Chateau to chateau cycling

The proliferation of chateaux in the Loire Valley is almost as extravagant as the buildings themselves. Opulent renaissance palaces and medieval masterpieces dot the course of the Loire –and its equally impressive tributary the Cher – in close succession, happily linked by a network traffic-free cycle paths, forest trails and quiet back roads.
Enjoy a right royal adventure along gentle cycle paths along the Loire Valley, from chateau to chateau, through swathes of vineyards, medieval forests and picturesque French towns.
Add in small-scale locally owned hotels, restaurants serving up tasty, local French fare and of course, a few glasses of the Loire’s ubiquitous – and oh-so-delicious – wine and you have the recipe for a perfectly relaxing, active adventure. Traveling with your family? No problem. Children will love the fairytale fantasies evoked by the castles they pass - and will enjoy the feeling of freedom granted by the safe cycle paths and easy-to-navigate trails.

What does a chateau to chateau cycling vacation entail?

In essence, exactly what it says on the tin. But while you’ll be using pedal power to reach Cherveny, Chambord, Chaumont and more each day, there’s a lot more to a chateau to chateau cycling tour than the castles themselves.

Between two and a half and five hours of relatively level, gentle cycling each day will take you along the banks of the imposing Loire River, with its myriad of islets and its quaintly fortified riverside towns. You’ll have opportunities to stop in the Loire’s copious local vineyards – the wine produced around Cours-Cheverny is particularly worth a taste or two – and sample local Loire specialities in small restaurants and auberges en-route.

The Loire a Vélo cycle route, a dedicated well-marked cycle path stretching 800km along the Loire River, will almost certainly make an appearance in your itinerary but you can expect your journey to also take you through ancient forests, including the vast stag- and wild boar-filled swathes surrounding Chambord – itself an unfinished, elaborate hunting lodge built to satisfy King Francis I opulent tastes – as well as past lakes, market gardens and sheep-filled pastures.
Chateau to chateau cycling tours are usually self-guided – so you’ll have the freedom to linger for as long as you want at each of the chateaux en-route, stop for a noisette (a shot of espresso with a dash of milk) or make a detour into one of the many vineyards you’ll inevitably pass along the way. Look out for signs offering dégustation-vente - indicating they’re open for wine tasting and direct sales. Cycling in France is generally very easy – cycle paths are usually excellent and well signposted – and off the main roads there is generally little traffic to spoil your ride. You’ll be provided with detailed route maps and your cycling specialist will be on hand should any problems arise during your trip.
While you will usually be cycling to a different location each night – some days may see you staying in one place, just enjoying a different cycling loop in the local area before moving on. Blois, for example, is a handy base for several chateaux – including the fairytale Chateau de Chaumont perched high above the Loire and the one dominating the center of old Blois itself, with its monumental renaissance spiral staircase. And don’t panic – you won’t need to cycle with your luggage when you move hotel; this is transferred for you by your cycling specialist and will be waiting for your arrival.

Can I bring the family?

Absolutely – some of the Loire’s loveliest chateaux are connected by cycle paths and forest tracks that are safe, flat and easy for families to navigate. Children from six upwards will be able to tackle the distances and terrain easily and a range of high-quality accessories – from trailers to bike seats – are available to hire for little legs aged two plus that can’t pedal just yet.

Children will be spell-bound by the chateaux themselves, with tales of kings and queens, battles and – and many go out of their way to make visits fascinating for kids. The Chateau de Fougères is particularly good – with specially-designed audio guides for children aged six and over and a trail of puzzles for families to solve as you explore this medieval masterpiece together. And kids will love running up and down Chambord’s mind-boggling double helix staircase – two interlinking spiral staircases which appear as one, yet never meet. Your cycling specialist will ensure that your itinerary is tailored and suitable to the ages of your children and may even provide child-friendly guidebooks which offer on-the-go treasure-hunts and stories to keep them preoccupied whilst pedalling. Be aware that cycling helmets are compulsory in France for children under 12 years old.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about France cycling or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

How fit do I need to be?

These vacations are so gentle that even young children will be more than able to cope – so as long as you’re happy to pootle along on your bike for a couple of hours at a time you’ll find this an enjoyable and relaxing way to explore. You can expect to be cycling for around 30km per day – slightly less if you’re traveling with children – over flat, easy terrain. If you’re feeling up to it then some days may give you the chance to extend your ride to around 50km to include another town, chateau or viewpoint.

Where do I stay?

You can expect your route to take you to a new place most nights – usually a small, locally-run guesthouse, hotel or auberge in one of the picturesque towns close to river or the chateaux you are visiting. Some, like medieval Blois, offer a range of restaurants, cafes and markets (alongside their castles) for you to peruse at your leisure after your day’s riding is done. You might also eat in your accommodation if you’re staying in smaller villages – an option that often involves home-cooked hearty French fare that’ll give you plenty of energy for the next day in the saddle.
These trips will usually use 2 to 3 star cycling-friendly guesthouses as standard - you can expect clean, comfortable en-suite rooms, friendly hosts and somewhere safe to lock up your bike at night – but as with any tailor made itinerary, if you would prefer to stay somewhere with more facilities you just need to ask.
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Tristan Schmurr] [Top box: Daniel Jolivet] [Chateau de Chaumont: Manfred Heyde] [Where do I stay?: Daniel Jolivet]