How on earth we pack everything into our France travel guide is beyond me however, pack it all in we do and if you’re looking for what we rate & what we don’t as well as Responsible Travel’s best & worst high and low lights then read on to discover France like a local, cuisses de grenouilles and all.
Family vacations in the Loire
Once upon a time there was a happy family who went looking for adventure in the Loire Valley. They all cycled together down the river, baguettes in their panniers and eyes peeled and they found a castle where a princess was said to have slept for a hundred years. In the evening they retreated to their cottage – as self contained and as charming as any chateau, and they lived happily ever after. Find your perfect vacation in the Loire Valley, and you’ll want to stay for a hundred years, too.
Chateau country isn’t as snooty as you think. You’ll find even the grandest castle welcoming, and especially accommodating of children.
Our Loire Valley family Vacations
What do family vacations in the Loire Valley entail?
Everyone – from babies through to toddlers and teens – can be entertained in the Loire Valley. A week is a great amount of time to spend here. You can walk or cycle as a family. Thanks to easy trails, cycling is child’s play. The region is easy to navigate, plus the trails are flat and the distances between sights very manageable on two wheels. The main route network, La Loire à Vélo, is secure, safe and peppered with rest areas. Most bike hire companies will equip you with child seats and trailers.
If you’re walking together, you’ll cover between 15 and 20km a day – whilst this is manageable for most people, you’ll probably want your children to be a little older, or they might get bored over the week. But there’s plenty of things to do when you stop: teach your kids petanque or boules, or rent a rowboat at the Pagode de Chanteloup. With older children, canoe on some of the Loire’s lovely tributary rivers.
Visiting chateaux with childrenA word to the wise – chateaux are magical – but you don’t want to spend your whole time slogging around them, especially with kids in tow. Gothic pinnacles might not be the high point of their vacation, no matter how much of an architecture buff you may be. Luckily, many of the bigger chateaux put on little trails and activities for families. At Chateau du Clos Lucé you can see replicas of Leonardo Da Vinci’s wackiest inventions, from a portable bridge (useful) to a helicopter that looks like it would be best kept on the ground. Cheverny has a permanent Tintin exhibition – the chateau inspired Tintin's Marlinspike Hall (where Captain Haddock lived). Chateau du Rivau has a whole garden full of fun, from rentable costumes to a giant maze. Some vacations equip you with a ‘Master Key’ – a pass that allows you access to the chateaux en route, no need to carry cash for the entrance fee.
If you'd like to chat about Loire Valley or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Where to stay
Your best option with families is self-catered accommodation, so you can keep costs down and enjoy your own space. Whilst you can do point-to-point trips where you cycle from hotel to hotel, families will probably prefer to take the pressure off the cycling so you don’t ‘need’ to cover a certain distance every day. Instead, establish a base that you can call home. Some Loire Valley accommodation is utterly charming – think stone cottages with gardens given over to chickens, cats sleeping on the sunlit steps and rambling vegetable patches. You can find accommodation entirely set up for children and babies, with high chairs, cots, strollers all available, plus stair gates installed.
PracticalitiesWhen your child is nine months old and can sit up unassisted, you can take them on your bike. Simply pop them in the pannier (just joking! – child seats and trailers are provided). Once you’ve got to the chateau of your choosing, you’ll probably need to pay an entry fee. Chateau ticketing systems differ – in Blois, kids under 6 go free, in Amboise it’s under 7s. At Chambord, under 18s go free. In smaller chateaux, like Chateau de Villesavin, the tariff is far cheaper.
More about Loire Valley
The Loire Valley has a continental climate but the river and the Atlantic breeze help stop it becoming horribly hot. It’s lovely and sunny in summer, and not too cold in winter.
The Loire Valley is one of the highlights of France. Along the valley of the country’s longest river lies a rich seam of spectacular castles, wizened vineyards and pretty towns that date back hundreds and hundreds of years. Read our Loire Valley travel guide.
Follow the Loire River from east to west and you’ll reach its UNESCO-listed Loire Valley region about halfway along. Extraordinarily, there are over 300 chateaux in the area.
Less of an athletic endeavour, more a gentle way to explore the châteaux, vineyards and cuisine of France’s Valley of the Kings, Loire Valley cycling vacations are the epitome of active relaxation.
"A well spent day brings happy sleep” is written on the wall at Chateau du Clos Lucé. You’re going to make the most of every day on your Loire Valley walking vacation.
The Loire Valley is chateau central. The accident of geography, battles between armies and the patronage of royal families brought fantastic castles into the area.
The Loire Valley is well used to being admired by travelers, and doesn’t present many challenges to its visitors. It’s easy to reach, easy to get around, and has plenty of splendid hospitality.
Everyone’s here to enjoy the Loire Valley: from the region’s glorious castles to its lovely vineyards, its medieval towns and its pretty countryside.