Also known as ‘the Garden of France’, the Loire Valley is famous for its flowers, rolling countryside and vineyards. Over a hundred fairy-tale châteaux with turrets and towers, galleries and ornamental gardens nestle along the Loire Valley. They were built by the French Aristocracy who followed the Kings of France when they were forced out of Paris during the Hundred Years War.
Over a hundred fairy-tale châteaux with turrets and towers, galleries and ornamental gardens nestle along the Loire valley. They were built by the French Aristocracy who followed the Kings of France when they were forced out of Paris during the Hundred Years War. This region, with a fascinating history to discover, has the greatest concentration of Renaissance châteaux in Europe. Each has its unique charm, from the elegant arches of Chenonceau and the waterside beauty of Azay-le-Rideau, to the fortress of Amboise and the deer parks of Chambord. The Château d’Ussé, which was reputedly the inspiration for ‘Sleeping Beauty’, is a great favourite with children, while the Château at Villandry is famous for its formal gardens. Many châteaux hold spectacular 'son et lumière' shows in July and August.
The River Loire, France’s longest river beginning in the Massif Central and running through to the sea at St Nazaire, flows majestically through this beautiful region. An agriculturally rich and productive region with fertile river valleys, the Touraine and Anjou areas are famous for their pretty orchards and fine vineyards.
Once medieval quarries, this series of underground caverns stretches for over a mile and contains stalactites, stalagmites, as well as rivers and waterfalls. There are also all manner of objects that have been left to fossilise. Glittering son et lumière performances take place on summer evenings and guided tours run daily. Take a sweater with you as it can get chilly underground.
This small, picturesque city with its narrow winding streets and elegant buildings sits on a pretty hillside overlooking the Loire River. Blois’s main claim to fame, however, is its amazing château that hosts the most spectacular son et lumière performances in high summer. With its bloody history, the château is reason enough to visit Blois. But, also take a look at the Museé de l’Objet – the exhibitions are fascinating. Then treat yourself to one of the delicious local pastries.
Surrounded by a vast forest, Chambord may just be one of the most amazing châteaux you ever explore. Highlighting the grand architecture and lavish decorations that seemed to be an essential hallmark of France’s 16th Century monarchy, this vast château could easily be one of the most extravagant of all Royal residences ever built. The ornate façade and turrets are spectacularly lit at night.
With its grand arches that span the River Cher and magnificent Renaissance architecture, Chenonceau appears as if to float like a mirage on the surrounding water. This romantic castle was built in the early 16th Century and has nearly always been run by women. There are impressive grounds, as well as a waxworks museum, farm courtyard and stables. Plus, boat trips are available in the summer. In July and August the gardens are lit up from 10pm.
The village standing by Château de Chenonceau is pretty and has some interesting buildings. As Chenonceaux can get busy in the height of the season, we suggest you visit a little later in the day.
You could easily be forgiven for thinking you’ve arrived in the land of make-believe when you first catch sight of the enchanting Château d’Ussé. Thought to be the inspiration for Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty, this fairytale castle has towers and turrets, a terraced garden and a magnificent hillside setting. One of the towers contains rich tableaux that illustrates the fairytale. Let younger members of your party count the steps up to the tower – there are actually 84.
Here’s a real tip: when you get home, keep this lovely medieval town to yourself. So far, picturesque Loches has managed to avoid the hustle and bustle of too many tourists. And after you’ve seen this pretty destination on the banks of the Indre, strolled through the 15th Century gates, explored the delightful old quarter and toured the 13th Century château, we know you’ll agree this really is a very special place.
The capital of the Loire Valley region, the medieval city of Tours has a fine gothic cathedral, pretty old quarter and narrow streets full of stylish shops, lively bars, cafés and excellent restaurants. The shopping is particularly good on Rue Nationale, while Les Douceurs Tourangelles is the place to buy local produce. And whichever day of the week you visit Tours, it’s likely that a colourful street market will be in full swing.
Saumur is such an elegant city. As many of its buildings have been constructed using the local creamy-coloured limestone it’s also a striking place to visit. Spread across both banks of the River Loire, Saumur has a rather stylish château that commands spectacular views. (Be sure to venture up the watchtower and go down into the dungeons.) Rich in equestrian tradition, Saumur is also home to France’s National Horse Riding School. In fact, the city’s Museé du Cheval is dedicated to the history of the horse. There’s a military band festival in June, and the Carousel de Saumur festival (in July) continues Saumur’s equestrian theme. The city streets are filled with music in July and August.
Azay-le-Rideau has what is possibly one of the prettiest châteaux you will see during your holiday in the Loire Valley. Sitting on a tiny island in the River Indre, this fairytale castle has elegant turrets in a lovely village. Son et lumière performances, depicting the history of the château, take place regularly.
The European Park of the Moving Image at Poitiers has 360° cinemas, spectacular shows, incredible architecture and a theme park.
This ruined renaissance château is the perfect setting for son et lumière performances. There is an 18th Century village, a theme park and botanical gardens.
The children will love a visit to the zoo at Doué la Fontaine to see the animals roaming free.
Enjoy a canoe excursion along the Loire - a relaxed way to view the countryside.
We provide detailed walking notes at the Keycamp parc at Tours.
There are numerous appellations to sample in the Loire Valley, indeed the region has been a centre of winemaking for over a thousand years, with around half of all wines produced here being white varieties. Visit Saumur or Chinon for tours of the wine cellars and vineyards.
Once a centre of the fabric industry, and more recently car-making, this beautiful old town has some fabulous architecture and a wealth of ancient buildings, many of which can be found around the River Sauldre. There are a couple of interesting museums; one detailing local life and the other with some pre-historic artefacts. There is also an exhibition of French cars. The town’s park, Parc Ferdinand Buisson, is a nice place to stroll or relax. However, younger visitors may well prefer the aquarium about three miles from town, heading towards Salbris. Romorantin-Lanthenay has a popular market. An amazing food festival takes place at the end of October.
With the ruins of the imposing medieval Château de Chinon overlooking ancient streets; creamy-white buildings and the glistening River Vienne snaking majestically through the heart of the town, Chinon has so much to offer visitors. The place where Richard the Lionheart lay in state, Chinon is also the centre of a highly successful wine-making industry, much of which is detailed in a local wine museum. The stone for the château was actually quarried from the hillside upon which it stands and the caves that were created are today used as wine cellars. Vineyard tours are available locally.
A delightful, family-run Castels parc, just five miles from the market town of Saumur and offering an upmarket, country club atmosphere as well as spacious grounds for children to explore.
Ideal for an action-packed family holiday, the facilities include an impressive pool complex with slides and chutes, a variety of activities and even an exciting Wake Boarding facility.
A spacious, lakeside parc set in 250 acres of wooded parkland surrounding a private château and ideally placed for visiting the region’s many châteaux and vineyards.
A charming woodland parc, set in the grounds of an old stone manor house and close to Château de Chambord. An ideal choice for families with young children.
Built around restored flour mills, the apartments are housed in 3 blocks with a small pool, cleverly designed with an indoor section, with shops and restaurants just a short stroll away.
The perfect opportunity to have a second Keycamp holiday!
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