Pound the roads in this cycling paradise or tee off the perfect golfing greens – then relax in the invigorating waters of thalassotherapy spas. Pack up your car and hop across the Channel with Brittany Ferries.
One of the main ‘hubs’ for cycling in France, Pays de la Loire boasts over 2,500km of safe and signposted cycle routes for exploring its lovely landscapes on two wheels. Here’s just a snapshot of the routes on offer in Pays de la Loire…
A north-south bike trail linking Brittany to the Basque Country, open since 2012 and offering a staggering 1,200km of signposted cycling. You can pedal your way through 10 of France’s coastal departments, breathing in the sea air with the Atlantic by your side.
La Loire à Vélo:
A continuous cycle track starting at Cuffy in Cher and finishing at Saint-Brevin-les-Pins on the Loire-Atlantique coast. This route combines all the food, wine, nature and heritage of the area on one journey and is today a true holiday ‘must-do’.
La Vélo Francette:
This 615km-long cycle route links Ouistreham with La Rochelle via Pays de la Loire. It’s fully signposted and takes in natural heritage and historical sites, often hugging a riverbank as it traverses seven departments.
Don’t miss the Vélocéane this autumn (23 September 2018), combining cycling with the seaside from the resort of St-Jean-de-Monts
Sea and river activities
Have you heard of the Passage du Gois? This extraordinary causeway links the island of Noirmoutier with the mainland at Beauvoir-sur-Mer and is one of France’s ‘national monuments’. At a length of 4,150 metres, it’s only accessible at low tide and for 90 minutes either side. It attracts lots of cockle-hunters, who enjoy their treasures for lunch with a glass of the local white wine. An annual running race has also taken place here since 1987, Les Foulées du Gois, pitching athletic nerve against the rising water.
The River Loire is one of Pays de la Loire’s major visitor draws and the region’s tourism revolves largely around this majestic waterway. Feel the cool river waters with a multitude of waterborne activities. Keep the pace slow and lazy on a cruise on board a toue sablière (a traditional flat-bottomed boat), or be independent in a canoe or kayak, watching the local wildlife and marvelling at the châteaux and mills on the riverbanks.
One of Pays de la Loire’s loveliest and most peaceful waterways is the Marais Poitevin in southern Vendée. It is hard to believe that the ‘canals’ in this marshland are man-made, as they form a seemingly random maze of waterways snaking though the landscape.
It may be a challenge to take an accurate swing with your club when the views are as breathtaking as they are along Pays de la Loire’s coast.
Golf courses are naturally popular in this area – and there are plenty to choose from. The region’s temperate climate is perfect for this quintessential ‘great outdoors’sport. Some of the courses follow the Loire, the Sarthe, the Mayenne and the Yon river, others nestle in rolling hills and still others sit just outside major cities.
La Baule’s famous course extends to over 220 hectares along the edge of the Brière regional park, while the 6,000m Pornic course combines wooded areas with wide open spaces. You can play along the river banks at Laval, in the Mayenne valley or on an island in the middle of the Loire at the Île d’Or course in La Varenne (just pay attention to your swing to avoid getting a soaking while lining up your next shot!). For the ultimate golfing experience, try playing a round at the Sablé-Solesmes course, considered one of Pays de la Loire’s most beautiful. Some ranges are set in the grounds of châteaux so you can feel like royalty whilst practising your swing; a perfect example is La Domaine de la Perrière at Avrillé, 10 minutes from Angers. Those who like shade can play golf beneath the trees at the Montjoie course in the heart of the Baugé forest.
Need to perfect your technique? The Golf International Barrière La Baule academy is the leading French golfing training and instruction centre, designed by Jack Nicklaus and open all year round. It’s also great for those who are new to the game.
Don’t miss Caval‘Océane in the resort of St-Jean-de-Monts this autumn (29-30 September 2018), with its spectacular showjumping trials, equestrian displays and beach entertainment open to all.
Pays de la Loire is an excellent destination if all you wish to do is get away from it all and be pampered. Pack up your troubles and check in your bags at any of the region’s six coastal thalassotherapy spas at La Baule, Pornichet, Pornic, Saint-Jean-de-Monts and Les Sables-d’Olonne. You can choose from a menu of invigorating treatments, tailored to your own needs and preferences… what about trying a seaweed wrap since you’re by the sea? Take as long as you need to recharge your batteries, interspersed with plenty of bracing walks on the beach.
From 9-11 November 2018, St-Jean-de-Monts will be playing host to the Atlantique Zen show. Some 70 exhibitors will showcase their wellbeing products, packages and activities at the Palais des Congrès Odysséa. Visitors can take part in a relaxation workshop, take a ‘Zen break’, or attend one of around 20 talks on the latest research into positive thinking and personal development.
The famous ‘Toiles de Mayenne’ fabrics have been woven in the Mayenne department for over 200 years since 1806 and include curtains, bed throws, cushions and more. Striped fabrics are a particular speciality… and very French of course!
Known as the ville des mouchoirs (town of handkerchiefs), Cholet’s history has evolved with the textile industry and it has several museums worth a visit. A handsome old brick laundry now houses the Musée du Textile et de la Mode, while the Musée des Métiers de la Chaussure (shoe trade museum) features over 1,000 models of footwear. As for Cholet’s Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, it reminds us of the wars that Vendée has endured. Cholet is also popular for its factory outlets selling marked-down designer wear, notably Marques Avenue, a large shopping complex housing more than 80 well-known brands. Glisseo, a vast venue for anyone who enjoys water sports and attractions, is another must-see downtown.
It was in 1747 that the first earthenware factory was founded in Malicorne by potter Jean Loiseau, thanks to the area’s abundance of clay as well as its river ports. If you’re interested in ceramics, the Faiencerie Malicorne in Sarthe (open since 1924) is the place to witness clay taking shape before your very eyes – and to invest in some beautiful unique pieces if your luggage space allows, from beautiful plates and jugs to lamp bases and figurines. Guided tours are available without reservation Tuesday to Saturday (except bank holidays) until 30 September – don’t miss out!
Get there with Brittany Ferries
The best way of exploring the Atlantic Coast is in the comfort of your own car, packed with everything you need. Sail direct to Brittany or Normandy from Poole, Portsmouth or Plymouth with Brittany Ferries and head on down to the Atlantic Coast.
Plan your trip to the Atlantic Coast with Brittany Ferries.