Full Itinerary & Trip Details

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Bike Tour, Loire Valley, France (guided groups)


Flexi Package

Amazing France Tour Inclusive Deal 5N




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Trip Overview

6 days
Montreuil-Bellay St-Pierre-des-Corps



Between the 13th and the 16th Centuries, French royalty built an amazing collection of beautiful renaissance chateaux. On our Loire Valley cycling tour we visit Chateau Chambord, the largest of the Loire chateaux, built by Francois I as a hunting lodge and containing a spectacular staircase by Leonardo Da Vinci. We visit Chenonceau, once the home of Henry II's mistress, Diane of Poitiers, evicted by his widow, Catherine de Medici, who then went on to build the iconic ballroom across the River Cher. The Chateaux are stunning, and we’ve put together a great itinerary of visits. But of course we’ve got great food, interesting wines, and the path less trodden.

Day 1:

The Garden of France and The Valley of Kings

We arrive at our hotel in Montreuil Bellay in the late afternoon. We have time to set your bikes up and go for a spin, but you may prefer to lounge by the pool and enjoy a cold pastis. This is an interesting village, perched inside its wall on top of a hill overlooking the river Thouet. Our host tonight, Jean-Francois, is one of the characters of the week, and without too much arm twisting you may get to explore the cellars that wind deep underground to a not-very-secret wine tasting room.

Day 2:

A Spectacular Underground Chateau, and Some Pretty Nice Vineyards

Between Montreuil Bellay and our first sight of the Loire lies the vineyard of Saumur-Champigny, rated by many as the finest red wines of the Loire Valley. Our first stop is at Château Brézé, a wine-making estate, but most famous for it's amazing underground château. Dating back to the 7th century, these troglodyte homes and villages are a feature of this area. The limestone is so easily worked that it was easier to carve out a new bedroom than to build one! One of the reasons behind the underground Château at Brézé was to avoid the attention of invaders, such as vikings, and the whole château is geared toward defence, including the deepest dry moat in Europe. There are fascinating defensive structures here, but most interestingly, it was never attacked, let alone defeated. All that effort over more than 1,000 years, and nobody ever attacked it. If time permits we can also stop for a wine tasting with the Comte de Colbert, still resident at the château. Afterwards we make our way to the Royal Abbey at Fontevraud. This huge Abbey was traditionally the home of many French Queens and other royalty, but is most famous as the resting place of Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine & their son Richard the Lionheart. Today we can choose to pass through Montsoreau where the Vienne flows into the Loire. The Loire is very wide here, and Montsoreau looks beautiful stretching along the south bank. We end the day in Chinon. To my mind Chinon boasts one of the only 'true' château in the Loire - i.e. it was English, and it's ruined. In the 12th Century Chinon was effectively the English capital as successive Kings made their home in the château. It is much older than most Loire château, and its military purpose is obvious from its commanding position along the ridge that overlooks the medieval town of Chinon. We stay at the Hotel Chinon facing the chateau across the river Vienne.

Day 3:

Sleeping Beauty Woz 'Ere

Today is fairly light cycling as we have a lot of château-action to fit in. We leave the Vienne and continue our cycling tour back towards the Indre and the Loire. Overlooking the Indre is the first of the big-league château, Château Ussé, reputedly the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty. Next on our hit-list is Villandry, an unexceptional château, but with gardens that Michelin rate as a 3*** attraction - 'worth a journey in their own right'. There are three gardens - a vegetable garden, a flower garden and a water garden. Each year the gardening team choose a theme and tell a story in flowers. Villandry is really something, and not to be missed. Finally today on our cycling holiday we will travel the 11 km or so to Azay-le-Rideau, another member of the Premier League of Loire Châteaux. Azay-le-Rideau is surrounded on three sides by the River Indre, which has been carefully landscaped to provide a beautiful reflective setting for this ornate château. There was no military purpose to Azay-le-Rideau, it was just designed to be beautiful, and it is. Tonight we stay at the Hotel Biencourt situated in the cobbled approach just yards from the château. This is our first chance to visit one of the son et lumière after dinner, and the spectacle at Azay-le-Rideau is worth the stroll.

Day 4:

Chateau Chenonceau - Home of Louise The Inconsolable, Among Others

Today is a long cycle, 40 miles plus, but much of it follows the delightful Indre valley, and the flat rolling countryside that divides the Indre and the River Cher. We can visit Château Nitray, and if we're lucky the owner - one of very few amusing people in France - will join us as we spend some time wine tasting. He can get a bit enthusiastic, and a slightly inebriated exit is not unknown. Our hotel tonight is the Relais de Chenonceaux, a 3*** hotel in the heart of the village, just a short stroll from the chateau of Chenonceau, the most famous and most visited of all the Loire chateaux. The ballroom, built by Catherine de Medici, spans the Cher in spectacular fashion, and although the Château had no military value it took on a gloomy historical role in the 20th century. It served as an army hospital in the First World War and in the Second World War, when the Cher formed the boundary between occupied France and Vichy France, Chenonceau faced both ways , each end of the ballroom opening into a different country. Unfortunately the son et lumière at Chenonceau is about the worst in the whole valley - you could do a reasonable impression with a light bulb and a dictaphone. It's a lovely walk after dinner, but I won't be bothering again.

Day 5:

Wine Tasting and Mushroom Tasting. This is Living!

Today is a rest day of sorts, and there are a number of different things we can do. Most people stroll to Château Chenonceau, which in daylight is really worth seeing. Most of the rooms are open, and this is a chance to see original floors, tapestries and furniture. In general French Château don't have all the furnishings and interior detail that we often see in British castles. Chenonceau is a pleasant exception, and Louise of Lorraine's room, painted entirely in black with silver motifs of tears and crowns of thorns to mourn her dead husband, is especially memorable. Chenonceau also boasts huge formal gardens, including the original garden of Diane de Poitiers and the rose garden of Catherine de Medici (mother-in-law to the hapless Lorraine). This afternoon we progress on our cycling tour to the Caves du Monmousseau for a tour and a tasting of their sparkling wines. A short ride beyond Monmousseau are the fascinating mushroom caves of Bourré, where they grow Blue Foot, Shitake, Oyster and Paris mushrooms. Mushroom mycelia need a stimulus to prompt growth - European mushrooms tend to need a light or heat stimulus, but the shitake mushroom from Japan grows naturally on trees and responds to earth tremors common in that neck of the woods. Earthquakes are simulated in the caves using the state-of-the-art device of slapping the bin-liner that contains the mushroom compost. Result? Lots of 'shrooms. It's true, honest!.

Day 6:

Chateau Chambord - The Highlight of the Week

We set off along the Cher valley, returning through Bourré on our way. After lunch we pass Château Cheverny, not one of the most striking of the château, but it boasts the most complete interior of all the Loire châteaux, and will be better known to Tintin fans as Marlinspike Hall, ancestral home of Captain Haddock. Cheverny lies in the Cour Cheverny appellation where red wine is made from the Romarantin grape, which is unique to this appellation. Not classic wine, but something so unique should be tried and there are good local producers such as François Gazin and Domaine Tessier where we can visit for a tasting. The end of today is my favourite part of the whole week, the enormous Château Chambord. This is by far the largest of all the Loire château and was originally built by Francois 1 as a hunting lodge. It lies inside a huge park contained by the largest wall in France, all 32 km of it, and the only other building is our hotel, the Hotel de Grand St Michel, situated right next to the château. The whole setting is fantastic. The park is a hunting reserve, and there are observation platforms that allow the early riser to watch deer and wild boar feeding. The château itself contains a famous double-helix staircase designed by Leonardo da Vinci, where two people can ascend or descend at the same time without meeting. For lovers of gourmet food, the speciality is wild boar caught on the state. As befits such a beautiful place, the son et lumière at Chambord is breathtaking. In July and August we can wander round the château after dinner with lanterns and witness spectacular laser shows, projections and music and performance displays. Some of these, in true French style, border on the bizarre, but if you have ever seen a 150 foot red and white salamander (the symbol of Francois I) moving across the gardens of the château, it tends to stick in the memory.

Day 7:

Downstream Must Mean Downhill - Right?

We spend most of today cycling downstream beside the Loire, so a really easy day to finish. We pass through Chaumont, which in addition to its château boasts a famous garden festival where 30 plots of 250 m2 are given over to gardeners and landscapers who are encouraged to display all their originality and creation. It's good. Our final destination is Amboise, which we may have visited earlier in the week. We are staying at the Hotel Blason, close to the château and the old town, and tonight we eat at the Restaurant d'Ecluse. This town is worth another visit. The setting of the château overlooking the Loire is one of the most used images of the Loire valley, and Amboise also puts on one of the better son et lumière. The town has a medieval centre, largely pedestrianised and full of bustle. There are a number of bars and cafes sitting directly beneath the huge château walls, and I reckon we've usually earned a sit-down and a glass of the local Touraine or Vouvray. For anyone who hasn't visited Leonardo's place at the Clos-Lucé, it's well worth it. Many of the original furnishings are still in place, including the great man's bed, and there is a permanent exhibition of his inventions and writings including several exquisite scale models. Leonardo invented wings that didn't work, helicopters that didn't work and airplanes that didn't work. To be honest, they're nothing special, but he did so much more than we generally associate with him. There are touching examples of his philosophy, and wonderful models of inventions that did work, like an ingenious water pump. Definitely worth visiting. 35 miles.

Day 8:

All Over

The most civilised finish to any of our tours. We're only 20 minutes from the TGV station at St Pierre des Corps, and a gentle departure time of 10.30 am gets us back into Paris for late morning, for travel to London and places onward.

What’s Included


Accommodation in characterful 3*** hotels which are comfortable and intimate All rooms are en-suite, of course


An experienced guide to attend to all problems en-route



Evening meals

This tour offers Vegetarian and Vegan food options on request

Additional Services

High quality bikes are provided - a joy to ride and rigourously maintained We include helmets, locks, waterproof jackets, bicycle panniers and water bottles Basic repair kit plus the repair services of your guide - we fix your punctures! Maps Gourmet Food is central to your cycling experience with us Transportation of luggage between stops Wine tasting fees at vineyards




Flights before and after the tour are not included in the tour price. You can organize your flights separately at any point.


Insurance Travel insurance is not covered in the tour price. You can organize travel insurance with your preferred insurance company.


Self-Drive (Parking Available) £90 Off-road parking available

Transfer from Designated Airport (Tours) £200

Transfer from Designated Train Station (Angers) £75 Return from St Pierre des Corps

Transport If Travelling From London £415 Includes Return Eurostar, TGV And Local Transfers

Transport If Travelling From Paris £170 Includes Return TGV And Local Transfers

Additional Services



Entrance fees at any local attractions

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