At the heart of a lush and fertile landscape so loved by French kings and nobility, poets and writers, the magnificent River Loire, France’s longest river, and its tributaries weave their magic, watched over by ancient castles and chateaux built originally for defence and later for private pleasure.
No longer commercial, the river, which flows over 1,000km from the Cevennes to the Atlantic, was once a major transport route for timber, fruit and wine before the coming of the railways.
The Central Loire Valley (Touraine) is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its exceptional beauty, architecture and history.
You’ll find no mountains and gorges, but gentle undulating vine-covered slopes, market gardens and limestone cliffs - topped by fantastic architecture.
Along the Loire’s path are created some of the finest white wines in the world. Wine lovers and historians should follow the Touraine-Loire Valley Vineyards route or take the Valley of the Kings Historical Trail.
Cycling and walking are easy on the flat terrain. Roads built on embankments to prevent flooding follow the Loire’s course or walk the GR3 Loire path. Enjoy fishing and boating in places, although canoeists and walkers should be aware of whirlpools and quicksands between some of the river islands.
The River Indre meanders peacefully north and west through the Touraine countryside lush with water meadows and woodlands. The medieval fortress at Loches rises impressively above it and, on an island, the Gothic outline of sixteenth century Azay-le-Rideau is reflected in its quiet waters.
Further downstream, the Indre Valley provides the perfect fairytale setting for the white towers and terraces of Chateau d’Usse before the river joins the Loire north west of Chinon. The Valley was the inspiration for nineteenth century French writer Honore de Balzac’s ‘Lys in the Valley’ and he loved walking the riverbanks past ancient watermills.
Today, they are ideal places to picnic, relax and watch the local wildlife, including herons, kingfishers and coypu. Fishing is allowed on some stretches of the Indre and local tourist offices should have details.