tour, although a road bike would suffice if confident on some of the bumpier sections (some cobbles and some hard-packed gravel / dirt sections)

Château d'Ussé with bikes, Loire-photoshop.jpg

Leisure Cycling Grade

1
2
3
4
5
Grade 1-2 : Easy/Gentle

Aspects of both our grade 1 and 2 holidays

Suitable for those looking for a relaxed ride

Occasional ups and downs

Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!

For more information about our grading system click here.

Is this suitable for you?

Holidays that are graded as a 1-2, will have aspects of both our grade 1 and grade 2 holidays. These tours are still suitable for those looking for an accessible cycling holiday with manageable daily distances, along predominately flat terrain, however there will be some days / sections where we’d expect you to be up for a slightly cheeky challenge. It might be that the distances are a little longer on some days or that the terrain is slightly more undulating, but the rides are still relaxed and manageable for someone whose generally fit and healthy.

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Dates & Prices

2021 and 2022 Daily departures available from 01 Apr – 10 Oct.

Choose your date
Start Date
End Date
Duration
Price p.p.
Start Date
Return Date
--/--/----
Duration
8 days
Price
£1,295.00

Whats Included Tick

A) Accommodation (shared twin / double en suite rooms) in 3 and 4* hotels

B) Meals as per the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

C) English speaking local representative (with welcome meeting)

D) Detailed route notes and maps (GPX files available on request)

E) Luggage transfers

F) Train station transfer from Tours or St Pierre des Corps (Day 1)

G) Train station transfer to Tours or St Pierre des Corps (Day 8)

What's not Included Cross

A) Bike rental (available if required)

B) Flights and charges for travelling with your bike (if applicable)

C) Meals not stated in the itinerary

D) Single room (available if required)

E) Travel insurance

F) Personal clothing and equipment

G) Personal expenditure (souvenirs, bar bills, hotel facilities etc)

H) Entrance fees to museums and other attractions en route

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The Essentials

Travel Options

This tour starts and finishes in Villandry. We include transfers from the local train station in Tours or St Pierre des Corps. Please aim to arrive before 17.30 if possible.

From the UK, you can catch a ferry to St Malo in Brittany or Caen, and drive to Villandry from there (parking available at the hotel). Alternatively you can take the Eurostar from St Pancras in London, to Paris. From Paris Gare du Nord, you’ll transfer to Gare de Montparnasse, and then switch to the TGV to Tours where we will meet you and take you to the hotel.

If you’d prefer to fly, the best airport is Tours (TUF), possible with Ryanair from London Stansted (STN). There is a bus service to Tours town centre that operates after every inbound flight or we can offer an airport transfer for an additional £15.

Alternatively you can fly into Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) where you can take a direct train to Tours or St Pierre des Corps from the airport terminal.

All transfers are in a standard saloon car (max. 3 passengers). Minibus prices and prices to/from other locations may be available on request. Please get in touch to discuss your requirements.

Please check with Skedaddle before making any travel arrangements so that we can ensure they fit in with the holiday schedule.

Accommodation

Accommodation (shared twin or double rooms). You’ll enjoy en suite rooms in 2 different 4* hotels, and a lovely selection of high standard 3* hotels.

We have selected hotels that really showcase the area and this tour is really about great riding and great accommodation at the end of a day out on your bike. We can send a list of example hotels ahead of booking if you’d like an idea of the standard to expect.

Bike Hire

If you’d rather not bring along your own bike, we have bikes available to rent.

Rental bikes are typically Trek T200s. A capable and versatile touring bike. A lightweight Shimano 24-speed drivetrain and a Dynamo hub make it the perfect choice for everything from daily rides to exploration in new terrain. Available in standard (as above) and low step frame types (depending on your height, please let us know if you have a preference).

We also have electric bikes available. These are typically Trek TM1+ Lowstep (500Wh. A versatile electric trekking bike with a step-through frame geometry that makes it easy to mount and dismount. It’s built for comfort and dependability on all kinds of recreational rides. The powerful Bosch motor helps you sustain speeds up to 25 km/h, comfortable touchpoints and 8-speed Shimano drivetrain make it perfect for this tour.

Rental bikes will come with a back pannier rack and bag, a mobile phone mount, a puncture repair kit and spare inner tubes and a water bottle holder. Rental helmets available on request. You are welcome to bring along your own pedals (and shoes) and / or saddle if preferred, please just let us know in advance.

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