Thanks to the Loire à Vélo scheme, the Loire valley is now one of the most charming places in the world to have a cycling holiday or take a day out on a hired bike. A mix of dedicated cycle paths and meticulously signposted routes along minor roads now runs all the way along the Loire from Orléans to beyond Angers – a distance of more than 300km. The region around Blois offers an additional 300km network, Châteaux à vélo. These routes thread inland among the forests, linking the area’s many châteaux.
Tourist offices provide detailed maps and information, but you can download maps, plan your route and book your trip on the Loire à Vélo website. Almost all routes are easy and largely flat, making it simple for first-timers, and French villages and car drivers are well accustomed to cyclists.
All larger towns have at least one rental agency and bikes can be rented at many hotels, campsites, tourist offices, train stations and even restaurants along the way. Look out for the green “Accueil Velo” signs, which indicate accredited Loire à Vélo accommodation and services – here, cyclists are ensured secure bike parking, repair equipment and an energy-boosting breakfast. The cooperative bike scheme also means you can pick up a bike in one place and drop it off in another, and many offer baggage transfer services too. Expect to pay around €15 a day for bike rental and €20 for baggage transfer, but many companies offer special deals for groups or longer trips.