The Loir Valley is situated between Le Mans, Tours, Laval and Angers. The little Loir, a cousin of the larger Loire, into which the river flows, means ‘dormouse’. This conjures a very apt description of the area. Sleepy, rolling countryside, with charming villages and enchanting towns that seem to belong to a past era when life was less busy and complicated.
The Loir Valley, like it’s neighbour, is brimming with chateaux. There are more than 140 private and privately-owned châteaux and manor houses. Most of them were rebuilt after the Hundred Years War, several were built in the second half of the 15th century and the Renaissance and many have the most glorious gardens. There are also some wonderful wide open spaces, perfect for those who love to get close to nature…
Bike and hike
The Loir Valley has introduced two new exciting cycle routes. ‘Unforgettable – Zoo and Castle’ is 48.5km long and follows the ‘green route’ between Baugé-en-Anjou, La Flèche and the commune of Clefs-Val-d’Anjou. It is a very pretty, sign-posted route that also passes two amazing castles – the Châteaux du Lude and de Baugé. The latter is famous for its outstanding seventeenth century pharmacy that still contains many lotions and potions from that period, including goats’ blood, woodlouse powder or mummified fingers! Also unmissable on this route is the amazing Zoo of La Flèche.
“Between Stone and Marsh” is a 36 km cycle route along an old railway line. From La Flèche to Clefs-Val d’Anjou and Fougeré, you’ll ride past manor houses and beautiful residences. Take the return path through the Cré-sur-Loir marshes.
For bike hire, including electric bikes and safety items, just pop into the local tourist office of La Flèche or La Chartre-sur-le-Loir
Walkers will love the 98km Gr de Pays. This marvellous hiking route is split into five different parts. Stroll through vineyards, orchards, the forest itself of course, and picturesque villages.
The Cré-sur-Loir Marshes carry the Natural Reserves of France label. The variety of flora and fauna is outstanding. Discover reeds, alluvial woods and wet meadowlands on three different trails from a kilometre to 2.7 kilometres. Pick up a free discovery pack in the tourist office of Loir Valley!
Take to the water in summer! At Mansigné, Marcon and the lovely La Monnerie just outside of La Flèche you’ll find tons of water sports. Sailing, canoeing, kayaking, pedalos, paddle boarding, swimming, whilst beach volleyball, beach football, cycling, hiking, kite flying, tennis, archery, orienteering, even boomeranging can also be enjoyed.
The archeological site of Cherré
Cherré, between Le Lude and Vaas, in Aubigné-Racan, is where you’ll find the remains of an ancient theatre built in Gallo-Roman times – 1st – 3rd centuries. In a semi-circular form, it shows us the three divisions of a Greco-Roman theatre: stage, orchestra, Koilon. According to archaeologists, this theatre must have stood at more than twelve metres and could hold 3,000 spectators. It is completely free to visit, and guided tours are provided on request.
Château du Lude
The monumental Château du Lude spans four centuries of French architecture. It was revamped in the 19th century in the neo-Gothic style, when an English Garden was added with a botanical walk. Mme La Comtesse de Nicolay, the current incumbent, has developed a particularly successful permaculture as well as now using the produce of the orchards and gardens too to make jams and pickles that are sold to visitors. The Rose Garden has a rare collection of blooms that flower anytime between May and December.
The exceptional Bercé Forest
The Bercé Forest covers more than 3,000 hectares of oaks and 2,400 hectares of conifers producing the highest quality timber – particularly sought after in the barrel making industry. It is a great place for sporting activities such as cycling, walking, hiking, horse-riding and mountain biking.
Vauboin Priory Hortus Conclusus – Jardin Remarquable
The contemporary gardens of the Vauboin Priory have received the Jardin Remarquable label from the Ministry of Culture. This green wonder is the result of the work of a passionate gardener who describes himself as a “natural art sculptor”. The two staggering gardens surround a fourteenth century cottage at the foot of a limestone hill with a hundred year old box plantation.
Caroline Terrace, an architectural folly
What an amazing gift of love! Amédée de Nonnant, the owner of Château de Poncé, ordered the building, in 1830, a neo-gothic styled terrace (The Caroline Terrace) in honour of his wife Caroline. This three-level brick and stone construction is set against a tufa cliff and behind the Renaissance Style Château.
A veritable hidden gem
There’s more to the little Loir without the “e” than you might think…
Thanks to Gillian Green, Gillian Green PR for some great tips for visiting the Loir Valley.