Loire Valley

Price

£2,495.00 per person*

($3,193.60 USD or $4,366.25 AUD)

£200.00 deposit

£575.00 single room supplement

Dates

16th Jun to 22nd Jun 2019

Guaranteed Departure - One place for left for a couple or a single

30th Jun to 6th Jul 2019

Guaranteed Departure

1st Sep to 7th Sep 2019

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“Clive + Craig were terrific – great planning, helpful and attentive, pleasant to be with. An excellent trip – we'll highly recommend it to tour cycling friends.”

-- Barb & Peter, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Highlights

  • The beauty of the Château de Chenonceau spanning the River Cher
  • Idyllic riverside cycling along the Indre
  • Wine tasting at a vineyard by the Loire
  • Gourmet dining in elegant Amboise
  • Magnificent Chambord and cycling in its forests
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Join us for a cycling adventure. All you have to do is pedal


Joining the tour

Start

Tours TGV Station (Saint-Pierre-des-Corps)

Finish

Blois Rail station

Collections are from Saint-Pierre-des-Corps TGV station and Tours Centre rail station, and Tours Val de Loire Airport .

Departures are from Blois rail station (connections to Paris Austerlitz and Tours)

Cycling level

1 out of 10

Anyone who is in good physical condition will be happy on this tour, flat terrain. Cyclists should be comfortable with riding 3 to 5 hours a day on a bike.

View Gallery

The Loire Valley upstream from Tours is the home of perhaps the most famous and beautiful of all of the Châteaux: Chenonceaux, with its graceful arches spanning the River Cher; Chambord set in the midst of Royal hunting forests and adorned with minarets, domes and towers; Amboise with its battlements and fluttering pennants dominating the Loire.

We visit all of these châteaux and more, and in between ride through some of the most beautiful pastoral countryside that France has to offer. We will discover the intrigue and deception , politics and passions that shaped the history of France. The Château de Blois, scene of one of the bloodiest massacres in the name of religious secularism , is a visit not to be missed, especially at night illuminated in a spectacular son et lumière.

All of this history and beauty (not to mention the pedalling) should stir the appetite and you won’t be disappointed; some of the region’s finest restaurants are included on our Loire Valley cycling tour, showcasing the specialities of the Touraine.

The cycling is predominantly flat, with just the odd ascent to make you feel you’ve earned your supper. Following the course of the rivers Loire and Cher, the roads are practically car-free, and many kilometres are covered on dedicated cycleways.

The Loire Valley tour showcases the very best of this fascinating region, and will be a cycling vacation you’ll never forget!

To view a map of the Loire tour route click here

Day 1

Transfers are from Tours Airport and Tours TGV Station (Saint-Pierre-des-Corps). We arrive at our hotel in the village of Azay-le-Rideau, with its Renaissance château, one of the most beautiful in France. The château is surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Indre, and this stunning setting is perfect for lazing on the lawns, and maybe taking in the son et lumière sound and laser show later in the evening. 

At the hotel we will have a look at the bikes and make sure everyone is perfectly fitted to their bicycle. There will be an optional afternoon excursion to visit the troglodyte houses at Les Goupillières. Only abandoned as recently as 100 years ago, the hamlet is a fascinating contrast to the splendour of the chateaux, showing how the peasants who dug the limestone for their construction really lived. 

There should be time before dinner to explore the village before meeting our fellow riders and look forward to the pleasures of the road ahead over the first of many wonderful meals. 

Day 2

Our first day in the saddle takes us along the Indre, Loire and Cher rivers into Tours. On the way, we take in three of the region’s celebrated châteaux. Cycling downstream along the Indre, we arrive at the Château d'Ussé, also known as the 'Sleeping Beauty' castle, as it was the inspiration for Pérrault's fairy tale. After a coffee here we join the Loire, following the river upstream on a raised embankment for the next few miles, then we cross the Loire to visit Langeais with its imposing château. 

After lunch we follow the Cher to the Château de Villandry to see its fabulous ornamental gardens, differently themed each year, and laid out with geometric precision in fruit, herbs and vegetables. It is hard to imagine that peppers, leeks and aubergines could put on such a beautiful display. From here it a short riverside ride to our chateau-hotel on the outskirts of Tours. 

Total distance: 52 km / 31 miles

Day 3

This morning takes us along the Cher into Tours, and then out into the Touraine countryside. The route then takes us to the village of Cormery with its Abbey founded in 791, and home to a excellent restaurant for a lunch stop. 

Back on the road, we pass through the village of Azay-sur-Cher before entering the Amboise forest, continuing along one of the arrow-straight forest drives created for the royal hunting parties. The drive ends at the Pagode de Chanteloupe, a remarkable 18th C folly measuring 44m which can be climbed for stunning panoramas over the Loire Valley. 

A short descent takes us into Amboise, where our hotel for the next two nights, a 17th century manor house, awaits. Amboise itself clusters around a stunning medieval château overlooking the river and our hotel is just around the corner in the old town. 

Total distance: 52 km / 31 miles 

Day 4

We stay in Amboise this evening, so we take a loop ride out to visit perhaps the most beautiful chateau in the Loire Valley. We climb into the Amboise forest before descending into the valley of the Cher to arrive at Chenonceaux. One of the highlights of the tour, the stunning Château de Chenonceau (it loses the final ‘x’ of the village for some reason!) was given by Henri II of France to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. With its graceful arches spanning the river Cher, it is the most visited château of the Loire, and it is truly unforgettable. 

After lunch there is the option to return to Amboise to spend the afternoon, or for the more energetic to visit elegant Château de Montpoupon. The castle is home to one of Frances foremost hunts and the grounds house a fascinating museum of hunting, and the kitchens and stables give an insight into daily life of the gentry and servants in the 18th Century. 

34km / 21 miles (short option) 59km / 36 miles (with Montpoupon loop) 

Day 5

Leaving Amboise, we stop off to visit Clos-Lucé, the home of Leonardo da Vinci. As well as drawings and designs, this fascinating museum includes several life-size reconstructions of what these sketches would be like had they been made. Amboise itself clusters around a stunning medieval château overlooking the river. 

Leaving Clos-Lucé we head across the rich and fertile heartlands of the 'Jardin de France' to the Château de Chaumont — on the death of Henri II, Diane de Poitiers was forced by his widow to take this château in exchange for her beloved Chenonceau — see who you think got the best deal! 

If you fancy a change from medieval brickwork, Chaumont is also host every summer to an internationally renowned Garden Festival where areas of the grounds are laid out in different themes — the inventiveness knows no bounds. 

After lunch, we come to our hotel set in the grounds of the Chateau de Chambord. The chateau has an extensive park for a pre dinner stroll or maybe visit a local winery for a dégustation. 

Total distance: 52km / 32 miles 

Day 6

Afyer breakfast there is a chance to visit the Chateau de Chambord. Taking 15 years to build in the 16th Century, it is surrounded by a vast hunting park alive with wildlife. The interior is just as impressive, dominated by the 'double helix' staircase on which two people can ascend and descend at the same time, yet never meet.

After leaving Chambord on the trails through the hunting forest, we arrive at our second visit, the Chateau de Cheverny.  Cheverney has truly impressive interiors with period furniture, tapestries and paintings all intact. A feature of the château is the pack of hunting dogs still kept there - a highlight of the visit is watching the feeding of the hounds. For fans of the "Tintin" childrens' adventure books Cheverney was the inspiration for Captain Haddock's castle, and a museum there is dedicated to the characters. 

We return via the trails to our Château de Chambord hotel for a memorable final dinner. 

Total distance: 43 km / 27 miles 

Day 7

After breakfast, a chance to exchange emails before we say goodbye to new friends made and transfer back to Blois train station for onward journeys.

Not all cycle vacations are the same. Compare what is included in a French Cycling Holidays bike tour:

  • Flexible collection from local airport or train station
  • Quality Trek bicycles
  • Quality helmets (if required)
  • Water bottles (to take home as souvenirs)
  • Detailed riding instructions and colour route maps
  • Charming 3* and 4* auberges, inns and hotels
  • Buffet style breakfasts with croissants, pastries, meats, cheeses and cereals
  • Gourmet dinners for all 6 nights of your holiday
  • Fine wine (or soft drink alternative) with all evening meals and coffee to follow
  • 2 experienced bilingual guides with each tour
  • Delivery of your luggage to your hotel room each day
  • Entry fees to attractions and historical sites
  • Morning onward transfers
  • An unforgettable experience!

We try to include as much as we can within the price, while keeping things as flexible as possible. With the explosion of low cost airlines and the easy access to the TGV rail system from the UK, we believe that it is more economical and convenient for customers to arrange their own travel to the region. Links to the airlines and railway companies can be found in frequently asked questions.

Transfers

We provide the transfers to and from the local airports and the nearest TGV stations, and other locations by arrangement. If you have driven down, we arrange secure parking for your car and return you to it after the tour.

Hotels

We stay in very comfortable hotels, mostly 3*, occasionally 4*, and very occasionally superior 2* hotels which we choose if they have charm and comfort above their rating. All rooms have en-suite shower or bath facilities.

We select our hotels for their character as well as their facilities, and avoid chains in favour of independent privately run hotels.

Prices are based on two sharing in twin or double rooms. Singles are available on request. Where possible, we choose hotels with swimming pools as there is nothing quite like a dip after a day in the saddle!

It is sometimes necessary to change accommodation for reasons of room availability, minor adjustments to the route or upgrading the hotels. We will always endeavour to use hotels of an equal or higher level of comfort/facilities to those shown – please contact us to check for the most up-to-date information regarding your particular tour.

Meals

All evening meals are included, and we carefully select the restaurants for cuisine and ambience, and favour those with a strong regional flavour.

All meals include a starter, main course and dessert, some will have an additional cheese course. We are happy to arrange for our restaurants to cater for specific dietary requirements and allergies etc.

We do not include lunch, as the costing of these is beyond our control, but where route and weather allow we organise picnics; these feature copious salads, cold meats, cheeses, crusty bread, fruits, etc, and a choice of drinks; we ask for a contribution for the costs of the consumables, which usually works out at 8 or 9 euros per person per picnic. Where route or weather does not allow a picnic, we recommend suitable cafés and bistros.

Bikes & Equipment

We provide lightweight alloy framed Trek ‘hybrid’ touring bicycles with 27 indexed gears, fully equipped with lock, pump and toolkit (although our guides will generally be on hand to fix punctures and minor mechanical problems).

For carrying the items you might need during the day (camera, wallet, windbreaker etc.) we fit a capacious handlebar bag which also features a large map pocket. These clip on and off the bike in a flash so that you can always take your valuables with you when off the bike.

The bikes are meticulously maintained and we keep a wide range of sizes; female specific saddles are also available. We do not provide helmets automatically, as we find people prefer their own if they want to wear one, and sizing and fit is quite personal; however we always have helmets available for use. We also carry rain-capes should they be required (but hopefully not!). For certain tours we also have available 27 speed drop-handlebar race-style bikes, and tandems may also be available on certain tours by special request. We hire these locally, and charge on the additional cost. 

E Bikes

For nearly all of our tours an e-bike - electrically assisted bicycle - is an extra-cost option. These bikes apply a 'multiplier' to the level of input provided by the rider, the level of assistance can be adjusted for the terrain. This can be useful if there are members of your party have very different levels of bike-fitness and experience, as hills that look daunting suddenly become easy with an e-bike.

Please contact us for details.

 

Guides and Backup

There will be two guides on every tour; one cycling with the group and one in the minibus which will follow the group. The bus carries all luggage not required for the day's ride and will always be available for anyone at any point during the day. If for instance you want to take a day off the bike, or if a particular day seems a little hard, the bus will take you for as long or as little as you wish it to.

Everybody is provided with detailed route maps for each day, and both guides are easily contactable by mobile phone. The guides are enthusiastic experts on the local area and will be able to sort out any problems or special requests that you might have.

Le Grande Monarque, Azay le Rideau

An 18th Century relais de poste or staging post decorated in the ‘directoire’ style. this charming hotel is a short stroll from the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, in the heart of the bustling village.

Grand Monarque

Chateau de Beaulieu, Joué-les-Tours

An eighteenth century country house, transformed into a chic 3* hotel by the owners in 1976. Stroll in the extensive gardens or relax in the billiard room before dinner in the elegant restaurant or on the terrace. The sporty may be able to get in a game of tennis or 9 holes of golf!

Chateau de Beaulieu

 

Manoir St-Thomas, Amboise

A former priory dating from the late 16th century, the Manoir is an oasis of peace in the heart of the bustling town of Amboise. The charming rooms are all individually furnished and decorated, and in the hotel’s parc, which is enclosed by ancient walls, you will find a beautiful pool with wave machine.

Manoir Saint Thomas

or le Clos d'Amboise, Amboise

A painstakingly restored 17th century manor house used to be a Maison de Mâitre or Squire’s  house . The gardens are immaculately manicured, and there are salons in the house for guests to relax in a decadent regency setting. In the gardens you will find a refreshing swimming pool amongst the trees and statuary!

clos amboise

Château du Breuil, Cour-Cheverny

Dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Château was owned by the Marquise de Méloize Frenoy, then the Comte de la Salle before transforming into a 3* hotel in 1989. New wings have been added by converting the stables into luxurious rooms. The huge wooded grounds are home to both a wealth of wildlife ( watch deer graze on the lawns as you dine!) and a fabulous swimming pool.

Chateau de Breuil

or 

Relais de Chambord, Chambord

A new (April 2018) luxury hotel right next door to one of France’s most romantic castles, Le Château de Chambord, set in the Loire Valley, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The boutique hotel, designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, includes a french cuisine restaurant, Le Grand Saint Michel, a cocktail bar, an exclusive wellness area! 

 Hotel Relais de Chambord

It is sometimes necessary to change accommodation for reasons of room availability, minor adjustments to the route or upgrading the hotels. We will always endeavour to use hotels of an equal or higher level of comfort/facilities to those shown – please contact us to check for the most up-to-date information regarding your particular tour.

Below we answer all the most common questions that you might ask before choosing a French Cycling Holidays tour. If you have any further questions then please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.

How fit do I need to be?

Anybody who is reasonably active should be able to take part and enjoy our tours.

The tours have different levels of physical exertion — whilst the Loire Valley tours and Bordeaux tour are easy going; the Normandy, Provence Roman Heritage, and Burgundy tours are a little more strenuous, whilst and the Provence Lubéron, Dordogne and Languedoc tours require a reasonable level of fitness.

For nearly all of our tours an e-bike - electrically assisted bicycle - is an extra-cost option. These bikes apply a 'multiplier' to the level of input provided by the rider, the level of assistance can be adjusted for the terrain. This can be useful if there are members of your party have very different levels of bike-fitness and experience, as hills that look daunting suddenly become easy with an e-bike. Contact us via the contact page if you would like more details.   

The Sports tours are aimed at enthusiast cyclists who might want to bring their own road bikes. However, the rides are not races and there is no time limit - and there is always the minibus if things get too tough!

We would nevertheless recommend that anyone who has not taken any regular exercise for some time to consult their doctor before considering any activity based holiday. Bear in mind that a little regular riding before coming on a cycling vacation will always be a benefit to the experience.

How do I get there?

We pick up and drop off from the nearest international airports and TGV/railway stations to the start of each tour. (We can drop at a nearer airport or station by arrangement if more convenient for you and logistically possible). This gives everyone the option of making their way by the most economical or convenient means. The major options are:

Flying from the UK

Ryanair flies into following airports:

Nimes (for the Provence tours and Languedoc tours; Ryanair also fly out of Beziers and Montpellier for the Languedoc tour); Bergerac (for the Bordeaux tour), Dinard for the Normandy tour, Grenoble for Alpine trips and Pau (for the Classic Cols tour)

Ryanair operates out of Liverpool, London Stansted and London Luton Airports amongst others.

Easyjet flies into Montpellier (for the Provence tours) and out of Bordeaux (for the Bordeaux tour); it flys into Geneva and Lyon for Alpine tours and also out of Nice for the Alpine Raid.

British Airways prices can be reasonable if booked in advance — BA fly into Bordeaux for train transfers to Bergerac (Bordeaux tour), and Marseilles (Provence tours).

If we do not pick up from the airport itself, we will advise on rail connections from the airport to our pick-up points.

Rail for visitors from outside Europe / those already in France

The TGV can be an exceptionally quick way of reaching many French destinations from the UK and from Paris for those flying from overseas or UK regions.

The Eurostar SNCF (French National Railways) TGV websites may be useful. As a guide, London St Pancras to Avignon via TGV takes approximately 6½ hours; Tours takes 4 hours. From Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, the point of arrival for most intercontinental flights, Tours is 1½ hours by TGV, Avignon (for Provence) just over 3 hours.

Brive-la-Gaillarde is 4 hours from Paris by rail for the Dordogne tour. We are more than happy to advise on rail options — please contact us. Internet sales from the French SNCF site ( www.voyages-sncf.com sites are possible but are in French; the approved agency for the US and Canada is RailEurope ; however we are happy to advise and help with the French website.

Driving

This may be a good choice if your French Cycling Holiday is part of a longer stay. We will arrange secure parking for your car at or near our first hotel, and return you to your car at the end of the trip. (Note - this service may not be available on certain long distance sports tours - please check with us). The major ferry and crossing companies from the UK are Eurotunnel, P&O, Brittany Ferries, LD Lines, Speedferries and SeaFrance.

If it is more convenient for you to hire a car Europcar in our experience have the best rates for rentals where the drop-off is at a different location to the pickup.

However you choose to travel, we are very happy to help you sort out your itinerary.

What kind of pedals do you use?

Pedals are obviously fairly important on a cycling tour! We stock the following kinds:

Flat – i.e. no special cleats or grips, these pedals can be used with any kind of footwear. If you do not regularly use special pedals or cycling shoes, we recommend standard trainers/sneakers to wear while riding.

SPD/flat – we also have pedals with one side flat and one side an SPD cleat. This is the standard Shimano SPD compatible system; two bolts and the small cleat pictured on the shoe with the yellow sole. These cleats are ideal for cycling tours as the cleat is usually recessed into the bottom of the shoe. The pedals are visible to the right of the picture.

SPD/flat style pedals

Flats with cages – we have a small number of flat pedals with cages & straps – again if you are not used to this, we wouldn’t recommend starting a tour with them!

Other – we do NOT stock any other pedal systems. If you use any other kind of pedal, you are very welcome to bring your own and our guides can fit them to your bike for the week. However, we would advise against racing-style pedals such as the Look Keo, Shimano SPD-SL or similar, as these tend to have a large, protruding cleat on the sole of the shoe which makes walking around visits or lunch stops (or even nipping into a public toilet!) quite uncomfortable and dangerous. Sports tours are a little different as there are much longer days and less off-the-bike walking – a choice is ultimately up to you though!

Can I use my own bike?

We are happy for anyone to bring their own bikes. However, the budget airlines charge around £50 each way and packing and carriage can be a hassle. Our Trek bikes are of a high standard, and our customers usually express pleasant surprise at the quality of the machines, so it might be a better option to bring your saddle and/or pedals which we will be very happy to fit. In any case there will always be a backup bike should you have a mechanical problem. Please feel free to call us for advice on bike transportation.

What should I wear?

The main thing that people who are not regular distance cyclists worry about is a sore behind. This is not as is popularly thought due to too-hard saddles, but friction between skin and garments. This is why professional cyclists wear skin-tight lycra shorts with padded inserts. Many people feel a bit self-conscious in this sort of gear and your local cycle shop will have a range of padded undershorts which can be worn under normal clothing, or regularly styled shorts with sewn-in padded liners. Otherwise, lightweight comfortable clothing (tee-shirts, shorts, trainers) is ideal, with something warmer like a fleece just in case. As we will be dining well, you might like to take something presentable (but not formal — no-one on a French Cycling Holiday stands on ceremony!) for the evening meal.

How many people on each tour?

As well as being an active holiday, sampling the best that France has to offer, we believe that our trips should be an opportunity to meet people and make new friends. Our groups are limited to a maximum of 16, which is the largest number that we can give a personal service to, and a minimum of 6 people, which we feel is the number needed to achieve a group spirit. If we cannot achieve this number, we may cancel the tour giving a minimum of five weeks notice.

What weather are we likely to encounter?

We time our tours so that the weather should be ideal for cycling for each tour. For that reason we have our Provence and Languedoc tours in the late spring and early autumn, rather than in high summer when it can be too hot to cycle comfortably after 10 a.m. The Loire Valley, Dordogne, Bordeaux and Burgundy tours are more temperate, which is why we concentrate these tours in July and August. We cannot guarantee the weather, but it would be very unlucky to have more than one wet day on any of the tours.

Are there any age limits?

There is no specific upper age limit — the only constraint is a reasonable level of fitness. Children between 10 and 16 are welcome as part of family groups. We do not recommend these tours for children under 10.

Do I need travel insurance?

We require all participants to have travel insurance with full medical cover. It is part of the conditions of our tours that participant should provide evidence of suitable cover. If you have any questions about the cover required please contact us for advice.

What financial protection is in place for my booking?

In accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992” customers of French Cycling Holidays Limited will be indemnified in respect of their net ascertained financial loss sustained arising from the cancellation or curtailment of the declared trip travel arrangements arising solely from the event of the financial failure of French Cycling Holidays Limited.

This insurance has been arranged by Towergate Chapman Stevens through Hiscox Insurance Company Limited.

"Very well organised, all ran like clockwork with great guides Alan and Marie."

David and Joan, Nelson NZ


“We had a great time. Loved the scenery & routes, good timing at each of the chateaus (not too much, not too little) and almost too much great food. The picnics were a highlight. We'll see you next year!”

John and Allison, Melbourne, Australia


“The trip was perfect – great food, rides, hotels & guides. The group all had a good sense of humor and a common interest in biking. The measure of a good guide is how they deal with emergencies, and Alan and Marie did a terrific job in handling one road accident and a group getting lost.”

Doug & Helen, Ringwood, New Jersey


“Great holiday. Luxury hotels and food, and Alan & Marie were very friendly and accommodating. Would love to come again.”

John, London, UK


“Wonderful trip. Excellent hotel & restaurant choices, and we loved the picnic lunches provided by our hosts Marie & Allen, as they were wonderful settings and saved us both time and money!”

Jude & Gerald, Toronto, Canada

Gallery