The Loire, the king of rivers and the river of kings. At 629 miles, the Loire is the longest river in France. For centuries, the river has shaped the region’s daily life and contributed to its history. Bordered by breathtaking castles, the Loire is a biotope of remarkable fauna and flora. Set out on a journey along the water’s edge by boat or by bike: the choice is yours. Both options will offer you a glimpse of nature at the very heart of some of France’s most exceptional scenery.
The Loire is a perfect example of the joy of going with the flow. The delicious silence as the day dawns, before it begins to warm up as the sun shines on the grassy meadows: an introduction to the beauty of the Loire region. Departing from Saumur, boatmen offer incredible trips on traditional barges, inviting you to discover the history of eighteenth century sailors. As a key route between Nantes and Orléans, thousands of tonnes of merchandise travelled on the river on flat boats, barges, tows and wooden boats, making their way to the main merchant ports. Wood, coal, tufa stones and wine were exported while sugar and rum from the colonies were imported on the river from Nantes. In addition to its commercial role, the Loire also has a more nurturing side. Its rich, silty soils produce fruit, vegetables and flowers, creating a biotope of more than 100 species. In springtime, the surrounding meadows are covered with thousands of fritillaries, easily identifiable thanks to their purple bulbs with a checked pattern. Teeming with life, the Loire is also home to grey herons and beavers. Little terns and common terns build their nests on the sandy banks of the river’s natural islands.
The Loire has thousands of stories to tell – why not let it whisper them to you as you paddle downstream in a canoe? It is just as enjoyable to explore the river by bike via a cycle path which is one-of-a-kind in France, enabling visitors to discover the incredible Loire region and enjoy cultural breaks in the shadows of the châteaux. The Château de Villandry is unmissable: a gem of renaissance architecture, surrounded by stunning gardens. The Château d’Ussé, which inspired Charles Perrault to write his Sleeping Beauty tale, seems to touch the sky with its towers and bell turrets. As you work your way inland along this royal river towards Saumur, the Château de Montreuil-Bellay and the Château de Brézé are both worth a visit. The Loire is a food lover’s paradise, surrounded by vineyards which produce plenty of white wine (dry, sweet and even dessert) and light red wines. Anjou, Chinon, Côteaux du Layon, Muscadet, Vouvray: enjoy a taste of the region with a wine-tasting tour and prolong the pleasure with a meal in a local open-air tavern where you can eat, drink and dance to the rhythm of the summer.
As a UNESCO world heritage site, the Loire echoes the region’s rich architectural heritage. A stay at Château de Beauvois or Château Le Prieuré is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the riverside and its beautiful surroundings.