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Home to majestic châteaux, lush rolling countryside, and exquisite ancient towns, the Loire Valley is without a doubt, one of France’s most spectacular regions. In fact, such is the beauty of this place, that in 2000, it was officially recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Here’s what we love the most about this stunning area and why the lure of the Loire is just too much to resist.
The Châteaux of the Loire Valley
You simply can’t talk about the Loire Valley without referring to the magnificent châteaux that are dotted throughout the region, giving it it’s unique and magical feel. Fondly referred to as the castle capital of France, there are actually over 300 châteaux in the Loire Valley, 42 of which are within the UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Loire Valley as we know it today owes much of its splendour to both its history, and geography. Located on a crucial frontier between the northern and southern regions of France, years ago Kings, Queens, Dukes, and Nobles flocked to the Loire Valley in order to establish strategic feudal castles and later on, grand manor houses.
In the 16th Century, King Francois I shifted power back to Paris and so the Loire Valley became a popular summer residence destination for the monarchy, nobles and elite, who would escape here to their palatial homes. Today, many of these original and meticulously maintained castles are used as private homes, hotels, or major tourist sites, with the largest and most impressive owned by the national government.
Whilst each of them boast their own unique cultural and historical significance, the major must-see castles of the area include the Château de Chenonceau, Château de Chambord, Château d’Amboise and Château de Villandry.
With so many châteaux available there is plenty of opportunity within the Loire Valley to become the Lord or Lady of your very own castle, and for a relatively modest price. For many, it is the appeal of owning a property with a title thrown in, but beyond the prestige factor, investing in a château means owning a real piece of history where you can imagine scenes of yesteryear unfolding in your own home.
A château can make an excellent guest house/B&B property, allowing you to earn an income from your own residence. Likewise, they are also popular as holiday lets and make exciting venues for weddings and other such celebrations and events.
Messing About On The Loire River
At 1,013km, or 629 miles, the Loire is France’s longest river and taking to the water can be one of the best ways of discovering this beautiful region. Canoes and kayaks are ideal for a fun day activity, and nature lovers will certainly enjoy getting up close and personal with the small animals and wildlife that line the banks.
The Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Nature Park offers nine different river routes varying from 10 to 22 km in length where you can learn about the life of beavers, the cultivation of hemp, or local birds of the Loire. These routes along the waterways will also take in some of the most emblematic towns and villages of the region such as Tours, Montsoreau, Saumur, and Chinon.
The Canal Latéral à la Loire, which runs roughly parallel to the unnavigable section of the Upper Loire River, is especially popular for barge cruising, perfect for those who want to enjoy life in the slow lane.
Most cruise barges carry bicycles onboard so that you can fully explore local villages at the various stop points along the way. Some are even followed by minibuses which go on to take passengers on any number of excursions including hot-air ballooning over vineyards, games of golf, wine tasting and horseback riding.
Stunning chateau in the heart of the Loire Valley
Must See Medieval Towns Of The Loire Valley
It is very easy to fall in love with the Loire Valley and here you can enjoy a taste of the real France. Buzzing pavement cafes, bustling markets, tempting patisserie shop windows….. Walk around any of the region’s cobbled towns and ancient cities and you’ll soon see what makes this place so special.
Although not the capital, Tours is the largest city in the Loire Valley and is most well known for its medieval district, gothic cathedral, covered market and the bridges that cross the Loire River. There are many beautifully preserved half-timbered buildings around the city and at the heart is Place Plumereau, a bar and restaurant filled square, perfect for relaxing and watching the world go by.
Orleans is the region’s capital and has an interesting history due to its occupation by both the Romans and the English. As “The Maid of Orleans” Joan of Arc’s house has been recreated here to resemble the original and there’s also a stunning cathedral that is similar in design to the Notre Dame.
Art lovers should head to Blois which is not only home to some stunning architecture but also the Fine Arts Museum which exhibits classic 16th to 19th Century paintings, sculptures and tapestries. Fans of mystery can also enjoy the Museum of Magic which is the one-time home of the conjurer Houdini, after whom the American magician Harry Houdini named himself.
Nantes, long rated as one of France’s best places to live, is the cultural capital of the western Loire and has transformed itself from provincial town to buzzing city. The centre is all pedestrianised which makes exploring on foot stress-free and there are plenty of hidden squares and lanes lined with trendy boutiques and up-and-coming cafes.
Whether you’re into art, history, architecture, or just meandering around beautiful cobbled streets, there is definitely a slice of the Loire Valley for everyone.
Beautiful XV Century country estate close to medieval Tours
World Class Vineyards
From Nantes to Sancerre, the world-famous Loire Valley vineyards stretch along the majestic river of the same name. Often overlooked by wine snobs in favour of Bordeaux, Burgundy and even Alsace, Loire Valley wines are fascinatingly varied and very versatile. The whites range from being dry as a bone to lip-smackingly sweet, the reds and rosés are light and elegant whilst the sparkling offering is delightfully effervescent.
Like the river, the wine route of the Loire Valley is not only the longest in France, but it is also one of the most beautiful. Taking you through many towns and villages you will be able to feast your eyes on châteaux, gardens and royal abbeys amongst the hills and plains.
More than one thousand vineyards are open to the public, including 400 specially accredited wine cellars, where you have the opportunity to meet local winemakers and taste their produce that they are so rightfully proud of.
With impressive wine cellars, wine-tasting amongst the vines, residential stays in the vineyards and entertaining events and private functions, the Loire Valley is a fabulous destination for wine connoisseurs of all levels and backgrounds.
Life in the Loire Valley runs at a perfect pace and with so much beauty and splendour on your doorstep, it’s easy to see why this region is up there with Paris and the Riviera as one of the nation’s most loved areas.
Enjoy the relaxed pace of local life in this stunning Loire Valley manor house
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