The Loire is easily accessible from the UK and is just a few hours’ drive from the Western Channel ports. Brittany Ferries offer a range of daily sailings from Poole, Portsmouth and Plymouth into Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Roscoff and St Malo meaning you can choose the routes and timings that work best for you and cut down on your driving time in France, ideal if you are travelling with small children and don’t want to spend a long time in the car. Travelling by ferry is also great for stocking up on French produce (like Loire Valley wine!) as there are no luggage restrictions!
Vineyards and wine
No trip to the Loire would be complete without visiting one of the numerous vineyards for a tour or tasting; in fact here in the Loire Valley you can follow the longest wine route in France! The variety of grapes grown here is huge and includes chardonnay, cabernet franc and pinot noir to name but a few. There are more than 1000 vineyards open to the public with over 400 specially accredited wine cellars so you can take your pick and try a huge range of the fabulous wines on offer here – be sure to leave some room in your suitcase to take some home with you!
After its wine, the Loire Valley is best known for its fabulous chateaux documenting its noble past and history amongst French royalty. The Loire Valley chateaux are numerous and you will find over 300 to choose from here! Each one is diverse with some of the best known being Chambord, Villandry, Amboise and Chenonceau. If you are visiting with a young family, the beautiful “Sleeping Beauty” castle at Villandry comes highly recommended and includes a lovely children’s maze and play area.
The Loire is a motorsport lover’s paradise and is home to Le Mans with its famous 24 hour race being held on the Circuit de la Sarthe every year since 1923. Le Mans 24 hours is one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world and has been called the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency”. Every 2 years Le Mans Classic is also held on the same circuit for cars that were built prior to 1979.
Nantes is a fabulous city on the banks of the river Loire and is an ideal place to visit with children. Don’t miss “Les Machines de L’ile Nantes” with its fabulous mechanical elephant that carries passengers through the streets on its back, spraying water on passers-by. You will also find a stunning carousel inspired by Nantes native Jules Verne and his novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea including giant crabs, flying fish and smoke-breathing dragons. You can also tour the workshop and see future creations taking shape.
The department of Vendee in the Loire is well known for its long coastline and sandy beaches with Les Sables d’Olonne and La Tranche sur Mer being 2 of the best known. The Vendee is perfect for a holiday at the seaside with many beaches being awarded Blue Flag status meaning they meet several cleanliness and safety standards. The Vendee beaches attract holidaymakers to their shores from all around the world and have done so for more than a century.
There are many wonderful troglodyte caves and villages across the Loire that are well worth visiting during your holiday. Troglodyte dwellings are many centuries old and are made from traditional tufa stone, providing heat in the winter yet remaining cool in the summer months. In Doué la Fontaine you can even visit BIOPARC, a fabulous zoo set in the unique location of a troglodyte site, or some gite complexes in the area even have their own caves on-site!
Puy de Fou
Puy du Fou in Vendee is a historic theme park with a difference – there are no rides, instead there are thousands of actors and actresses recreating historic events in a series of shows, demonstrations and installations. The park is renowned for the spectacular evening show Cinéscénie that uses music, lights and thousands of players in a breath-taking extravaganza! It’s a good idea to book tickets ahead of time, especially for the evening shows, as they can get booked up really quickly.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci spent the last 3 years of his life in the Loire taking part in architectural and engineering projects at Chateau du Clos Lucé in the city of Amboise until he died in May 1519. Today you can visit the chateau to learn about Da Vinci’s life and discover several of his artworks and inventions. You can also explore the lovely gardens including a large natural marsh area known as Leonardo’s Garden and a small boating lake.
The fabulous selection of Holiday Rentals!
Holiday France Direct has over 300 properties in the Loire available to rent for your next holiday in France, ranging from cosy cottages in the countryside to beachside villas in the Vendee that are perfect for your summer break. And, when you book with Holiday France Direct you get an amazing 20% off Brittany Ferries’ car and passenger fares with daily sailings to the ports in Brittany and Normandy, just a short drive from the Loire.
For more properties, visit Holidayfrancedirect.co.uk