Active on Holiday Blog Tour report: Loire Valley Cycle Path cycling holiday

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Tour report: Loire Valley Cycle Path cycle tour

Read the day-by-day cycling experiences of one of our management team who went on the Loire Valley Cycle Path cycling holiday in the latest instalment of our blog series.

To book this cycling holiday, head to the Castle of the Loire page to learn more about the itinerary.

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Day 1: Splendour along the Loire

I have long anticipated embarking on a cycling tour through the beautiful Loire Valley, renowned for its countless castles, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant epicurean traditions. Considered one of the most captivating regions in France, the Loire Valley offers a magnificent cycle path that promises a delightful journey.

The weather is splendid, and my excitement is palpable. Even the brief train ride from the glamorous metropolis of Paris to the small town of Tours, where the tour begins and ends, is a highlight, as it traverses the geographical centre of France.

Getting to know France's Valley of the Kings

The Loire and its tributaries bear witness to the construction of numerous fortresses during the Hundred Years' War, serving as a defence against the English. Although many of these structures fell into disrepair, the Renaissance period sparked a renaissance of appreciation for the beauty of the Loire Valley among the French nobility. Consequently, the ruins were transformed into magnificent residences.

By the late 16th century, political power had shifted back to Paris, and the Loire castles became primarily summer retreats and hunting lodges. Today, the Loire Valley boasts around 400 remarkable buildings, representing various architectural styles ranging from Renaissance to Baroque and Classicism. Many of these castles are freely accessible and open to visitors.

A Royal Trip into the past starting in Tours

Our cycling adventure commences in Tours, a charming medieval town. Within approximately 15 minutes, we encounter our first fairy-tale castle, the elegant Château de Villandry. Notably famous for its Gardens, the château showcases a strictly traditional Renaissance-style Garden design. Instead of the usual ornate flower patterns, Villandry's main attraction lies in its diverse variety of vegetables. Harmoniously arranged in geometric beds, bordered by box hedges, one can admire a colourful assortment of lettuces, vegetable plants, and herbs. The splendour of this sight is simply captivating and leaves us yearning for more.

As we pedal toward our next destination, we are continuously overwhelmed by the ever-changing landscape and diverse scenery. Vast forests, rolling hills, endless vineyards, and picturesque landscapes reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien's creations greet us at every turn. While I usually enjoy the physical challenge of cycling, I find solace in the fact that the stages in the Loire Valley are not overly demanding, allowing me to immerse myself in the beauty of nature and the astonishing abundance of castles.

Garden of France - A valley for food lovers

The enchanting Loire Valley has earned its reputation as the Garden of France, justifying its status as a haven for connoisseurs and food lovers. The fertile soils on either side of the river yield an abundance of wonderful cereals, vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

The region's outstanding culinary tradition can be attributed to the nobility's penchant for indulgence. As we cycle through the small, traditional villages, we take the opportunity to sample the local delicacies and experience the fantastic culinary offerings. Starting the day with a crispy, airy pain au chocolat, a typical regional treat, sets the tone for a delightful gastronomic journey. One cannot miss the opportunity to savour a piece of Saint-Marcellin cheese, a creamy and soft delight available in various forms, whether served cold or warm, as a starter or dessert.

During our rides, we encounter local fishermen on their traditional wooden boats, skilfully navigating the Loire waters. Observing them catch pike, perch, salmon, and eels adds to the charm of the region. In its many forms, fish is a delicacy here, prepared as pâté, grilled, smoked, fried, or boiled alongside fresh vegetables. Paired with a glass of dry Sauvignon Blanc, one can truly experience the idyllic "joie de vivre" of living like a god in France.

With every kilometre we cover on this cycling tour, we gain a deeper understanding of the French way of life and appreciate what attracted great artists and writers from all over Europe to the Loire Valley. Even my partner, who usually prefers hiking in the mountains, has been enchanted by the abundance of castles and the region's unique charm.

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Castles of the Loire

Self-Guided | 8 Days
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