France’s latest long distance cycle route La Vélodyssée runs from the English Channel to Spain
On 30th June a new long distance cycle route along France’s Atlantic seaboard will be inaugurated when Velodyssey® (or Vélodyssée® as it is called in French) is officially opened.
Velodyssey is a new cycle route stretching from Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany, through Loire-atlantique and Vendée departments in Pays de la Loire, then heading south passing through Poitou-Charentes and Aquitaine towards Hendaye.
A Wealth of History and Natural Sites
En route, Velodyssey passes an exceptional number of prime tourist sites, whether natural, historical or cultural. It takes in over 20 major natural sites and reserves including Bay of Morlaix in Brittany, the Marais Poitevin on the borders of the Vendée and Poitou-Charentes, the Marennes Oléron, the Cognac vineyards, the vineyards of the Médoc, the Bassin d’Arcachon, Cap Ferret, the Dune du Pilat, and the vast Landes forest.
Although 80% of the new Atlantic cycle route is over dedicated cycleways, touring cyclists can easily take in a number of historic French towns and cities from Brittany down to Aquitaine including Dinan, Guérande, Morlaix, Nantes, La Rochelle, Rochefort, Royan, Bayonne, Pau, Dax and Biarritz.
Dedicated cyclists are also offered the offshore option of taking in the French islands of Belle Ile en Mer, Ile de Yeu, Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oleron Ile d’Aix and Ile Madame situated in the Bay of Biscay.
Part of a Trans-Europe Network of Cycle Routes
At either end of the 1200 kilometre (750 mile) Velodyssey route there are extensions to England in the north and to Spain in the south. Ultimately, Velodyssey will form the French section of ultra-long distance eurovéloroute1 which will stretch from North Cape in Norway, the northernmost point of continental Europe, lying within the Arctic Circle, to the very south of Portugal. eurovéloroute 1 will interconnect with other international cycle routes such as eurovéloroute 4 which runs from the English Channel to the Black Sea and eurovéloroute 6, known as the ‘rivers route’ part of which takes in the Loire Valley in France.
Velodyssey® is also one of the two itineraries that make up the Cycle West project, a trans-national European project which aims to connect Brittany, Normandy and Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in the South West of England.
Further details of very long distance European cycle routes can be found at Eurovelo.org.
A ‘Package Holiday’ on a Bike
Velodyssey® has been designed to be a true holiday destination in itself and not just a cycle route. The overall itinerary has been selected with versatility and user-friendliness in mind. All parts of the route are way-marked with standardised signage making it easy to find tourist accommodation and bike hire and repair services along the way.
Velodyssey will hold the French national “Accueil Vélo” label, which guarantees that the needs of cycle tourists are met. This mark of quality covers four categories of services namely:
• Tourist accommodation (transfer of luggage, secure bicycle storage, repair kits, convenient opening hours, cyclist-friendly catering arrangements)
• Bike hire and repair services
• Tourist information (offices de tourisme and syndicats d’initiative)
• Places to visit and leisure activities (castles, leisure parks, vineyards, museums and other points and places of interest)
Professionals who provide support and infrastructure services to Velodyssey must be located no more than 5 kilometres from the cycle route and must meet strict criteria as regards the quality of the accommodation and facilities they provide to touring cyclists.
If you're thinking of cycling the Atlantic Coast of France...
Richard Peace's Cycling Southern France - Loire to Mediterranean includes the Atlantic Coast. See also the Lonely Planet's Cycling France and Michelin's French Atlantic Coast Green Guide . Frommer's has a 'shortcuts' edition for the Amazon Kindle that covers Bordeaux and the Atlantic Coast.
Andrew Sykes, editor of the CyclingEurope.org website and a keen cyclist, cycled the EuroVelo 5 in 2010 from the UK to Brindisi in Italy. He wrote about his experiences CyclingEurope.org and subsequently published Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie about his EuroVelo 5 trip.
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