5 things you didn’t know about Loire Valley

13th January, 2017
Loire Valley is renowned for its beautiful landscapes, historic towns and ancient architecture. Loire is so impressive that it is often referred to as the Garden of France. While you may already be aware of the picturesque scenery and peaceful atmosphere, there is a lot more to be experienced when visiting this part of the world. Here are five things you probably don’t know about Loire Valley.

Castles and Architecture

You may be aware of some of the famous castles found here, but what you probably didn’t realise is how many of these incredible structures are located there; Loire Valley boasts 300 of them! The most well-known castles include Château de Chambord, Château d’Ussé, Châteaux d’Amboise, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau. The Château de Chambord is particularly popular as it is the largest and most recognisable. Unlike some of its nearby company, it is not actually considered to be an architectural masterpiece but rather a miss-match of designs. However, the Château de Cheverny has been beautifully constructed, and is a fine example of classical Renaissance architecture.  

Prior to the 15th century, a château was almost identical to an English castle. These buildings were built as fortresses and were designed to withstand an attack or siege. They were often placed strategically on hilltops or in other important locations. These châteaux were the administrative centre for the nobleman of the region and contained a home, barracks, prison, armoury, storehouse and treasury. If you wish to stay and enjoy a traditional French château holiday, we have a beautiful range which are perfect for large parties and groups. 

Rivers

When you think about Loire, you immediately think of the rolling green hills, but what people tend to forget about is the beautiful bodies of water which flow through this region, and adds to its fairytale-like scenery. The most prominent river is the Loire River, which is actually the longest river in all of France. It has over 20 main tributaries, including Cher and Indre, and it joins the Atlantic Ocean in Saint Nazaire. Unfortunately, because the shallowness and significant fluctuations in volume, it makes it difficult to use as a means of transport, however it is a great place to bike along.

Wine

France most definitely contributes to some of the best wine in world. What many people don’t realise is that Loire Valley has some of the most sought after wine grapes, the majority of which are white wine varieties. Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are all produced in the Loire Valley region, along with the rarer Melon de Bourgogne and Pineau d’Aunis grapes, which are grown there exclusively. Altogether the region has an incredible 87 appellations, so if you are a wine enthusiast, Loire Valley should be one place you must visit.

An underground city

There is a multitude of castles scattered throughout the landscape, so it is probably a shock that there is as much going on underground. The region does in fact have its very own underground villages complete with homes, chapel and wine cellars. Carved out of cliff faces and tunnelled underground, these dwellings are inexpensive, provide safety and shelter from both hot and cold weather and are still inhabited to this day.

You can find them all over the region, and can often be recognised from the sight of smoke emerging from underground chimneys. Visitors even have the opportunity to view some of these unique homes and this is an experience which will be unforgettable.

Joan of Arc

Many of us know who Joan of Arc is as she led the French army to a number of victories during the Hundred Years’ War and was later named a Catholic saint. What you may not have known is that she was often referred to as “The Maid of Orleans” because of her first major victory at the siege of Orleans which ultimately caused the collapse of the English control. Aged only 19, Joan was captured and burnt at the stake, however her legacy lives on, and you can see many monuments and art in Loire Valley dedicated to her.