France’s latest long distance cycle route, La Vélodyssée
, will run from the English Channel in the north to the Spanish border in the south when it officially opens at the end of June.
The Velodyssey cycle route stretches from Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany, through the Loire-atlantique and Vendée departments in Pays de la Loire, then heads south passing through Poitou-Charentes and Aquitaine towards Hendaye near the Franco-Spanish border.
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 near Bordeaux, 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 an 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 off France's west coast.
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 the ultra-long distance eurovéloroute 1
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 and Normandy in France and Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in the South West of England.
Eurovéloroutes are eventually projected to criss-cross Europe under the auspices of the Eurovelo
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.