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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 21 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Anna Brooke

France’s longest river, the Loire, stretches for 1,012km, meandering right through the UNESCO-listed heart of the Loire Valley. Several companies run cruises, both on the Loire and its tributaries the Cher and Vienne, often in reconstructions of the strange wooden sailing vessels that used to ply the river carrying goods.

Couples seeking romance can sign up to a private sunset cruise on the Amarante, followed by a night sleeping alone on board, anchored on the water or at a sandy beach. The crew will come and serve you breakfast in the morning.

Boat tours are a convenient and serene way to take in the Loire’s best scenery – idyllic countryside and peppered with fairytale chateaux.

Recommendations

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Boat tours from Chisseaux

Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

View of the Chenonceau Chateau arches from the river

Boat trips on the Cher in Le Belandre are more touristy, but take you right through the arches of the Chateau de Chenonceau. Tours depart from Maison Eclusiere de Chisseaux, from April to October. Private cruises are also available.

Adult price: £9

Duration: 1-3 hours

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Boat tours from St-Dye-sur-Loire

Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

landscape of small buildings in Saumur alongside the river bank

Take the lovely wooden sailing boat La Saponiere from St-Dye-sur-Loire (near Chambord, April to October). Options include an evening tour to discover the sounds of the Loire, and bring-your-own picnic trips.

Adult price: £9

Duration: 1-3 hours

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Boat tours from Candes-Saint-Martin

Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

Beautiful castle with turrets next to the river

Take in two rivers – the Loire and Vienne – on a trip with the CPIE. The traditional flat-bottomed, cabined wooden boats leave from the historic church at Candes-Saint-Martin.

Adult price: £16

Best for ages 18+

Duration: 1-3 hours

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Logistics

Price from: £9
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: +
When: All year around
Duration: 1.5-3 hours fixed

Getting there & doing it

There are multiple operators, each leaving from different departure points; most offer trips daily between April and October. Trips vary from 1.5-3 hours, and you need to be at the departure point 15 minutes in advance. Private group bookings are possible all year round by arrangement.

When to do it

Most boat tours only run April-October. Departure times and days vary by operator, but usually there are 2-3 departures each day

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Loire Valley

Loire Valley, France

Exterior of the front of the chateau, with a tree-lined driveway in foreground

Northern France’s beautiful UNESCO-listed valley, home to heart-stoppingly beautiful historic chateaux, authentic village life, world-class wines and fascinating troglodytes.