Thanks to the Loire à Vélo scheme (wloire-a-velo.fr), 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 (wchateauxavelo.com). These routes thread inland among the forests, linking the area’s many châteaux.

Tourist offices provide detailed maps and other information, and you can download most details, including maps, online. French villages are accustomed to cyclists, and most importantly, car-drivers are too.

All larger towns have at least one hire agency. Bikes can also be hired at hotels, campsites, tourist offices, train stations and even restaurants along the way. Orléans and Angers have share-bike schemes like the Paris Vélibs. Many have signed up to the Détours de Loire scheme (wlocationdevelos.com), which allows you to pick up a bike in one place and drop it off in another, paying inexpensive drop-off costs per zone crossed – on top of the bike rental charge.

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