The Loire Cycle Route
From the source in the Massif Central to the Atlantic coast
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Guidebook to cycling the Loire, France's longest river, from its source in the Massif Central to the Atlantic. The 1052km (654 mile) route incorporates a section of EuroVélo 6 and the popular, waymarked Loire à Vélo, taking in extinct volcanos, vineyards and châteaux. Cycling is mostly on cycle paths and minor roads.
- The whole route can be cycled when the mountains near the source are snow free, usually April-October. Stages 7 to 26 can be cycled at any time of year, though April-October is the best period.
- A point-to-point route with no particular bases.
- Apart from a steep 1000m climb to reach the start and a few ascents and descents in the first six stages this is a straightforward route that is generally downhill or level. Mostly asphalt surfaces in good condition suitable for hybrid or touring cycles. Much of the route follows dedicated off-road cycle tracks, suitable for family cycling, though there are a few short sections where main roads are used.
- Must See
- Mont Gerbier de Jonc and the volcanic hills of the Ardèche, Le Puy-en-Velay, Charollais hills. After Nevers the route follows La Loire à Vélo, France's most popular cycleway, passing many of the royal châteaux (Chambord, Blois, Chaumont, Villandry, Amboise), vineyards (Sancerre, Touraine, Chinon, Saumur, Anjou, Muscadet), and historic cities (Orléans, Tours, Angers, Nantes) of the Loire Valley.
This guide describes a 1052km cycle route that starts at source of the Loire in the Massif Central mountains of central France and finishes at the Atlantic opposite St Nazaire. It descends past extinct volcanoes, crater lakes and deep gorges before joining EuroVélo route 6 and the fully waymarked Loire à Vélo, France's most popular cycle trail. Following the river downstream in 26 stages, the route is generally downhill or level often on dedicated traffic-free cycle tracks.
Packed with a wealth of useful information - from practical planning advice to fascinating insights about the river and its surroundings - the guidebook features detailed route descriptions and informative mapping. Details of facilities and places to stay, and a French glossary are included.
The route goes through the heart of France as the Loire becomes the royal river, bounded by extravagant châteaux, fields of Charollais cattle and vineyards. It passes through historic cities like Orléans and Tours, continuing past Angers and France's fourth largest city Nantes.
Getting there and back
Food and drink
Amenities and services
What to take
Safety and emergencies
About this guide
The Loire Cycle Route
Prologue Getting to the start
Stage 1 Gerbier de Jonc to Goudet
Stage 2 Goudet to Le Puy-en-Velay
Stage 3 Le Puy-en-Velay to Retournac
Stage 4 Retournac to Aurec-sur-Loire
Stage 5 Aurec-sur-Loire to Feurs
Stage 6 Feurs to Roanne
Stage 7 Roanne to Digoin
Stage 8 Digoin to Bourbon-Lancy
Stage 9 Bourbon-Lancy to Decize
Stage 10 Decize to Nevers
Stage 11 Nevers to La Charité-sur-Loire
Stage 12 La Charité-sur-Loire to Sancerre
Stage 13 Sancerre to Briare
Stage 14 Briare to Sully-sur-Loire
Stage 15 Sully-sur-Loire to Orléans
Stage 16 Orléans to Beaugency
Stage 17 Beaugency to Blois
Stage 18 Blois to Amboise
Stage 19 Amboise to Tours
Stage 20 Tours to Bréhémont
Stage 21 Bréhémont to Saumur
Stage 22 Saumur to Angers
Stage 23 Angers to Montjean-sur-Loire
Stage 24 Montjean-sur-Loire to Ancenis
Stage 25 Ancenis to Nantes
Stage 26 Nantes to St Brevin-les-Pins (St Nazaire)
Appendix A Stage summary table
Appendix B Facilities summary table
Appendix C Tourist information offices
Appendix D Youth hostels and gîtes d’étape
Appendix E Useful contacts
Appendix F Language glossary
There is no specific cycling map that covers the whole route. From the source to Digoin (Stages 1–7) it is necessary to rely on the maps in this book or use general road and leisure maps. The most suitable road maps are:
331 Ardèche, Haute Loire
327 Loire, Rhône
156 Le Puy-en-Velay, Privas
149 Lyon, St Étienne
141 Moulins, Vichy
Below Digoin (Stage 8 onwards) the route is excellently mapped by the first four sheets of the definitive series of 1:100,000 strip maps of EuroVélo 6, published by Huber Kartographie. These can be purchased separately or as a set of six with two additional maps showing the route of EV6 through eastern France to Basle.
Huber Kartographie, La Loire à Vélo (1:100,000)
sheet 4 Belleville-sur-Loire – Paray-le-Monial
sheet 3 Blois – Belleville-sur-Loire
sheet 2 Angers – Blois
sheet 1 Atlantique – Angers
Various online maps are available to download, at a scale of your choice. Particularly useful is Open Street Map,Waymarking
The first four stages from Gerbier de Jonc to Aurec approximately follow a regional cycle route waymarked as ‘Vivez la Loire Sauvage’ (VLS). There is no waymarking between Aurec and Digoin (Stages 5–7). After Digoin, EuroVélo route 6 (EV6) is followed, and at Cuffy near Nevers (Stage 11) this is joined by a French national route waymarked as La Loire à Vélo (LV). Although these two routes then run together to St Brevin-les-Pins opposite St Nazaire, waymarking is predominantly ‘Loire à Vélo’. Route development and waymarking vary between départements. In the introduction to each stage an indication is given of the predominant waymarks followed.
The first part of the route before Nevers often follows local roads. These are numbered as départmental roads (D roads). However, the numbering system can be confusing. Responsibility for roads in France has been devolved from national to local government, with responsibility for many former routes nationales (N roads) being transferred to local départements. This has resulted in most being renumbered as D roads. As départements have different systems of numbering, D road numbers often change when crossing département boundaries.
Summary of cycle routes followed VLS Vivez la Loire Sauvage Stages 1–4 EV6 EuroVélo 6 Stages 8–10 LV Loire à Vélo Stages 11–26Guidebooks
There are three published guidebooks, but all three only cover Stages 11–26 between Nevers and St Nazaire. Chamina Edition publish La Loire à Vélo in French with strip maps at 1:100,000. Ouest-France publish Loire à Vélo Trail by Michel Bonduelle, originally in French with an English translation first published in 2010. In German, Esterbauer Bikeline publish a Radtourenbuch und Karte (cycle tour guidebook with maps) with maps at 1:75,000.
There are a number of general touring guides to the Loire, including those from Michelin Green Guides (Château of the Loire) and Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel (Loire Valley).
Most of these maps and guidebooks are available from leading bookshops including Stanfords, London and The Map Shop, Upton-upon-Severn. Relevant maps are widely available en route.
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This book contains all you need to know, as well as a sense of the spirit of the river and life along it to inspire you.
Seven Day Cyclist
It’s the usual high-quality stuff that you’d expect from Cicerone with detailed maps, altitude profiles, tourist
information etc… and, from the English-speaking perspective, probably the definitive description of the route.
Leafing through the book, it does make me wonder why I am sitting at my computer here at home with the
prospect of returning to work tomorrow morning rather than out there doing Mike’s job… Mmm…
Andrew Sykes, Cycling Europe
Mike Wells has been a keen long-distance walker and cyclist for over 20 years. He has walked all the major British trails, the GR5 through the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean and has explored the Italian Dolomites' Alta Via routes. He has also walked in Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Norway and Chilean Patagonia.
Mike has cycled the C2C route across northern England as well as the Camino and Ruta de la Plata to Santiago de la Compostela. He has completed an end to end traverse of Cuba, a circumnavigation of Iceland and a trip across Lapland to the North Cape.
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