Bordeaux and St Emilion are both World Heritage listed and in between lies a landscape of deep valleys and vineyards, tiny hamlets and quiet country lanes, wine cellars and grand chateaux, fortified towns and country markets and games of boules in the village square. The tradition of local produce served simply with great wine has led to the pleasure of dining slowly and long and with gentle gradients and shortish distances we haven't spoilt the fun.
- Start & finish: Starts daily from 30 March to 15 October and is circular from Bordeaux to Bordeaux. Bordeaux airport is 25 minutes from the city centre and has regular flights from many UK airports. Bergerac airport is 1 hour away by train. Bordeaux can be reached by train from Paris - 3 hours by TGV or from Lille without the need to change trains in Paris.
- Accommodation: A 3 star hotel in the heart of Bordeaux, a small chambre d'hotes in Sadirac, chateaux with swimming pools in Dardenac and Martillac and a boutique hotel with a pool in Cadillac. Dinners are not included.
- Cycling mileage: 5 days of cycling 12 - 20 miles (19 - 32 km) per day and 1 day of optional cycling.
- Grade out of 5 based on distance and elevation: 1
- Terrain: Gentle slopes.
- Traffic free: 20 %; very low traffic on the rest.
Options: Additional nights in Bordeaux
Day 1: Bordeaux.
Arrive in Bordeaux and check into your hotel in the heart of this elegant city. Listed as a World Heritage site for its stunning 18th Century architecture, there is much to discover here. Enjoy its chic golden triangle of lingerie, chocolate and perfume boutiques that make any visit to France special and linger in a cafe or two. Your host will meet you in the early evening to run through your itinerary and show you the restaurant quarter of St Pierre.
Day 2: Bordeaux to Sadirac.
13 miles (21 km). There's time to discover more of Bordeaux before you pedal away. Your journey starts from the Mirroir d'Eau - the water mirror in front of Bordeaux's neo-classical riverside frontage and follows a traffic free cycle path upstream along the river and then on a former railway line. Halt at one of the old stations for a coffee and ride on into the valley of the Pimpine to Lignan de Bordeaux and the Bistrot de Pimpine. Arriving in the pretty village of Sadirac where you will stay the night, there is a pottery museum and the extraordinary museum or collection of forgotten vegetables.
Day 3: Sadirac to Dardenac.
14 miles (22 km). Visit one of two chateaux this morning for a tour and tasting if you wish before peadalling into Creon in time for lunch. You then rejoin the cycle path to reach La Sauve Majesure with its imposing ruined Abbey - still a waypoint today for Compostella pilgrims. Steam on through tunnels and past former stations turned cafes to reach the hamlet of Dardenac and its principal chateau, Chateau Dardenac. This family owned estate where you will spend the next two nights, has a thriving vineyard. Refresh yourself in the pool before Francoise your host offers you a table d'hote meal.
Day 4: Circular ride to St Emilion and back.
Optional 20 miles (32 km). Today you have a choice of lounging beside the pool at the chateau or discovering World Heritage listed St Emilion. The ride there heads down to the Dordogne and then crosses the valley to reach this medieval town. With two cloisters, an underground church and much of its moat, walls and towers intact, there's a network of cobbled streets to explore and an array of wine bars, cafes and cellars all beckoning to passing visitors. Enjoy! Return to Dardenac for dinner.
Day 5: Dardenace to Cadillac.
16 miles (26 km). Pedalling on through pretty rural landscapes you reach Targon where the church is built on Roman foundations. From here you follow the valley as it meanders down to the Garonne. En route the fortress chateau of Haut Benauge makes a great photograph and the restaurant on the lake at Laromet. known locally as 'the Corsican's', has a terrace boasting slow food and great ambiance. Your overnight stay is in the Hotel Restaurant Chateau de La Tour in Cadillac where the swimming pool offers a great way to relax and the grounds are big enough for a pre-dinner stroll after a tour of the Duke of Epernon's Palace.
Day 6: Cadillac to Martillac.
15 miles (25 km). Heading downstream close to the Garonne this morning you will find Rions - a medieval time -capsule where filmcrews often occupy the narrow alleys. Following country lames and tracks your route reaches the old chateau at Langoiran and then Langoiran itself, where a riverside restaurant competes with a traditional typical village cafe Just adjacent at Le Tourne is a long established boat-building yard displaying the variety of craft that used to ply the river. Crossing the river here the Chateau de Mongenan at Portets with its eccentric collection of bygones and Masonic Temple heirlooms is well worth a stop before a series of left bank villages lead to Martillac where your overnight stay is in the Chateau de Lantic with its wonderful pool and terrace.
Day 7: Martillac to Bordeaux.
12 miles (19 km). Your final day of cycling leads through the Prestige Pessac-Leognan vineyards where prior booking can secure a tour at Chateau Smith Haute Lafite or Chateau La Louviere. If the exertions of the week have earned a little pampering, the Source de Caudalie spa is also on your route and to help put back some of the calories burnt one of its two restauramts boasts a Michelin star. The cycling distance today is short enough to allow time for a quality chateau tour or a return to Bordeaux early enough for a few more city pleasures.
Day 8: Depart Bordeaux.
Sip a final coffee in one of Bordeaux's squares and depart at your leisure.
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