Les Chateaux a Velo is one of the best kept secrets in the Loire Valley and it’s one of my favorite areas in France to explore by bike.
There’s never enough time to bicycle along the Loire, which is probably one of the reasons why so few people explore the itineraries of Les Chateaux a Velo. Over and above the 800 km of Loire cycle paths, there are another 400 km of cycle paths in Les Chateaux a Velo. How can you possibly choose between the options when you have a limited amount of time? Bicycling tourists are very lucky to have such a dilemma! I can’t help you allocate where to spend your time in the Loire Valley, but I can help you understand the choices.
Les Chateaux a Velo is a network of 400 km of signposted and safe cycle paths, located between the Loire River and the Sologne. 105 km are exclusively for bikes. The balance of the paths are minor roads with very low traffic, less than 300 cars/day. This makes this area perfect for beginners of all ages and also for families. Whether you have a day or a week, the Chateaux a Velo has something for everyone! If you are traveling with small children, you might choose to stay in one location and explore several of 13 loop rides that vary in length from 16 to 43 km.
If you’re interested in exploring the local vineyards, you might choose to spend a night or two in Cheverny or Cour-Cheverny. Or, if like me, you want to take advantage of the most amazing approach to Chambord, you might choose to spend several nights working your way to the Boulogne Forest via Bracieux and the chocolate factory.
Les Chateaux a Velo is home to towns like Cande-sur-Beuvron, regarded as one of the loveliest towns on the Loire, Chaumont-sur-Loire, with a castle towering over the Loire and spectacular gardens showcased annually at its International Garden festival and Cheverny with a 17th century French garden chateau with original furnishings, tapestry and artwork. There’s the bustling town of Bracieux, home of the Max Vauche Chocolate Factory, a popular stop for tourists, the town of St-Dye that served as the main port during construction of Chambord in the 16th century, and of course there is Chambord. Whether you love Chambord or not, the journey there by bike through the Chateaux a Velo is a great adventure.
From Bracieux to Chambord, the bicycle route is nothing less than spectacular. Follow Itinerary #7 out of Bracieux and connect to Itinerary 10, Chambord-Domaine Royal. This path leads you into the Forest of Boulogne. Traveling through the deep forest paths surrounded by history is an experience ordinary visitors to Chambord will never know. Bicycling through the forest en route to Chambord was definitely one of the highlights of my last trip to the Loire.
I hope that I’ve piqued your interest in exploring Les Chateaux a Velo! If so, here are a couple of resources that you will definitely want for additional trip planning information. The first is the Chateaux a Velo website, which is now available in English. This website provides information on everything from lodging and attraction information to information on the chateaux in the region and information on the 13 itineraries.
You can download itinerary maps which are fine for trip planning, but I recommend that you get the full size map either prior to your trip, or when you get to the Loire. The map is called Les Chateaux a Velo, and you can request it from the Blois/Chambord Office of Tourism. This is a map that you will definitely want to have if you bicycle this area. Many of the itineraries overlap so it’s important that you know the number of the itinerary you are following. The itinerary numbers are clearly marked in red on the directional signs. Having a copy of the map helps make sure that you are following the right itinerary!
In case you didn’t realize it before reading this post, the Loire is one incredible bicycling destination. Hopefully I’ve given you one more reason to seriously consider planning a Loire bicycling trip!