La Loire à Vélo: Discovering an exceptional natural heritage!

  • © Franck Charel

Upstream and downstream, La Loire à Vélo passes through some magnificent landscapes. Views, nature reserves, wildlife, flora, a trip on the Loire in a traditional boat... Dismount and take the time to observe this rich and unspoiled natural heritage!

Views along La Loire à Vélo

At the very start of La Loire à Vélo route, the Bec d’Allier, the confluence of the Loire and the Allier, offers an exceptional panoramic view of the two water courses that meet there. Lay down your bikes and take a walk through the protected nature reserve of Bec d’Allier to explore this rare natural environment in this part of the Loire.

A few kilometres away from Orléans, the Saint-Mesmin nature reserve covers an area of 263 hectares. The protected area around it also includes the magnificent site of la Pointe de Courpain located the between the embankment and the Loire. Here you can admire the delicate dance of the many birds of the Loire.

Near Blois, the terraces of the Loire Observatory offer an exceptional vantage point over the Loire. You can also find out about the history of the river here via an interactive and fun exhibition. Boat trips along the Loire, bike trips and other activities are also on offer.

The small village of Candes-Saint-Martin, listed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, offers two viewpoints of the confluence of the Loire and the Vienne. For the first one, make for the bridge which spans the Vienne. To admire this landscape from a different angle, head to the orientation table located in the high reaches of the village.

You have to climb up 70 metres to admire this exceptional view: from the jardin du Champalud, you can enjoy a clear view of the Royal River and the île Neuve. Sit down on the stone bench, gaze at the view and soak in the pervading atmosphere, it is delightful.

At the top of the keep of the mediaeval château of Oudon, you will find  a roof terrace. A clear view of the Loire emerges when you approach the edge: some people claim that they can even see the Brittany Tower in clear weather. Open your eyes wide!

Jardin de Champalud © A. Lamoureux

 The islands of the Loire

Near Sancerre, do not miss out on the Iles de la Gargaude which are shaped by the river over the seasons. This sensitive natural area contains numerous animal and plant species typical of the banks of the Loire over an area of around forty hectares.

Downstream from Châtillon-sur-Loire, the Iles de Bonny offer a pretty walk amidst unspoiled nature surrounded by the Loire. Natural grasslands, sandy beaches and alluvial forests appear as you follow a 4.5 km path.

Not far from the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire, the ’île de la Folie offers two pleasant walking routes, one 1 km long and the other 2 km long. These little paths will take you to explore this natural area which is one of the most beautiful alluvial forests in the area.

The waymarked  route of the ile de la Métairie leads you through a landscape where the livestock farmers of  La Ville-aux-Dames used to graze their animals. The walk also offers a pretty view of the village of Rochecorbon, and its troglodyte dwellings carved into the tuffeau stone.

Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the île de Béhuard lies around twenty kilometres south-west of Angers. Encircled by two arms of the Loire, the smallest “Small City of Character” in Anjou and the Pays de la Loire has only one hundred or so inhabitants all year round. People come to get married in its charming small chapel, on pilgrimage in August, to fish, or by bike along the Royal River to tour around the island.

Ile de Béhuard © Franck Charel

The Île de Nantes has become a must-visit destination: with the focus on culture, here you can see an elephant, stroll along the Quai des Antilles, admire les Anneaux de Buren, sip a drink on the banks of the Loire while listening to a concert, or rehearse your musical number at La Fabrique… Everything is in place to encourage you to discover the culture of Nantes, by bike of course!

Les Machines de l’Île – © A. Lamoureux

> Other  Loire islands

Wildlife on the banks of the Loire

A stone’s throw away from the Carrousel des Mondes Marins and les Nefs, a 12 metre high Great Elephant walks around the île de Nantes all day long. During the summer, he sometimes sprays those who approach him with his trunk.

Grand Éléphant de l’île de Nantes © Guillaume Chevalier Photographe

In Anjou, the campsite at the farm of La Guyonnière is home to alpacas, amongst other animals! Originally from the Andes mountains, alpaca farming has developed all over the world, even in Anjou! They hold conversations with their visitors as they chew the cud… nothing could be more natural!

You can see Sea Snakes at Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, when the tide is right… Opposite the Saint-Nazaire bridge and next to the fishing huts, you can imagine they are using their curves to blend into the background…

Serpent d’océan © A. Lamoureux

The beaver is the emblematic animal of the banks of the Loire. Go to meet him during a guided nature tour, discover his home and spot his tracks.

Ospreys, little terns and common terns…  many birds live and make their home on the banks of the Loire. During your trips along La Loire à Vélo, don’t forget to slip a pair of binoculars into your bags. And take the time to observe them. To find out a little more about all this small, winged population, many excursions are organised such as “A la découverte des oiseaux des bancs de sable” [discovering the birds of the sand banks] and “les matinées à la découverte des oiseaux migrateurs” [mornings discovering migratory birds].

Passeurs de Loire à Sigloy – Jean Philippe sur sa toue en amont de Sigloy – banc de mouettes rieuses sur la Loire

And the flora

When you’re on La Loire à Vélo, mushrooms means troglodyte dwellings! The one at Saut aux Loups in Montsoreau dates back to the 15th century: they lead to huge tunnels dug to extract the  tuffeau stone and have been used since the beginning of the 20th century to grow button mushrooms. A feast with fouée bread!

© D. Drouet

Terra Botanica, near Angers, is the first theme park dedicated to plants in Europe. Stroll around this 17 hectare world, through extraordinary gardens with attractions in the air and on the water. Numerous species grow there and create a unique atmosphere….

The snake’s head fritillary is a small spring flower with a pretty bell shape. With its pretty pink chequered pattern, it blooms in the hedgerows of Véron. Other flowers flourish on the banks of the Loire, such as many species of orchid. They are protected, so admire them but do not pick them!

The Loire Anjou Touraine Regional Nature Park

Between Angers and Tours, the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Nature Park extends across 116 communes in the Maine-et-Loire and the Indre-et-Loire The natural and cultural heritage it was built on is protected and maintained so that its exceptional fauna and flora can live on. To promote a better understanding, there is a tourist information point in Montsoreau: here you will find all the necessary information, a permanent exhibition on the landscapes, temporary exhibitions and free children’s workshops…

Les Maisons de Loire

And to find out a little more about these exceptional landscapes, les Maisons de Loire offer a welcome all along the Loire to tell you about the history of the river and its landscapes in a fun and interactive way.