£2,775.00 per person*
($3,524.25 USD or $5,494.50 AUD)
£595.00 single room supplement
9th Jun to 15th Jun 2024
28th Jul to 3rd Aug 2024
"Dear Mike , Thank you for the excellent photos. The whole tour was a great deal of fun and we enjoyed it tremendously. We are definitely on for Brittany next year. We hope to be bringing more friends. With very best wishes."
-- Michael and Kimberly, Hong Kong
Join us for this cycling tour. All you have to do is pedal
La Rochelle Rail and TGV station
Angouleme TGV station
The collection is from La Rochelle TGV rail station (direct trains from Paris Montparnasse).
Departures from Angouleme TGV rail station (direct trains to Paris Montparnasse) and easy connection to Bordeaux for airport.
Our Cognac and the Atlantic Coast cycling tour explores an incredibly diverse landscape – sandy beaches, rocky promontories gazing out to scattered islands, fishing villages and oyster beds. Inland, marshes criss-crossed with waterways provide home to a myriad of bird species, pastures for cattle jostle with medieval forests and the vineyards of the wines that go to make cognac.
Set amongst these varied panoramas are some wonderful historic towns, La Rochelle, granted its charter in 1199 by Eleanor of Aquitaine, was a centre of medieval trade in wool, wine and salt between France, England and Flanders. The old harbour, wonderfully preserved, is witness to its history. Rochefort, 15km from the mouth of the Charente estuary, was the stronghold of Louis XIV’s navy and the Arsenal and Corderie Royale (rope factory) have been painstakingly restored, together with L’Hermione, the frigate in which Lafayette sailed to help Washington in the Revolutionary War.
Further inland and on the banks of the Charente, Saintes has a ridiculous number of historical sites for a town of its modest size! As the Roman capital of the region, the vestiges of their occupation are widespread, but notable are the Arch of Germanicus built in 19AD, and the open-air Amphitheatre, which held audiences of 20,000. From a later period, the magnificent Abbaye aux Dames (Ladies’ Abbey), consecrated in 1047, stands on the banks of the river.
Upstream, Cognac is of course famous for the brandy that bears its name, and the great producers like Hennessy, Martell and Rémy-Martin built magnificent mansions along the river banks in the 19th century, but behind these is a well preserved old quarter dating from the 15th Century. There is no better way to experience the area than our Cognac cycling tour.
With the sea so close, it’s no surprise that beautifully fresh fish and shellfish should be on most menus, but lamb from the salt marshes and beef from the creamy Charentais cattle that graze the inland pastures also make welcome appearances. Charentais melons with their striped skin and perfumed orange flesh, and cherries and plums grow in abundance.
Although the region’s most famous drink is Cognac, there are local wines and a speciality known as Pineau des Charentes, which is a fortified sweet wine – marvellous chilled as an aperitif!
Our cycling tour is an easy ride through these pastoral landscapes which will show you the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this fascinating part of France.
After collection from La Rochelle Rail station, we’ll head back to our hotel in the heart of the historic area of the city to set up bikes; once everybody is correctly fitted, we take a short cycling tour of the surrounding countryside to familiarise ourselves with gears and controls, and to make any fine adjustments.
Back at the hotel, have a dip in the pool, take a sauna or relax on the terrace with a cold drink before the first of many memorable meals.
Today's ride is a loop onto the nearby Ile de Ré. After skirting the coast with stunning seascapes to our left, we cross the awe inspiring Pont de Ré, to arrive on the island where time seems to have stood still for decades. We reach the pretty fishing village of La Flotte for lunch at the harbourside. After lunch we visit the Fort de la Prée, designed by the Marquis de Vauban, chief military engineer of King Louis XIV, The Sun King. Vauban will make an appearance a few times over the coming week!
Passing by the ruined 12th C Abbaye des Châteliers we head across the island to St Martin de Ré where we board a pleasure ferry to take us back under the bridge to the harbour in La Rochelle.
We arrive back in plenty of time to explore the old city before a fabulous dinner in the harbourside area.
Ride distance: 43km / 27 miles
From La Rochelle we ride through the enormous marina, then along the coast on bikepaths that are part of the Vélodyssey route that runs from Brittany in the North all the way to the Spanish border. Stopping for coffee in the seaside resort of Chatellaillon-Plage, then onwards to lunch in the Port town of Fouras, where another Vauban fort awaits for those who wish for a bit more history. Picking up the Vélodyssey again a flat traffic-free ride in the afternoon, including a magnificent section along the Charente estuary, brings us to the historic town of Rochefort.
Rochefort has a long and proud history as a naval base, which is reflected in the many places of interest in the town; amongst these are the Corderie Royale, the rope-making factory and arsenal of Louis XIV, the Sun King, at 374m long the longest building of its age in the world; and the frigate Hermione, an exact replica of the vessel in which General Lafayette brought help to the Americans fighting the British in the War of Independence, which has recently made the Atlantic crossing and return. Alongside the dock is the National Maritime museum, which is a must-see for those of a nautical persuasion!
The old quarters and gardens by the Charente have been magnificently restored and there should be plenty of time before dinner to take in the sights.
Ride distance: 58km / 35 miles
On the way out of Rochefort, we will take advantage of another of the town’s historical assets, and it’s most fun – Le Pont Transbordeur, a ‘transporter’ bridge, where a pontoon carrying passengers crosses the river suspended between two enormous gantries on either side. Built in the 19th Century, it is now one of only eight working transporter bridges in the world (three in the UK, two in Germany, Buenos Aires and Bilbao being home to the others).
On the other side of the Charente, we continue our cycling tour through the flat countryside towards the Gironde estuary. Picking up the coast again, we cycle past the ponds of the oyster producersEn route we arrive at the amazing village of Hiers-Brouage. In the early middle ages, the village was an island in the shallow waters of the Bay of Biscay, but over the centuries the spread of the salt marshes resulted in the village becoming a port on the bay. In the 16th century, it was fortified to keep at bay the bands of mercenary soldiers released from fighting in the Wars of Religion. These days it is full of craft shops and boutiques, and is a wonderful place to visit, with star shaped curtain walls being intact.
After lunch we head inland on winding roads alongside the waterways of the Brouage marshes. You will see herons, swans, egrets and magnificent storks in this birdwatcher's paradise. Finally we pick up a bikepath on a disused railway to dieliver us to our hotel on the banks of the lovely Lac du Trizay. A stroll around the lake is the perfect way to sharpen your appetite for a fabulous meal at, in our humble opinion, the best table of the region.
Ride distance: 44km / 28 miles
From Trizay we continue on the disused railwaytrack, before switching to canalside paths before arriving at our first visit of the day, the magnificent Chateau of La Roche Courbon, built in 1475. With its ornamental gardens and lake it is a secret treasure of this corner of France. Rooms have been restored to the state they were at various points in the chateau’s history, so you will see the sumptuous furnishings of the 17th and 18th century, and the late medieval kitchens.
The afternoon ride takes us along the River Charente into Saintes, our resting place for the night. Just after leaving the river, we take a tour and tasting at a producer of Cognac and Pineau, and then visit the site for which Saintes is most famous, the Roman Amphitheatre. Built in the 1st Century BC, the arena is one of the oldest in the old Roman province of Gaul, and one of the best preserved.
Another fine meal awaits us at our hotel 5 minutes from the Arena.
Ride distance: 51km / 32 miles
On our way out of Saintes we have time to take in the Roman Arch on the riverside and the 12th century Abbaye aux Dames, where medieval lords sent their'spare' daughters for religious instruction! Its just a few kilometres of rolling countryside before lunch – which, weather allowing (as it nearly always does!) will be a picnic in the grounds of the Abbaye de Fontdouce – a stroll around the landscaped park of the abbey will sharpen the appetite while the guides prepare one of French Cycling Holidays’ famous picnics.
After this it is luckily just a few kilometres to our Chateau hotel in Cognac itself. Take a dip in the pool or grab your bike and pedal into the old centre of the town to see the majestic mansions built with the proceeds of the brandy industry, with such famous names as Hennessy, Martel, and Rémy- Martin over their ornate gates. At the hotel a gourmet meal awaits in a magnificent setting overlooking the Charente Valley!
Ride distance: 48km / 30 miles
After breakfast we transfer to the TGV train station in Angouleme for onward journeys. Alternatively, although our tour is over you may want to stay on an extra day to take full advantage of the wonderful town of Cognac!
Not all cycle vacations are the same. Compare what is included in a French Cycling Holidays bike tour:
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.
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.
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.
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. Fine wine (or soft drink alternative) with all evening meals and coffee to follow.
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 10 or 11 euros per person per picnic. Where route or weather does not allow a picnic, we recommend suitable cafés and bistros.
We provide lightweight alloy framed Trek ‘hybrid’ touring bicycles with 27 indexed gears, our guides will generally be on hand to fix punctures and minor mechanical problems and carry pump, tubes etc.
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 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 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.
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.
Situated in the grounds of the Corderie – the centre for rope making for Louis XIV’s imperial navies – the hotel dates back to the 17th century and sits on the banks of the River Charente close to the historic dockyards.
The elegant façade houses modern and comfortable rooms and hidden in a courtyard is a swimming pool; in the basement is a fully equipped fitness centre if the day’s cycling hasn’t been sufficient exercise!
The restaurant looks out onto the river and the Corderie – a perfect setting for local oysters or lobster, or venison from the local forests!
On the shore of the Lac de Trizay, the hotel is run by Sabine (front of house) and Yohann (chef) who has in our view, one of the best tables in Charente. A huge swimming pool and jacuzzi/spa complete the comfort!
The Relais is a modern 4 star hotel not far from the historic centre of Saintes, set in an exceptional park with a huge lake – wake up to the sound of ducks and geese! With a huge indoor swimming pool, the pride of the Relais is its restaurant. Award-winning chef Stéphane Gautier uses herbs and vegetables from the hotel’s kitchen garden and foraged in the local woods to create a menu that attracts diners from all over the region.
The 4* Château de l'Yeuse was built in the Italianate Louis Phillippe style in the 1850’s. Sitting in a 20 acre park with views overlooking the valley of the Charente and the vineyards of Cognac, the hotel also boasts a large swimming pool. A few minutes from the centre of Cognac, the situation is ideal.The gardens are notable as they have been left 'wild' to encourage wildlife and biodiversity.
Dinner is eaten in the elegant contemporary dining room, or on the terrace overlooking the valley on fine days.
Desrcibed as a " Haven of Peace in the heart of La Rochelle". Located in the heart of the historic district, overlooking the emblematic Old Port of La Rochelle, it is here where we relax for our final evening.
Located in the symbolic Old Port, Maisons du Monde Hôtel & Suites is a beautifully decorated hotel and a perfect spot to spend our last evening. If you wish to stay longer et us know and we can reserve an extra night!
Note: Hotels are subject to change as circumstances may dictate the use of different accommodations. We will always endeavour to use hotels of a similar standard to our regular hotels should this be the case.
Below we answer all the most common questions that you might ask before choosing a French Cycling Holidays cycling tour. If you have any further questions then please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.
Anybody who is reasonably active should be able to take part and enjoy our cycling tours in France.
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 the Provence Lubéron, Dordogne and Languedoc tours require a reasonable level of fitness.
For nearly all of our cycling 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 who 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 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.
We pick up and drop off from the nearest TGV/railway stations to the start of each tour. (We may be able to 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:
Ryanair flies into the 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.
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.
This may be a good choice if your French Cycling Holiday is part of a longer stay. We may be able to arrange 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 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 has 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Alan and Roger should be commended for their flexibility – you couldn’t ask for better guides. I plan on booking another trip with FCH!”
Scott, Alberta, Canada
“Everything we dreamed about, expected and more – simply incredible! The company of the guides and our fellow riders was fantastic.”
John & Margie, Nevada, USA
“Would enthusiastically recommend it to other cycling nuts who have a taste for the better things in life – fine wine, good food & company; in all, a very indulgent holiday! Thanks for all the meticulous planning & preparation that made our holiday a breeze.”
Jeffrey & Elisabeth, Brighton, Victoria, Australia