Posted on 19 May 2010 by Dan Johnson
In a nutshell
The Val de Loire was the play-place of French royalty before they lost their heads, which is why the region is still dominated by 160 stunning châteaux.
It’s a World Heritage Site with many small villages and towns which have grown around the larger châteaux over the years, so there is plenty to discover and enjoy.
Attractions and Adventure
The Loire River is the longest river in France and there are many beautiful views, picnic spots and walks along its banks.
- All the best chateaux are within a 25 minute drive, and most chateaux have things that will interest kids, such as mazes, play areas, bike/boat hire [TripAdvisor member, Somerset]. Blois is 15 minutes (horse and carriage around town a must); Chenonceau (built as a bridge across the Loire) and Chambord (the largest chateau in the Loire, and one of the most recognisable in France) about 25 minutes — both absolutely stunning.
- Amboise chateau is a hidden gem. It looks old and dilapidated from outside but appearances are deceptive — the roof garden is breathtaking. The town of Amboise is a must, beautiful and traditional [TripAdvisor member, London].
Château Chaumont-sur-Loire is the closest to Dugny, and is famed for its stunning gardens, which are both recreational and interactive. The gardens are created in the shape of a tree, with each branch themed in a different way. From April to October the gardeners are on-hand to pass on their expert knowledge to visitors through a series of shows.
On a smaller scale, the Châteaux de la Loire en Miniature (20km from Domaine de Dugny) features mini-versions of the 44 most prestigious Châteaux of the Loire. Along the one mile walk there are bonsai trees, 10,000 figurines and miniature railways. Tickets cost around 12.75 euros for an adult.
- Don’t miss Kayaking down the Loire with Loire Kayaks (just outside Blois). They take you 6k down river and you kayak back in your own time (take a picnic and make a day of it – fabulous!) [TripAdvisor member, Somerset].
- Fantasy Forest (climbing/paintballing for kids) is a good bargaining tool for kids when you want to visit chateaux, but it is a bit expensive [TripAdvisor member, Somerset].
- The region is lovely for cycling, with flat roads little villages to find. [TripAdvisor member, Ireland].
- Don’t miss a trip to Beauval Zoo it was a fantastic day out well worth the money. [TripAdvisor member, Scotland]. Beauval is home to over 4,000 animals and the zoo has been described as one of the world’s 15 best! It has the largest elephant plain in France, an African Savannah with over 80 animals, one of the biggest sea-lion swimming pools in Europe and rare animals including white lions and white tigers.
- Look out for leaflets for Lulu park, which is full of bouncy castles, slides, swings, trampolines and much more [TripAdvisor member, Scotland].
- If you plan to go fishing in the pool at Domaine de Dugny, there’s a good head of small fish with some big carp and sturgeon as well. The biggest I had was a 22lb mirror carp but I did hear of a 25lb mirror coming out just before we left [TripAdvisor member, Essex].
The troglodytes at Saumur are small stone dwellings, some of which were used by prehistoric man, but many that have been carved out to use as cellars and storage rooms. On a much larger scale, there is the La Ville Souterraine, an underground city created by artists.
Food, restaurants and markets
- We found a restaurant called Hotel du Pont in the village of Molineuf, and we sat by the river and threw bread to the fish. The food was excellent and a very reasonable price. [TripAdvisor member, Ireland]
The market in Amboise is one of the biggest in the region. The Friday market has 30 to 70 traders and sells food and regional delicacies. On Sunday morning, there 150 to 200 stalls selling even more varieties of local wine, cheese, meat, fruit, vegetables, honey, fish, oysters and a whole variety of locally produced extras.
Tours is known as the city of 30 street markets. There is an excellent covered food market on Place des Halles, with additional produce on the square outside on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. There’s a gourmet market that takes place on the first Friday of every month, from 4pm to 10pm, and the Foire à l’Ail et au Basilic, a garlic & basil fair, at Sainte Anne at the end of July.
Where to stay
Domaine de Dugny is an outstanding 4-star holiday parc with a popular kids clubs and a highly praised pool complex. The parc is relaxing and tranquil for parents, and close to many of the region’s best attractions. If you need any pointers, the team know the area intimately. There’s also a small lake on parc that’s good for boating and fishing – there are some big beasts in there!