Five Great Cycle Routes for Families in France
With the Tour de France upon us – Saturday 2nd to Sunday 24th July – we thought we’d pay homage to the French love affair with pedal power.
Of course, you don’t need to be Lance Armstrong to enjoy France by bike… There are miles of meandering lanes, canal-side towpaths and beautiful stretches of coastal paths perfectly marked out for le vélo.
And there’s nowhere quite like France for a self-catering cycling holiday! You’ll see more of the sights, meet the locals and have the opportunity to engage with the places you pass through. Not to mention a rental apartment will give you the chance to sample local food, and the odd glass of wine…
It’s also a great way to enjoy a healthy and active holiday option – think of it as the summer equivalent to skiing!
The Voies Vertes, or Greenways, are an extensive network of dedicated cycle routes across France linking up nearly 2,600km of safe, marked paths. So whether you want to embark on a week-long tour or an afternoon in the saddle, there are plenty of routes to choose from. Here are some of our top suggestions of the best places to get peddling.
The Loire à vélo, The Loire – For châteaux fans
The Loire à vélo is an ambitious project linking two regions, six départements and six major urban areas over an 800km trail between Cuffy and Saint-Brévin on the Atlantic coast, two thirds of which run alongside the River Loire with its fabulous châteaux.
There are specific segments of the route between Muides sur Loire and Ancenis recommended for families, with a number of short distance options to choose from.
And to rest those tired legs between trips Pierre & Vacances have a range of self catering apartments in the Loire Valley.
Avenue Verte Dieppe-Forges, Normandy – For budding athletes
Destined ultimately to link London with Paris in time for the 2012 Olympics, this 45km route runs from Dieppe on the Normandy coast to the spa town of Forges-les-Eaux along the former Dieppe to Paris railway line.
For now you’ll have to make do with some picture-perfect Normandy countryside with lots of apples and cider to help you on your way. And to kick-back and enjoy the views during your stay, Pierre & Vacances have a range of family apartment rentals in Normandy.
La Baie de Somme à Vélo, Picardy – For beach fans and bird watchers
Le Baie de Somme is made up of seven trails, many kilometres of which run alongside the seashore, weaving through dunes, mudflats and reed beds full of migratory birds. The Baie de Somme railway carries cycles free of charge, so you can hop on and off and tackle as much or as little of the trails as you wish. And to enjoy hopping around Picardy, Pierre & Vacances has a range of self-catering accommodation to rest those weary wheels.
Le-tour-de-Bourgogne-a-vélo, Burgundy – For vineyard fans
The cycling tour of Burgundy, much like the Loire and Somme equivalents, is made up of five individual trails showcasing the region’s main attractions and eventually destined to cover 800km.
The route is made up of towpaths, paths through vineyards, disused railway lines and country lanes. The Santenay-Nolay track, the ‘Voie des Vignes’, is particularly recommended for easy family cycling. And to make the most of your stay Pierre & Vacances has a range of holiday accommodation in Burgundy as a great base to explore the region.
Piste du canal de L’Ourcq, Paris – For city slickers
This cycle path alongside the canal offers a flat and picturesque option, great for a day out from Paris. The route takes you from the Parc de la Villette in north-eastern Paris out into the countryside to Claye-Souilly, 27km from the city. Ultimately this route is intended to link Paris with Moscow!
For a shorter route families can choose a pit-stop at La Poudrerie Forest Park at Servan, 14km along the canal. And to make the most of your stay in the area, Pierre & Vacances has a wide range of holiday apartments to rent in Paris with both scenic and central locations.
And for those after some serious cycling…
Here are two long-distance options for those seeking a serious cycling challenge!
Voie Verte Trans-Ardennes
This greenway is graded as an easy route, running 85 km in total between Charleville-Mezieres and Givet near the Belgian border. The train which runs through the valley is a great back up option for tired legs. And as for accommodation along the route, Pierre & Vacances has a wide range of family self-catering rentals in Ardennes.
Canal du Midi, Languedoc-Roussillion/ Midi-Pyrenees
The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage site, bordered almost all of the way by striking plane trees. The route takes you through the heart of the beautiful South West countryside with ample opportunity to sample local wines and visit ancient towns and monuments.
The full route (240km) will take you from Toulouse along the canal to the little port of Marseillan on the Mediterranean, but can be broken down into stages for easily manageable chunks!
The other option is to head North West from Toulouse towards Bordeaux and the Atlantic Ocean along the Canal de Garonne, the full canal route originally designed to link the two coasts. For those wanting to make the most of a cycling holiday in the sublime region, Pierre & Vacances has a selection of self catering accommodation in the South of France .