Vineyard Trails of the Loire

Highlights

  • Walk Through History and the French Valley of the Kings!
  • Rolling French Walking Through Famous Loire Wine Estates
  • Contrasting Ambiance of the Loire, Vienne, Cher and Indre Rivers and their Chateaux
  • Interesting Range of Accommodation

Tour description provided by World Expeditions

The Loire is France's valley of the kings, where you will find much of its history and see the great palaces and castles. It is the countryside that inspired Balzac, where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his retirement and where Joan of Arc fought some of the battles of the 100 years war. The Loire is also one of the major wine producing areas of France, and it also has the advantage of being a great centre for cuisine and historical monuments. The walking is hilly at times, but generally the mix of old pathways, farm and forest trails make for fairly gentle walking. Our tour links the great chateaux at Amboise, Chenonceau, Azay le Rideau, Villandry and Chinon with the great vineyards of Vouvray, Chinon, Saumur, and Anjou. The combination of walking, spectacular historical sites, the food and wines of the Loire, makes this walk full of interest and pleasure and an ideal place to start for those with a love of France or setting out on a walking holiday for the first time.

What's included

  • 7 breakfasts, 5 dinners
  • 7 nights accommodation in a mixture of 2-3 star hotels and guesthouses on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities where available
  • Luggage transfer
  • Information pack including route notes & maps
  • Emergency hotline

Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive Amboise
The old town boasts the still impressive remnants of what was a magnificent chateau as well as Le Clos Luce, a redbrick manor house that was the home of the great inventor Leonardo da Vinci for 3 years until his death in 1519. Chateau and Le Clos Luce (which incorporates a museum of models based on da Vinci’s designs) are both open to the public, each visit requiring approx. 1 hour. Overnight in Amboise, a picturesque town on the south bank of the Loire. Accommodation: A fine provincial wood beamed 2* Logis de France hotel at the heart of the historic town of Amboise, a short walk from Le Clos Luce, Leonardo da Vinci's last residence which contains a museum of models based on his designs. This was where he unenthusiastically sold his beloved Mona Lisa painting to the King of France. Half board (dinner at nearby restaurant).
Day 2 Amboise to Chenonceau
Walking through the Foret d’Amboise to Chenonceau where you can have lunch and then spend the rest of the day visiting one of the very finest of the Loire chateaux, the ‘chateau shaped by women’ which ‘stretches across the River Cher in a perfect harmony of water, greenery, gardens and trees in a fine natural setting’. A visit takes up to 2 hours. About 4 hours walking to Chenonceau. Accommodation: A comfortable 2* Logis de France hotel in Chenonceau, with wonderful exposed beams and a magnificent fireplace in the dining room. The cuisine here is famed for its quality. Half board.
Day 3 Chenonceau to Montbazon
From Chenonceau we start with a short drive (included in tour price) through farmland from the valley of the Cher to that of the Indre and the village of Reignac. The route then follows the GR46 along the valley, through fields of sunflowers to the village of Montbazon on the edge of the city of Tours. A highlight of the day is the ancient Gallo-Roman bridge, which carries the GR41 (here a narrow mule path through a forest), across a tributary of the Indre. The last part of the day from Veigne to Montbazon is rather suburban and can be avoided by taking a short taxi ride from Veigne. About 6.5 hours walking. 26km (16.25miles) can be shortened to 20.5km (12.8 miles) - 5 hours by taking taxi from Veigne on to Montbazon. Accommodation: A well-appointed riverside annex of the Chateau d'Artigny, one of the famous 'Relais et Chateaux' group of hotels. Dinner and breakfast in the chateau itself, which is situated on a bluff with a fine view over the river Indre. The dinner has to be seen to be believed: an amazing assault on the senses! Shirt and tie are seriously recommended, as is a good penchant for wines.
Day 4 Montbazon to Azay-le-Rideau
Today there are two alternatives: the first is to follow the GR3 (long-distance trail extending the entire length of the Loire valley) from Montbazon along the banks of the Indre to the next night's stop at the evocatively named Azay-le-Rideau (about 5.5 hours walking). On the way there is time to visit the former home of the novelist Balzac in the small chateau at Sache. 26.5km (16.6 miles) - 6 hours. The other alternative is to hire a taxi (about 35 Euros) to take you from Montbazon to the celebrated gardens at Villandry, one of the wonders of France. From Villandry it is about 3.5 hours walk past the confluence of the Rivers Cher and Loire and along picturesque woodland paths and quiet roads to Azay le Rideau. 14.5km(9.1 miles) - 3.5hours. Both Villandry and Azay are awarded the highest accolade of ‘worth a journey’ by the Michelin Guide. The son et lumiere display at the Chateau is highly recommended for a delightful and memorable, if relatively expensive, stroll after dinner. Overnight at Azay-le-Rideau. Accommodation: The hotel is set in a semi pedestrian street in the heart of this charming village and just 50 metres from the elegant chateau. You will find here, the charm of the past combined with the comfort of today. The 18th century house was built in a style typical of the Tours area. One of the features of the hotel is the 19th century school, situated across the flower decked patio and which, like the rest of the hotel, has been tastefully transformed into delightful accommodation. Bed and breakfast only included; there is a choice of places to take your evening meal.
Day 5 Azay-le-Rideau to Chinon
There is time for a brief daytime visit to the chateau of Azay, one of the gems of the Renaissance, before continuing our walk by way of the tiny village of St Benoit-la-Foret set in the midst of the vast forest of Chinon and on to Chinon itself, a mediaeval town dominated by the walls of its ruined castle and the centre of a well-known wine-growing region. At 27 km (17 miles) this is the longest day of the tour, requiring at least 7 hours over undulating terrain. Overnight at Chinon. Accommodation: The hotel has the charm of an authentic dwelling-place built in the fifteenth century and modified in the eighteenth century. It is just a few hundred metres from the town center, the medieval quarter and the chateau. Half board (dinner at nearby restaurant).
Day 6 Chinon to Fontevraud
After visiting the chateau and its Jeanne d'Arc museum (1 to 2 hours) you cross the river Vienne and follow its left bank down¬stream for a few km before striking off across the Foret de Fontevraud to the celebrated abbey of that name, the most extensive set of monastic buildings in France. The 12th C abbey church houses the tombs of several Plantagenet royals. Overnight near Fontevraud. 16km (10 miles) - 4 hours approx. Accommodation: The estate is a charming countryhouse built with luminous limestone of the Loire Valley. The oldest part as well as the tithe barn date from the 13th century. This agricultural estate was owned by the same family from the beginning of the 18th century. After being entirely renovated, they now receive guests in a fine, elegant and comfortable atmosphere. Half board.
Day 7 Fontevraud to Saumur
We continue our walk to Montsoreau, at the confluence of the Vienne and the Loire, where the caves in the river cliffs are used for mushroom cultivation. From Montsoreau we continue through vineyards along the steep south bank of the Loire to Saumur, famous for its wines, its cavalry school, and its chateau overlooking the Loire. 20.5km (12.8 miles) - 5 hours. Overnight at Saumur. Bed and breakfast only. Accommodation: A small hotel (3* Logis) in the centre of the historic town of Saumur on the banks of the Loire, close to the old town and the chateau. Bed and breakfast is included; there is a wide choice of restaurants nearby for that final dinner.
Day 8 End of tour
Return by train from Saumur to Paris via Tours or Angers. On the way, if you have time, take the opportunity to break your journey and visit one of the historic cities of Angers, Tours or Blois.