Cycling in the Loire Valley
Cycling from Saint-Nazaire to Orleans along the Loire Valley is the most famous and prestigious cycle tourist route in France. Two-thirds of the route covers a perimeter that is listed as a world heritage site by Unesco. This part of the ‘Cycle along the Loire’ trail is also the most royal section of the EuroVelo 6 route. The unbelievable number of Loire castles, each one more magnificent than the previous, and the flat land makes cycling particularly appropriate for visiting this region, even with children.
Description of stage
Cyclists follow the valley from château to château: a succession of fabulous edifices that turn any journey along the Loire into a procession of styles, eras and tastes.
The Atlantic Ocean forms the gateway to EuroVelo 6, a magnificent cycling adventure that will take us all the way to the shores of the Black Sea. We start our journey surrounded by the heady scent of the ocean, heading inland away from the sea, but accompanied by the ebb and flow of the tides as far as Ancenis. The Canal de la Martinière, designed to bypass the capricious Loire and its estuary, now provides a refuge for many species of birds and an irrigation basin for the surrounding farmland. Once past Nantes, cyclists follow the valley from château to château: a succession of fabulous edifices that turn any journey along the Loire into a procession of styles, eras and tastes. Faced with the magnificence of Saumur, Chinon, Azay-le Rideau, Amboise, Blois, Chambord and Chenonceaux, even the most blasé tourist is likely to run out of superlatives to describe these architectural wonders. It is not surprising that the entire area from Chalonnes to Sully-sur-Loire has been classified a World Heritage Site.
However, many other pleasures await the Loire traveller, not least of which are the area’s superb wines, some sparkling, some still, such as Saumur, Anjou and Vouvray. At the ports of Montjean-sur-Loire and Savonnières, visitors can also admire the skills of the Loire boatmen, who continue to sail their traditional, flat-bottomed river craft, known as “gabares”. Occasionally, the route rises above the valley floor, taking the traveller through some of the tiny villages perched high above the Loire: the effort of the climb is more than compensated for by the feast awaiting the eyes!
The stage is divided into several sections
After crossing the spectacular bridge over the Loire estuary to reach the seaside resort of Saint-Brévin-les-Pins, we begin the ascent of the Loire to Nantes through marshland and tranquil hamlets, punctuated by a few monumental works of contemporary art.
We leave Nantes, a city steeped in history, to make our way between the sloping vineyards, along the Loire river with its sandbanks stretching out in long islands where birds take refuge.
This stage has two points of particular interest: a trip along the length of the Ile de Chalonnes (nearly 10 km) and the path that runs along the Maine to arrive at Angers (also about ten kilometres). Angers is the gateway to the valley of châteaux.
There are not many dedicated cycle routes on this stage, but there is plenty of opportunity for some pleasant meandering.
The whole of this stage will be spent at the heart of the Loire-Anjou-Touraine region nature park. From Saumur to Montsoreau, we'll be crossing the vineyards of Saumur-Champigny, one of the best wines in the Loire Valley. The villages are all very picturesque.
The Touraine region is thought of as the "Garden of France". During this stage, you will get the chance to see the most beautiful gardens in the Loire Valley - the gardens at the Château de Villandry.
A real journey into the heart of the history of France, meeting among others, Leonardo da Vinci at Clos-Lucé in Amboise, Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médici in Chenonceaux, the Duke of Guise murdered in the Château de Blois, where the symbols of Francis 1st remain carved in the stone.
This stage is fairly long but is generally easy-going, even if you decide to go on a detour via Chambord - almost a must-see route. This is because, for a EuroVelo 6 traveller, how could we possibly do without a souvenir photo in front of such a famous château?