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Loire Source to Sea

Shortest Day - 61 km / 38 miles
Longest Day - 111 km / 70 miles
Total: 13 days total / 11 days cycling; 1,053km / 662 miles

What you can expect

An epic journey along France’s longest river, from its source in the mountains of the Massif Central to its confluence with the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast near Nantes. Follow vineyards along the way and see world famous chateaux. A challenging yet achievable ride, graded as 'Difficult' due to long daily distances, although predominantly flat. A trip to remember. 11 days' cycling; 11 nights’ half board with wine; 1 night bed and breakfast; luggage transport, full back-up and assistance throughout the day.

More detail

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Day 1: Arrival and transfer to hotel near the source of the river high in the mountains.

Day 2: Leaving the hotel we cycle the 7 miles or so to leave our bikes by the side of the road and make the short walk to the spot where the infant Loire bubbles up through the mountains of the Massif Central. Then it’s back on the road for a hilly day and the start of our epic journey. We can’t always follow the river precisely as it meanders through the mountains but we follow its general direction taking in some unspoilt countryside as we go, and stop for the night in Le Puy en Velay in the heart of the Massif Central. (91 km / 57 miles).

Day 3: We start the day following the river down a gorge with this first section being either flat or downhill. After this there are some hills, and some fine views of the river finding its way through the rocky landscape, before a flat last 20km with only the hill up to our overnight village to contend with. One extended climb at about 50 miles. St Galmier is where Badoit water is sourced and bottled. (107 km / 67 miles).

Day 4: After a good night’s sleep this is the last of the harder days and with a fine route tracking the river this should not present any problems. Our first stop though is to fill up our water bottles at the Badoit Well! A day of two halves, part one being pretty flat, part 2 having more hills. Once again there are some lovely sections alongside the river with a picnic by a beautiful chateau on an island. (97 km / 61 miles).

Day 5:The river is becoming noticeably larger and many more villages sit astride its banks. Once again, many of these are completely unspoilt and it is a privilege to witness a landscape unaltered for centuries. It is either flat or very gentle downhill all day, making for fast and easy progress, including some sections along a ‘voie verte’ and a tarmac canal towpath. Perfect! Our hotel is in the ancient town of Bourbon Lancy, with a gastronomic menu sure to delight. (79km / 49 miles).

Day 6: Another virtually flat day means despite the distance, you will make good speed with little effort. Decize and Nevers, the two larger towns passed today, are both historic: Julius Ceasar is said to have visited both. Nevers is a good place to pause and reflect that we have covered almost 400km already. Leading up from the quay, winding streets contain many fine houses. Similarly, La Charitee sur Loire, where we stay the night, is a fine old town with cobbled streets and an old abbey. (112km / 70  miles).

Day 7: Today the mood shifts as we start to see larger and larger castles along the way, marking the southern extremities of chateaux country. First, however, we must climb the hill to Sancerre which is surely worth it for the fine views of the river and the central square lined with wine merchants’ shops and purveyors of the local goat’s cheese. This is prime wine country which now continues most of the way to the sea. There is then a progression of castles including Chatillon, Gien and Sully, where we pause for the night. (102 km / 64 miles).

Day 8: We leave the river and cut across country in order to miss the built up city of Orleans. The terrain is once more flat so there is plenty of time to stop and explore. The fine renaissance architecture is now a frequent sight and nowhere more so than at our overnight stop at Chambord, where the hotel lies opposite the magnificent chateau and the view has to be seen to be believed. (75 km / 47 miles).

Day 9: There are many famous places on our route today. It’s a lovely ride to get there, through vineyards and fields of sunflowers, and this continues to our destination of Azay le Rideau. This very lovely 'small' chateau sits in a pretty town and has wonderful grounds; the ideal place to end the day with a stroll around the parkland, which is open late tonight and so will have fewer visitors than during daytime. (109 km / 68 miles).

Day 10: Azay to Saumur contains some of the most lovely cycling of the trip. Candes sur Loire and St Martin are justifiably graded as two of the most beautiful villages in France, whilst Saumur is known as the pearl of the Loire. It exudes an air of sophistication with its hilltop chateau and the famous cavalry riding school, the cadre noir, having its home here. We ride on through vineyards towards Angers, where we stop in a small village just next the river. The terrain through the vineyards is characterised by small hills but again the overall picture is of gentle and manageable cycling. (105 km / 65 miles).

Day 11To Nantes, today, and the history of the river is evident throughout. Although only now navigable as far as Nantes, in past years the quaysides lining it were an important feature of the local trading economy. Nantes is a large city which we enter by quiet cycle lanes, and the hustle and bustle, together with the knowledge that tomorrow we will end our journey along France’s longest river, add a certain excitement to the evening. (104 km / 65 miles).

Day 12: It is a gentle ride to the mouth of the river. We take a little ferry across to keep to the south side and meander through to Paimboef, where the St Nazaire road bridge hoves into view. The southern end of this structure marks the end of our journey, and from Paimboef we aim to ride as a group to the end of the river. St Brevin les Pins is a popular holiday resort with sandy beaches and is an ideal place to relax during the afternoon, before a celebratory dinner at our hotel followed perhaps by a glass of something refreshing (61 km / 38 miles).

Day 13: Depart.

(Daily distances and hotels are a guide only and may change)

Transfers from (start): Le Puy en Velay (Tuesday afternoon) or Lyon (Tuesday lunchtime).

Transfers to (end): St. Nazaire, Nantes

Requested Single Supplement (see our FAQ page): £495

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or enquire about specific dates by clicking 'Booking Enquiry' below.

Current dates for this tour:

Starts:
15.06.19
Ends:
26.06.19
Rating:
Difficult
Price:
£1,995

Travel Information

Start: Valence / Lyon
Finish: St. Brevin les Pins

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