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Unexpected castles – cycle the secret Loire Valley in France

Matthieu Guettier

Unexpected castles – cycle the secret Loire Valley in France

Bike Touring Collection by Vincent Reboul

4-7

days

3-5 h

/ day

220 mi

6,975 ft

7,075 ft

In France, there are around 45,000 castles – a little more than one for each of the 36,000 French communes. With over 4,000 castles, the Loire region is home to an impressive amount of this cultural and architectural heritage.

The Kings of France decided to build their royal residences close to the French capital thanks, in part, to the unique microclimate in the Loire region. It almost never freezes here. During France’s royal past, cities such as Blois and Amboise were as important as Paris.

Although the region has a massive number of castles, we often visit just a few and overlook others that are lesser known, yet just as interesting. This Collection invites you to discover these unknown castles, mostly located to the south of the city of Tours. The itinerary focuses on unusual and unexpected places.

Over five days, you discover the castles of Chatelier, Boussay, Touffou or Brézé whilst also taking in unmissable sites such as Chenonceau, Montsoreau and Chinon. Beautiful rivers and nature are also included as well as two prehistoric stops: Grand-Pressigny flint mine and the pretty village of Angles-sur-l'Anglin. The cities of Poitiers, Tours, Loches and Saumur also lie en route. You’ll discover magnificent religious buildings such as Saint-Savin abbey – a national treasure – and Fontevraud abbey.

Food in the Loire is among the most refined and delicious in France. I recommend cycling this route in May or June as you get the best vegetables during this season. You’ll discover many culinary specialities as well as excellent red wines such as Saumur-Champigny and Chino or white wine in Montlouis.

The 350-kilometre (217 mi) route is suitable for all cyclists regardless of your experience level. There are no technical parts and it is not particularly physically demanding, especially as you have plenty of places to stop for a rest.

The region is quite touristy all year round, so you can easily find accommodation.

I prefer to travel to the region by train. This Collection starts at Tours’ train station and ends (after a detour) at Saumur station. There are numerous connections to Paris every day, making the Loire an easily accessible region.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Intermediate
    03:52
    38.5 mi
    9.9 mph
    950 ft
    850 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Your day will begin with a visit to Vieux Tours and its Place Plumereau, so emblematic of the tourist capital of the Loire châteaux.

    This first stage takes you on a discovery of a more atypical Loire, since it takes the paths that run alongside the Cher. Unlike the Loire, this river is suitable for swimming.

    You will pass by …

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  • Intermediate
    04:01
    41.8 mi
    10.4 mph
    1,400 ft
    1,325 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This second day of roaming in Pays de la Loire will bring you its share of surprises. We often think of the Loire for its Renaissance castles, but rarely of its prehistoric sites.Le Grand-Pressigny is a village known for its discoveries of large flint blades. At the very beginning of agriculture, when metal did not yet exist, wheat was …

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  • Difficult
    04:51
    50.2 mi
    10.3 mph
    1,650 ft
    1,625 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    For this day a little longer than the previous ones, but with no more vertical drop, you will start along the Gartempe, a magnificent stream, the main tributary of La Creuse. This river will bring you to the Vienne department in Saint-Savin.I suggest you take a break in this small town to visit the abbey fresco treasure. They are beautiful.

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  • Difficult
    05:16
    54.3 mi
    10.3 mph
    1,600 ft
    1,750 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    It's a beautiful day ahead! You gradually go back north and you have the opportunity to visit or see many castles, such as those of Rivau, Dissay or Champigny.The town of Richelieu is in the middle of the route and is worth an in-depth visit! You will have to take a path on foot, walking next to your bike for a hundred meters to enter the city through the magnificent Richelieu Park.

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  • Intermediate
    03:28
    35.4 mi
    10.2 mph
    1,375 ft
    1,525 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    On this last stage which will take you from the town of Chinon to that of Saumur, you will discover grandiose and historical sites of great importance.The Château de Brézé, which I particularly like for its originality, has the particularity of being largely underground. It is the only castle designed in this way in the whole region and I recommend that you visit it.

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Distance
    220 mi
  • Duration
    21:28 h
  • Elevation
    6,975 ft7,075 ft

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Unexpected castles – cycle the secret Loire Valley in France

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