River Loire, source to sea.


Early summer 2009 saw us heading south down France to begin our latest mini adventure. This was to locate the river Loire at its source high in the volcanic outcrops of the Ardeche and follow it north then west to its flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in the Bay of Biscay at St. Nazaire.

The nearest site we could make camp in our trusty Avalon was at the lovely hill-top village of St. Martial, where some people were still washing clothes by hand outside.



At eleven kms. away from the source although not a great distance to cycle to the start of our quest it was still a climb of over 2,000ft. to reach our start point. After four hours of pushing the bikes up the steep lane we arrived at Gerbier de Jonc.


Not really the barren place you might expect it to be, but still with an air of unusual open desolation about it even with it’s track side vendors trading their cheese and trinkets.


What we had come to view and sample was spouting through the wall inside a nearby cow shed into the cows drinking trough, the officially recognised Source of the Loire.

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Very soon the trickle becomes a small stream as more lower mountainside springs join the increasing flow. The return down the mountain to base-camp was a lot quicker and more exciting than the out going one was.

From the Source to the Sea the Loire flows for 1,020 kms. and falls 1,408 mts. We followed it fairly closely for its entirety only side tracking to explore the many interesting riverside villages and places of merit as it meandered along. (More on these in future reports).


Getting to be a little river.


About fifty kms. downstream near the lovely old volcanic town Le Puy-en-Velay(see separate article under France)and close to a medieval bridge has been installed the first small raising barrage to protect both bridge and surroundings from the floodwaters of the now growing River Loire.


Once more we drove on high roads as we headed through the beautiful Loire Gorge with the young Loire in view far below.



Just as our companion grows ever wider and deeper its passage is brought to a near halt and future pace decided for it by the huge road bearing barrage at Villerest. Built in 1985 this would change the look of the Loire completely.


Our constant friend is looking quite a docile shallow river now. It now has ever widening banks, large exposed sandbanks and wooded islands.


The beautiful bridges that span the river are works of art in their own right. Some with up to twenty-three arches, as has the Beaugency one.

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The one at Briare is unusual because it carries a canal across.


As we were now in the Loire Valley we were seeing more of the splendid Chateaux, several alongside the river. Some of these are so fairy castle like they could be made for a film set. Probably the most impressive and certainly the largest was the Chateau de Chambord.Some of our campsites were not only close to the Loire they were surrounded by it as they were on islands in the middle of the now several hundred metres wide River Loire. One such site was next to the ancient town of Amboise with the wonderful small chateau and home of Leonardo Da Vinci.


As we near our journeys end we are still discovering and visiting some remarkable places. Like the Troglodyte dwellings (homes cut into the chalk cliffs) at Rochemenier.


After following the Loire’s water for twenty-eight days and driving 1,144 kms. alongside it we pass next to the Pont de Nazaire, as the now mighty Loire flows under it to reach the salty waters of The Atlantic Ocean in the Bay of Biscay.

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A paddle in the sea and our little expedition is complete.


River Loire as it meanders northwards then west to the Bay of Biscay.

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