Loire Valley

If you have, sunned yourself on the coasts of France, strolled around her romantic capital or skied in the mountains, why not try car hireto explore the small towns in the pretty countryside? The Loire Valley is well known for its rolling green wine country dotted with chateaus. In the Indres-et-Loire district, surrounded by its grand and well-known cousins of Amboise, Orleans, and Chateauroux sits the smaller and quieter chateau town of Loches.

Reached by a good network of main roads from autoroutes A10 between Tours and Chatellerault, A25 between Tour and Verizon and A20 between Verizon and Chateauroux, Loches lies on the left bank of the river Indres.

The settlement dates back to 500AD and the current town surrounds the rocky outcrop with the Chateau de Loches, which has been home to the Counts of Anjou and several Kings of France.

There is free parking in several locations in town, notably in the parks on the river, and the stroll up the steep cobbled streets to the castle past bookshops, boutiques and antique stores is just wonderful. There are bars and restaurants between the retail outlets to stop and rest from the short climb. Many of the walls have beautiful roses climbing up them and during the summer the scent is beautiful.

The castle grounds include the old keep, or donjon, which gives the visitor a great insight into the strength of the ancient castle and some of its darker secrets, with a prison including iron cages where state prisoners were kept.

The church of St Ours and the Royal Lodge are also found in the castle area. The church with its ornate carving on its west door, dates back to the 10th to 12th centuries and has distinctive pyramids on the roof of the nave between the twin spires. The Royal lodge contains the tomb of Agnes Sorel, favourite mistress to King Charles VII and is also the place to which Joan of Arc rested fresh from her victory at Orleans.

Back down in the town, there is a great selection of lovely hotels, bed and breakfasts and gites to choose from. Those along the river to the east of the castle have a lovely outlook onto the river and the parks beyond.

Whether staying in Loches and wish to visit a chateau, or wishing to splash out and spend the night in one, the nearby Chateau de Reignac, once the home of the Marquis de Lafayette, is a beautiful example of an18th century grand home.

Situated to the northeast of Loches via the D943 and the D58 in the tiny village of Reignac-Sur-Indres, this Chateau is now a hotel with large rooms and beautiful grounds. It’s a favourite for weddings with its own chapel and a church in the tiny village, but somehow manages to stay peaceful and quiet even with a wedding party in full swing. Its owners are most welcoming to passing tourists stopping in for a peek at the building and grounds.

The Loire Valley is full of treasures with Loches and Reignac just two of the smaller, quieter options. At least a week is recommended for driving round the Loire valley to fully appreciate its rich beauty and heritage.

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