Known as the Garden of France and shaped by centuries of interaction between local people and their environment, the Loire Valley is famous for its beautiful historic chateaux (more than 300 of them!), its wine making and its rich tradition of food and culture. The city of Tours, for example, is rumoured in popular thought to speak the purest form of French, giving it a similar cultural status to that of Florence in Italy. Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it is the perfect place to come and explore.
Places to go
No visit to the Loire Valley can fail to take in the intense richness of the regions Chateaux and it is almost obligatory to visit at least three or four. Particularly worth a visit are the Chateau de Chenonceau, the Chateau de Chambord and its double spiral staircase - the largest chateau in the Loire valley but famously only ever built as a hunting lodge for Francois I - and the Chateau de Azay-le-Rideau.
For lovers of the natural world, the Loire is one of Western Europe's last untamed rivers, and is unique in its diversity and beauty, moving from idyllic green islands to turbulent rapids in the space of a few miles. Tropical plants can often be found along the banks whilst countless variety of birds and even rare species such as beavers can be found throughout the region.
Food and drink
The Loire valley makes what is possibly some of the world's best wine, and there are numerous vineyards throughout the region, many of whom offer tours which frequently end in a wine-tasting session.
Other local delicacies include sweets and often unusual species of mushroom which are cultivated in the extensive cave networks that are dotted around the area.
Ferries to the Loire Valley
- Brittany Ferries - Portsmouth to Caen
- Brittany Ferries - Portsmouth to St Malo
- Condor Ferries - Poole to St Malo
- Brittany Ferries - Weymouth to St Malo
- LD Lines - Portsmouth to Le Havre
The Loire Valley is well served by a network of toll-paying motorways and free dual carriageways, allowing for easy and stress-free access to all parts of the region. Cars aren't the only way of getting around. The region is also well served by train networks. TGV trains go between the main cities whilst smaller towns are served by local trains and coaches. Prices are low and the journeys are quick, clean and efficient.
One of the best ways to explore the Loire is by bicycle and there are many bike hire shops throughout the region who offer their services for reasonable rates.