The programme for this trip includes the Loire and its islands, Sancerre wine, the canal aqueduct of Briare, the Château of Sully-sur-Loire - which marks the entrance to the area listed as UNESCO World Heritage - Orléans city of Art and History and, to round it all off, the royal city of Blois.
The Bec d’Allier, situated at the confluence between the Allier and the Loire, is a must-see nature spot which marks the start of La Loire à Vélo. Take a slight detour to admire the canal aqueduct in Guétin, via which the canal flowing parallel to the Loire crosses the Allier. Pick up the route again in the direction of Cuffy, then Marseilles-lès-Aubigny. This pleasant little town, which is popular for its leisure port, sits on the junction between the canal running parallel to the Loire and the Berry canal. The day’s ride comes to an end in Beffes just a few kilometres further on. This village boasts a Cycle campsite with unusual bungalows and an even more unusual diving pool in an old lime quarry.
- To get to the itinerary by train there are two options: either via the station in Nevers or in La-Guerche-sur-l’Aubois.
- There is limited accommodation between Cuffy and Sancerre, so consider booking before you come.
- Another cycle itinerary leads to Apremont-sur-Allier, which is listed among the Most Beautiful Villages in France. Don’t miss out on visiting its magnificent Flower Park.
Departure in the direction of Sancerre. Along the way, visit the arboretum of Adeline in Chapelle-Montlinard, which is a veritable ‘Conservatory of Plant Heritage’ home to more than 2,000 species. Next you will enter the Loire Valley National Nature Reserve composed of alluvial forests, dry grassland and sand banks… Then vineyards take over to lead you to the rocky peak of Sancerre at a height of 312m. In Thauvenay, head over to the Eric Louis wine cellars to enjoy a tasting. In the Maison des Sancerre, the local winemakers’ passion is passed on through unique scenography. Next up is the Tour des Fiefs which will take your breath away with a 360° panoramic view over the vineyards. End the day in one of the restaurants in this medieval town, listed as a Small City of Character.
Leave your bikes in Saint-Satur, a village at the foot of Sancerre, and climb aboard a traditional Loire boat with local boatman Sylvain. After returning to dry ground, hop back in the saddle and follow the canal running parallel to the Loire to the lock in Bannay, then follow the royal river. Take a break in Ousson-sur-Loire whose river banks have inspired many a painter. Your journey for the day comes to an end in Briare, which is famous for its canal aqueduct spanning the Loire over more than 660m, and built in collaboration with the famous engineer Gustave Eiffel. The location boasts a bit of a seaside atmosphere, with its popular river tourism leisure port, mosaic and enamels museum 2 Marines museum and the Pont-Canal museum.
- Take a gourmet break on the terrace ofthe Chocolats et Chimères tea room, located in the old canal aqueduct lock keeper’s house. Savour ice cream, desserts, chocolates… Everything is “home made” and delicious!
- Board a cruise boat for an outing or dinner cruise on the Loire and surrounding canals.
Departure towards Sully-sur-Loire and its cmedieval château. Along the way, explore the village of St Brisson-sur-Loire which is overlooked by an ancient feudal castle that was converted into a private residence in the 16th century. Cycle a little further on before stopping in Gien. This town has an international reputation for its pottery and is even home to a museum that retraces the history and stages of manufacturing. End the day in Sully-sur-Loire, the gateway to the area of the Loire Valley listed as UNESCO world heritage. Its château is an impressive sight with its tall towers and water moats overlooking the Loire.
A short ride you will take you to Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire and its Benedictine Abbey), after passing Ile des Mahis, a 27-hectare sand island home to terns, herons, beavers, otters and other Loire animals. Cycle on to Germiny-des-Prés where you will find the Carolingian Oratory, the earliest monument of occidental Christian art. In Sigloy, climb aboard a traditional boat with the Passeurs de Loire for an authentic experience on the river. Then head in the direction of Châteauneuf-sur-Loire and its Marine de Loire museum. Then it’s onto the home straight to Orléans. Spend the evening cycling round the city, which is listed as a City of Art and History, and dine in one of the many restaurants on Rue de Bourgogne or in the historic city centre.
Just before you arrive in Orléans, take a refreshing dip at île Charlemagne, , a 70-hectare leisure park with a swimming spot and various other activities (kayak, tree-top rope course, water park, volleyball etc).
When night falls, the Gothic Sainte-Croix Cathedral is lit up and is the backdrop to a magnificent sound and light display. On the banks of the Loire, the open air cafe called La Sardine is “the place to be” from June to September.
Before you leave, spend time chilling in the centre of Orléans. Discover the historic heart of the city, its pedestrian district or Place du Martroi surveyed by the statue of Joan of Arc, who liberated the city. Cycle in a westerly direction along the Loire. Along the way, visit the château de Meung-sur-Loire, the gardens of Roquelin, which are a rose-filled paradise, or Beaugency, a delightful medieval city overlooked by its 11th-century keep. Not long after, take a short detour (100m or so) via Tavers to see the “Eaux bleues”, an interesting geological feature. Continue your journey to Muides-sur-Loire, a small town where you can spend the night.
Let yourself be tempted to a break in the La Corne des Pâtures open air cafe in Baule, or the Cesar et Firmin tea room a little further on in Beaugency, which serves light meals and home-made desserts.
Leave in the direction of Saint-Dyé-sur-Loire, a charming village on the banks of the Loire that was once a port for the transportation of materials used in the construction of the Château of Chambord. The itinerary will lead you away from the Loire towards the dream of Francis I: Chambord Chambord and its French formal gardens designed during the reign of Louis XIV and renovated in 2017. Cycle on through forest countryside, and if you’re lucky you might spot a stag or ehear one bellowing. Continue to Blois and its royal château, the highlight of any visit! Spend your final evening enjoying the Sound and Light show projected on the facade of the château and experience the history of France in a different way.