The River Loire Cycle Route
From the source in the Massif Central to the Atlantic coast
By Mike Wells
Guidebook to cycling the Loire, France's longest river, from its source in the Massif Central to the Atlantic. The 1061km route incorporates the popular, waymarked Loire à Vélo and takes in extinct volcanos, vineyards and châteaux. Predominantly downhill or flat, the route utilises mostly cycle paths and minor roads.
SeasonsThe whole route can be cycled when the mountains near the source are snow free, usually April-October. Stages 7-26 can be cycled at any time of year, though April-October is the best period.
CentresThe route passes through Le-Puy-en-Velay, Roanne, Nevers, Orléans, Tours, Saumur, Angers, Nantes and St Nazaire.
DifficultyApart 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 SeeMont Gerbier de Jonc and the volcanic hills of the Ardèche, Le Puy-en-Velay, Charolais 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.
The 1061km Loire Cycle Route starts at the source of the River 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 EuroVelo route 6, followed by 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 also included.
The route goes through the heart of France as the Loire becomes the royal river, bounded by extravagant châteaux, fields of Charolais cattle and vineyards. It passes through historic cities like Orléans and Tours, continuing past Angers and France's fourth largest city Nantes to finish on the Atlantic coast.
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Mike Wells has been a keen long-distance walker and cyclist for over 25 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 and Lon Las Cymru in Wales, 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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