The last leg of our journey along the Loire à Vélo cycle route, à 35km flat run into Nantes. It was misty as we covered the early morning ground, keen to get to Nantes with enough time to wander around the Machines de l’Île. After breakfast in uninspiring Mauves sur Loire, the feel of the cycle path changes: it is more like we are cycling through a city park. We are in the outskirts of Nantes.

We arrive at Nantes train station, which has a new terminal built high across the tracks with tree shaped columns beneath that splay out into oak-tree like branches within the concourse to provide shade for the travellers.

Reflections on Orléans to Nantes via the Loire à Vélo

We were using the cycle route more as a means of getting from Paris to the Atlantic coast rather than planning a dedicated trip to do the Loire à vélo route – and while I thought it would be fun I enjoyed it even more than I expected.

  • The Loire is much wilder than say the Rhone or the Garonne. It is not used as a major inland shipping route and so feels less industrialised. The water is able to follow a more natural course as reflected in the various channels that weave their way through the landscape, and the sand banks that are a haven for birds.
  • That said there are levées to cycle along, albeit set back so that the flow is less interrupted, and these are great to cycle along.
  • My favourite sections were when the levee road is quiet, and we are able to get some speed up while watching the river landscape change in the channel below.
  • My least favourite where the river approaches a city. Tours in particular seemed to have turned its back on its rivers.
  • There is a great atmosphere on the path. You meet cyclists going the length of the Loire à vélo path, and some beyond towards Basel and towards the Black Sea.
  • The riverside guinguettes were great to stumble across and make the most of to eat at en route or chill out at in the evening.
  • I wouldn’t bother visiting the out-of-town chateaux. They represent an accumulation of wealth extracted from the local landscape and local people that is somehow not reconciled, not addressed. Just a place to drive to. The middle of town chateaux of Blois and Amboise are a bit more connected to the towns, are more interesting and don’t require a detour.
  • The route is well signposted, there’s lots of campsites en route. The highlights were the Slow Village in Pont de Cé, and wild camping under the stars.

Onward journey

We are now leaving the Loire à vélo cycle path and making a little detour out to Batz sur Mer in Brittany before heading south by train towards the Ile de Ré, cycling to Arcachon, train to Biarritz, then making our way by some means or another to Santander in Northern Spain.