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This is truly the heart of fairy-tale France - illustrated perfectly by the high number of spectacular castles on route, carefully preserved over the years for all to enjoy. Visit these fabulous once-royal homes and ancient riverside towns, pedal peacefully along the Loire à Vélo cycle route amidst birdsong and wafts of hollyhocks... and sample world famous wines as you weave your way through sun-baked vineyards.
What not to miss
Arrive at Tours.
Transfer by taxi or train to our base hotel in Chinon, where you'll be equipped with your bicycle. Chinon is a beautiful medieval town set on the banks of the majestic Vienne river. Steeped in history, it was was once King Henry II’s preferred place of residence. You can still explore the impressive 12th century Plantagenet fortress, also once home to Richard the Lionheart.
Château du Rivau and Rigny-Ussé | Distance 14 miles (23km).
Once you’re ready to explore beyond Chinon, we suggest a round trip route to the Château du Rivau. This fairy-tale castle with beautiful gardens was designed by the proprietor and modern art collector Patricia Laigneau as an historical recreation of Middle Ages gardens. They are full of contemporary art installations, including carvings and giant legs running through the trees. Another suggestion is a ride to the small village of Rigny-Ussé (15 miles), which boasts another ancient dwelling - the magnificent Château d’Ussé - as well as amazing views of the Loire from its location on the edge of the Chinon forest.
From Chinon to Montsoreau | Distance 13 miles (21km).
Today you will follow the Loire à Vélo cycle route which meanders along the river to the charming old riverside town of Montsoreau, often referred to as the ‘most beautiful village in France’. Along the way we recommend stopping at Fontevraud Abbey: a prison in Napolean’s day, and now a historical site, music and exhibition venue. The beautifully restored abbey complex includes a Romanesque abbey church with royal tombs, a lovely Renaissance cloister and a fascinating Byzantine-Romanesque kitchen. Once you arrive in Montsoreau you'll have time to walk or cycle along the river front towards the 'Château de la Dame de Montsoreau', which rises majestically above the water - it's the only one of the Loire castles that has its 'feet in the water' of the river itself.
Saumur and Brézé.
Today we suggest a day trip to Saumur (18 miles / 30 km), a beautiful town with a typically imposing château overlooking the river. Explore its wondrous wine cellars, wander down medieval streets, and enjoy feeling spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to dine. Alternatively you could cycle around 15 miles to Château de Brézé, another fine example of a classic French castle in the heart of the wine land, complete with underground tunnels and still-working wine presses that take their harvest from the surrounding 30 hectares of vineyards.
From Montsoreau to Azay-le-Rideau | Distance 23 miles (36km).
Today the route takes you along the Loire to the River Indre, where you’ll come to a beautiful medieval village; home to Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, built on an island on the river. Well worth a look, you can learn all about the processes involved in the restoration of this historic monument, during which stone-cutters and carpenter-roofers combined their talents to give new life to this jewel of the Loire Valley. The village has lots of lovely cafés and restaurants to peruse too.
From Azay-le-Rideau to Château Villandry | Distance 14 miles (23km).
After a relaxing morning in Azay le Rideau, we suggest cycling to Château Villandry, a Renaissance castle with amazing gardens spread across three terraces. There is a kitchen garden that mixes flowers and vegetables in a checker-board design; a tranquil water garden where the trickle of fountains adds to the magic, and an ornamental garden where the boxwood forms musical symbols, hearts, spirals, and butterflies. A visit here is sure to soothe and relax you!
From Azay-le-Rideau to Chinon | Distance 18 miles (30km).
Your final day in the saddle will take you back to Chinon, where you can pick up some souvenirs, wander the banks of the river, and enjoy a glass of finest local wine in the dappled sun.
We say “au revoir" before transferring you direct from Chinon to Tours, Poitiers or Rennes by train, taxi or minibus.
Note: The accommodation listed below is indicative, it is not guaranteed and is subject to availability. Alternative accommodation of an equal standard may be used.
Hôtel Diderot is a simple, family run 17th century town house, built around a flowered courtyard that is much enjoyed and appreciated by our cycling gardeners and a lovely place for breakfast. It has a traditional, old fashioned interior with great oak beams in many of the rooms. The delicious breakfast jams are all home-made.
La Marine de Loire is a 4* hotel with a bar and garden in the centre of the village. Delightful rooms with views of either the river or the peaceful garden. This hotel also offers treatments in its excellent spa, ‘CinqMondes’ (must be pre-booked before arrival). There is an Indoor heated spa pool and unlimited access to the spa is included for all guests.
The Hôtel Biencourt, chosen for its warm welcome and service, was originally the schoolhouse around its own private courtyard and tucked away in a pedestrianised street. Wonderfully quiet, the rooms have modern décor and organic bed linen from the fair-trade market. The Chateau d’Azay le Rideau is only 100 yards away.
Château de Marçay was built as a 15th century fortress and is now a magnificent hotel. It is surrounded by a glorious garden, acres of vineyards and stunning countryside. The rooms are fashionable, spacious and elegant. As well as swimming in the outdoor heated pool, you can relax and enjoy health treatments in the spa (must be pre-booked before arrival) or an early morning adventure with a hot air balloon. The Château De Marçay’s restaurant serves gourmet cuisine with seasonal ingredients from the kitchen garden. Guests can also tour the Château’s 12 000 bottle cellar and sample the fine wines.
The Hôtel de France is located in a colourful square in the centre of town where the restaurants lay their tables for outside dining. Many of its rooms have balconies, offering views of the splendid château and surround a pretty internal courtyard.
Just 10 yards from the famous abbey entrance is the delightful 3* Hôtel la Croix Blanche which was originally a coaching inn. Enter through an archway into a courtyard, now used as a terrace for dining on warm summer evenings, decorated with tubs of flowers. The hotel has a swimming pool and there is the option to upgrade to a superior room with a four-course evening meal including cheeseboard.
The hotel sits on the hillside above the village of Villandry and its chateau. Dating from the 19th century, this beautiful building has lovely bedrooms which have retained the stunning proportions of the original house and a delightful garden including an outdoor Jacuzzi.
2019 Dates and Prices (Flights and Transfers included)
|2019 Departure Dates||Number of Nights||Adult Prices|
|April to September||7||£1455|
2019 Departure Dates
|Number of Nights||Adult Prices|
|April to September||7||£1175|
Start your holiday on any day of the week.
Please contact one of our Activities Experts on 020 7471 7750 for child prices.
Extend your stay
If you wish to add extra nights to your holiday, please call our experts for help and advice.
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