Travel Guide to Pays de la Loire

Best things to do and see in Pays de la Loire

Pays de la Loire: Why go

There are actually 2 Loire valleys: the grande Loire, with its procession of magnificent olde-worlde châteaux, and the smaller, prettier Loir (sans e) which runs to its north, near the historical city of Le Mans. This latter region is home to most of the lovely castles-turned-chambres d’hôtes in our selection. Combine these two valleys, plus a section of Bay of Biscay, and you get the region which the French call Le Pays de la Loire.

While the northerly Loir may be less well known than its longer namesake, it contains some important historical sites. These include the 11th century ruins of the Château de Lavardin and the village’s Romanesque church frescoes, the Gothic Trinity Abbey in Vendôme, with some of Europe’s oldest stained glass windows, and the Renaissance Manoir de la Possonnière, birthplace of Pierre de Ronsard, France’s ‘prince of poets’.

Less stately dwellings can be found in the troglodyte cave village of Trôo, while claustrophobic types may prefer the outdoor delights of the beautifully landscaped Jardin du Plessis Sasnières. Modern and ancient combine in the medieval town of Le Mans, host of the famous 24-hour race car circuit, and in Clos Lucé, the last resting place of Leonardo da Vinci, now a park with interactive displays of his genius inventions. And naturellement, there's wine tasting at the excellent Loir wineries - a timeless pleasure.

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