Saone et Loire Activities and Things to do on Holiday

Boating

Saone et Loire has 300km of navigable waters, 27 ports and stopping places and a flotilla of more than 120 boats. Passenger cruising is popular between March and November and places should be booked in advance. Cruises on the Saone or the River Doubs can last from an hour to a day from Bateau le Delta, Chalon. Tel the Tourist Office: (00 33) 3 85 93 44 36.

Take a trip on the Canal du Centre, Canal de Roanne a Digoin or Canal Lateral a la Loire departing from Digoin and crossing the town's famous canal bridge. Tel: (00 33) 3 85 53 76 78. The Canal du Centre Association website (in French) www.bateau-musee-canal.com has more.

Houseboats can be rented at places like Gigny-sur-Saone and you'll find daily boat rental (including canoes and rowing boats) at Les Canalous, Digoin, tel: (00 33) 3 85 53 76 79. Daily boat rentals with or without a guide can be made at Pavillon Saone, Tournus www.house-boat.net

Visit Chateaux

The chateaux of Burgundy, though more numerous than those of the Loire Valley, are perhaps not so well known because many are in private hands. Sixteen which are open to the public are listed in the department's Route des Chateaux en Bourgogne du Sud. Chalon, Tournus and Macon are all ideal centres to use as a base for your explorations.

Chateau St-Point west of Milly will interest those following the Lamartine trail. The poet settled here with his English wife - Mary Ann Birch - in 1820. Both are buried at this chateau-museum. www.chateaulamartine.com

Perhaps the most splendid is seventeenth century Chateau de Cormantin, with some of France's grandest Louise XIII apartments, all painted, sculpted and gold-leafed panelling and ceilings, fine furniture and tapestries. The grounds include a box maze and kitchen garden. Just the place to stop for tea on summer afternoons. Tel: (00 33) 3 85 50 16 55 for opening times etc. In contrast, Chateau de Berze-le-Chatel, built between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries was definitely built as a fortress. Its 13 towers dominate the Maconnais Valley and triple walls enclose an ingenious defence system. More details on tel: (00 33) 3 85 36 60 83. Other castles include Pierreclose where there's a wine museum, tastings and sales; beautiful Renaissance Chateau de Sully rising out of moated waters and thirteenth - fourteenth century Germolles - the best preserved country estate of the Dukes of Burgundy.

Visit Gardens

Saone et Loire has the distinction of being awarded a "Trophee du departement fleuri" and is one of only 16 departments bearing the title "departement fleuri". Towns to visit are Macon which has a floral "Grand prix national" and Paray-le-Monial. The medieval-inspired Jardin du Cloitre close to the basilica of Paray-le-Monial is open all year and laid out in the pattern of a cross. A guided tour around Jardins Romans (open May- Oct) at Varenne-l'Arconce is an hour long feast for the senses: including theme based areas of scent and colour, medicinal plants with their uses and aquatic plants from the Loire and exotic locations. Tel (0033) 3 85 24 30 09

Rose lovers will find a great collection of varieties both ancient and modern amongst the pergolas at Le Jardin du Zephyr, Anglure-sous-Dun and the rose garden of public Parc de Loisirs Saint-Nicholas has 26,000 bushes which bloom in June along a route telling the history of France's special flower. Many chateaux have gardens worth a visit. Chalon's geo-botanical gardens in Parc Georges Nouelle on place Mathias showcases 8 distinct plant environments from Bresse marshlands to landscapes of Provence and Parc du Chateau de la Verrerie at Le Creusot has 28 hectares of walks amongst its arboretum.

Biking

Saone et Loire has 250km of dedicated Greenways (Voies Vertes) and veloroutes for cyclists leaving motorised traffic behind. These have the advantage of parking and picnic areas en route as well as toilet facilities. Touring the quiet country lanes is an ideal way to get to the heart of the countryside. The 65km Voie Verte between Givry and Charnay-les-Macon follows an old railway line. Cycling through the tunnel of Bois Clair between Cluny and Charnay-les-Macon can be quite exciting. North of Chalon another 35km route follows the Canal du Centre past the church spires, pigeonniers and mills of little wine villages. Tourist Offices have Voie Verte leaflets which give information on routes or see the departmental website: www.bourgogne-du-sud.com 800km of hiking trails are also suitable for mountain biking (VTT) and Brionnais Decouvertes in Marcigny and Base VTT La Valouzine in Saint-Point are centres which offer bike rental, maps, courses and outings with state-certified instructors. .

Riding

A network of over 600km of equestrian routes known as Pistes Vertes (Green Trails) covers the region. Seven of these marked bridal paths are signed with a horse rearing above a compass, against a white or orange background. Two orange stripes also mark the route. The wine trail, covering 100km, begins north in Cote d'Or through the Chalonnais vineyards to Cluny. There's also a forest and peak trail; pastureland and Romanesque churches route between Cluny and Paray-le-Monial; 200km Brionnais to Morvan and Morvan to Santenay itinerary. Cote Chalonnaise country is covered by a circuit from Autun. Guides for these are available at local Tourist Offices.

Discover Southern Burgundy in a horse-drawn buggy or carriage from La Comtoise Cheval de Trait d'Union, Chambilly, tel: (00 33) 3 85 25 39 61.

Saone et Loire has plenty of riding clubs and equestrian tourism centres in places like Cuiseaux, Nanton which specialise in helping young riders. Contact the Equestrian Tourism Committee in St-Gengoux-le-National for more. Tel: (00 33) 3 85 92 61 67.

Fishing

Saone et Loire has 4,000km of favourable fishing rivers and canals and 1,200km of reservoirs and lakes making it high on the list of places for anglers to visit. Many Tourist Offices like Bourbon-Lancy and Etang-sur-Arroux have fishing information and sell licences. The Guide Practique de la Peche en Saone et Loire www.peche-saone-et-loire.org is written by the department's Fishing Federation (tel: (00 33) 3 85 23 83 00) and gives information on programmes, where to fish and regulations. A further guide with plenty of useful information can be downloaded from www.bourgogne-du-sud.com Les Etangs du Brionnais at Baugy is the place to make for to catch exceptional carp and there are training classes from mid May to mid October at Centre de Peche au Gros, Macon. Tel: (00 33) 3 85 39 07 50.

Golf

The 6 golf courses of Saone et Loire offer players diverse conditions in a superb environment. 18 hole par 71 Golf de Chalon-sur-Saone lies 3km from the centre of Chalon on the banks of the River Saone and is open all year 7 days a week. Tel: (00 33) 3 85 93 49 65. Golf de Ceron is an 18 hole course in the beautiful Brionnais countryside close to the River Loire. Tel: (00 33) 85 25 17 79. Set in 250 hectares amongst the Maconnais vineyards with scenic views, Golf de Macon-La Salle has an 18 hole par 71 and 9 hole par 27 course, while 18 hole par 72 Golf du Chateau d'Avoise (open all year) at Montchanin was designed by Hawtree and is set on a 120 hectare estate of hundred-year old beeches and oaks with a high quality layout of valleys and water courses. Golf municipal d'Autun, 2minutes from the city, has both a 9 and an 18 hole course and there are smaller courses at Bourbon-Lancy and Chatenoy-en-Bresse.

Theme Parks

Parc Touristique des Combes at Le Creusot, offers 70 hectares of outdoor fun activities on a wooded site. There's a railway circuit spanning the whole park, summer sledging at speeds of up to 40km/hour, a rollercoaster and 'Nautical Jet' cascades boat ride, interactive science exhibition plus much more. Open March - Nov. www.parcdescombes.com

Take a guided tour of the llama and alpaca breeding farm and wool-spinning workshop at Mesvres www.lama-alpaga.comTTouroparc is a zoological and amusement park at Romaneche-Thorins with something for all the family. Over 800 animals include elephants, hippopotamuses and gorillas plus there's a vivarium. Children will love the cave ride down rapids, high-speed roller coaster and aquatic park. Amenities include café, restaurant, shop and picnic area. Opening times vary so see www.touroparc.com

Diverti' Parc at Toulon-sur-Arroux has giant mazes, life-size games with wooden figures, story telling, treasure hunt and trampoline, water games and much more. See www.divertiparc.com Find tree-top adventure parks for all ages at Acro'bath, Bergesserin and Acrogivry in Givry.

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