1. More than 300km of cycle paths have been created throughout the Loire Valley to take in the region’s best attractions by bike. Capitalising on the Loire’s rich history and natural beauty, the various cycle routes pass by châteaux, museums, wineries and local villages as well as forests, farmland and rivers. The terrain is mostly flat, meaning you can enjoy the gastronomy without fear of revisiting your lunch further down the track. Loire Valley Tourism produce free maps of the cycle network with suggested itineraries.
  2. There are 800 châteaux looming large around the Loire, many of which have been carefully restored for visitors to enjoy and, in some cases, stay overnight. Chambord is the region’s largest château – its imposing structure and surrounding game reserve form the largest walled estate in Europe. Equally impressive for its spectacular gardens is Château Villandry, 15km west of Tours. This Renaissance-style botanic masterpiece is divided into five gardens.
  3. Even a simple picnic is constructed with the utmost of care in this region. With dense forests and the Loire River to draw from, game such as fish, deer, pork and duck feature heavily on menus. Wine and goat’s cheese are regional specialties, while sweet-tooths should head to Lamotte-Beuvron for the famous tarte Tatin dessert.
  4. Good food deserves good wine, and more than 800km of cycle track is devoted to the region’s vineyards, where owners are renowned for welcoming thirsty cyclists by offering samples. Some of the best white wines are found in Vouvray, Montlouis-sur-Loire and Sancerre, while for reds pedal to Chinon, Bourgueil and St-Nicholas-de-Bourgeil where many wines are made and sold in the caves of old limestone quarries.
  5. The Loire Valley is built along the fertile banks of the Loire River. Snaking for 1020km into the Atlantic, the Loire is France’s longest and the last untamed river in Europe. A source of food, work and devastating floods over the centuries, its banks are a perfect place to soak up the natural beauty of this region.

    The essentials

    Time from London: 90 minutes
    Getting there: Ryanair flies to Tours, Eurostar departs daily to Paris.
    What to say: Can I borrow your bike? Pourriez-vous me prêter votre vélo?
    Price of wine: As little as €4 direct from vineyards