Last Updated on 23/04/2023
The section of the Loire cycle route from Tours to Villandry deserves a your attentioin, even if you’re not a big fan of cycling. Idyllic landscapes, not too tiring road through the fields with poppies and cornflowers along the slow river and at the end of a beautiful castle with Renaissance gardens.
Villandry combines fine with other castles – as a bicycle, car or bus route to several points.
How to get to Villandry
By bus 32 from Tours.
Loire cycle route map
By bike, the following options are possible:
Tours – Villandry – Tours (40 km);
Tours – Villandry – Usse – Chinon – Tours (by train) (about 60 km);
Tours – Villandry – Usse – Rivarennes – Tours (by train) (45 km).
Two next maps for full route to Usse (with possibility to return by train from Rivarennes). Sights along the route are on the map of attractions.
From Tours to Villandry
The bike path runs along the river and fields.
Great Mill of Ballan (Grand Moulin) was build in 1520.
Caves Les Grottes Petrifiantes
On the road from Tours to Villandry, there is the village of Savonnieres with caves (Les Grottes Petrifiantes).
The caves were formed 25-30 million years ago. The models represent the prehistoric animals that lived in them. The Romans lived here, as evidenced by several tombstones in the caves. Then for many centuries the caves were forgotten, until they were discovered again in 1547, in the era of Francis 1. From here they got a stone for the Villandry palace.
A kilometer long tunnel leads from the caves to the Villandry palace. The caves are small, but there is something to see.
The chemical composition of water and rocks creates stalactites and stalagmites in the caves. This feature of water is actively used here – various ceramic and plastic products are placed under jets of water and regularly turned over. After a few months, the products are covered with a shiny white crust. And unremarkable jugs and figurines become nice souvenirs – they are sold in a local souvenir shop. A special technology allows to create bas-reliefs.
Villandry Palace was built in 1536 by Francis 1’s finance minister, Jean Le Breton. Previously, there was a 12th-century fortress on this site, only the base and a square tower remained of it. In this fortress, in 1189, peace was concluded between Philip Augustus, king of France, and Henry 2 Plantagenet, king of England.
Villandry gardens in the Renaissance style were laid out around the castle. In the 19th century the garden was destroyed and an English park created. In 1906, Dr. Carvallo acquired the crumbling castle. He restored the gardens according to old drawings.
The gardens in Villandry cover 5 hectares. Immediately behind the castle is an ornamental garden. It is best to view it from above – from the Belvedere and New Belvedere sites.
First up is Gardens of Love.
In the photo in the lower left corner “tragic love”, then clockwise – “tender love”, “passionate love”, “impermanent love”).
Then “Boxwood Living Rooms” – with the image of the Maltese cross, the Languedoc cross and the cross of the Basque Country. Through the canal “Music Boxwood Lounge” – a stylized image of lyres, harps and candlesticks.
Opposite the castle, across the canal, are nine square renaissance garden beds. Roses here are combined with leeks, cabbage, carrots, arbors, fountains. Above the ornamental garden is a medicinal herb garden.