Take a leap into the history books on this riding holiday, travelling into the Middle Ages and visiting several of the most important castles of the Renaissance. We will visit: Cheverny (17th century) which has been owned by the same family for 7 centuries; Chambord, the largest of all castles built by Francis Ist; Chaumont sur Loire (15th century), a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Amboise (15th century) a royal castle residence of several French kings and finally, Chenonceau, known as the “Women's Castle”.
Along with faster than average riding on fit Anglos Arab horses, this is a journey of discovery not to be missed. Accommodation is in local B&B's or small hotel's with fresh home-cooked meals sourcing local specialities. Of course the delicious wines of the region will also be on hand at the end of a good day in the saddle!
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from IB of Santa Monica on 30/08/2016
Arrival at Montrichard train station, transfer at 6.30 pm to hotel to Montrichard.
After the introductions and assignment of horses, we will ride towards the village of Fougères-sur-Bièvre where lunch awaits us at the foot of its fortified castle, built in the late 15th century. It offers the ideal image of a small castle from this period with a curtain wall, a dungeon, gunboats, a walkway and machicolations. At the end of the afternoon, the beautifully furnished Cheverny castle will also welcome us for a visit. This property has been owned by the same family for more than 6 centuries. There you’ll discover a fantastic authentic heritage which is very much still alive today. Dinner and night in a B&B or at a hotel.
In the morning we will ride to Chambord where we'll enjoy a picnic. Chambord is the largest castle of the Loire area. Its architectural achievement is unmatched, a wonder of elegance in the heart of an extensive natural forest reserve (5440 ha). We will visit the castle after lunch and then keep riding to the Villesavin castle (16th century), which has almost been kept in perfect integrity throughout the centuries. Dinner and night in a B&B or at a hotel.
This morning we'll start by riding through the forest to have our daily picnic at Beauregard castle. Built under François 1st, this former hunting farm of Chambord has always been famous thanks to its gallery of 327 portraits of well-known characters. We'll visit the castle before going to Candé-dur-Beuvron. Dinner and night in a B&B or at a hotel.
Today we'll ride along the Loire to Chaumont-sur-Loire. A charming village and UNESCO World Heritage site, Chaumont is also well-known for its feudal castle (late 15th century) overlooking the valley and village. We will have a picnic next to the castle and enjoy a visit in the afternoon. We mustn't miss the stables - built in the 19th century, they were considered as the most luxurious in Europe at the time. Back on our horses we'll then cross the Sudais forest to reach our night stop. Dinner and night in a B&B or at a hotel.
We leave with the horses at 10 am and ride along the Loire by the river's edge before ascending the hillside to discover an area of vineyards and cereal crops. We'll have a lunch stop in Amboise and then visit the castle. The 15th century was a prosperous period for Amboise with Louis XI, Charles VIII and François 1st all promoting it’s development and embellishment. In the afternoon, we cross the forest of Amboise to reach Saint Martin le Beau where the family welcome us and offer a tasting of their wines. Dinner and night in a hotel.
After breakfast, we go down into the Cher Valley and enjoy some long gallops alongside the river. We'll head to the magnificent Chenonceau castle, built on the Cher. It is called 'Château des Dames' (Women’s Castle), because it was built and improved by famous female personalities throughout the centuries. We'll have a picnic on site and then visit this jewel of the Loire valley. In the early afternoon, we leave the banks of the Cher to arrive in the town of Pontlevoy. Dinner and overnight at a hotel.
After breakfast, time to say “goodbye” and departure for Monrichard train station around 9:00 am.
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The pace on this trail is varied on the terrain, with long periods of walk and plenty of opportunities to canter and gallop, often faster than comparable trails. The terrain varies day by day and includes rolling hills, vineyards, farmland and woods. There are no drop offs or extreme terrain. The horses are pure or cross-bred Paint, Arabian or Thoroughbreds and warmbloods varying in height from 15.5hh to 17hh. Most of them were born at the local farm. The horses are calm and experienced, well-behaved and suitable for all types of rider. Comfortable trail riding saddles, saddlebags, poncho, and water are provided. Horses are ridden in “Myler” bits. Helmets are not mandatory but are strongly recommended.
Riders must be competent at a walk, trot, canter and gallop over varied terrain and in open spaces. There is help available with mounting and dismounting if required. There are no age limits, children under 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian. Riders should be in good physical shape, have soft hands and be confident.
On some days walking beside horses may be required, usually max 30 mins a day. The horses will be prepared by the support team each day.
The weight limit for this ride is 18 st/253 lb/115 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation on this trail is in small hotels or B&Bs, a different location each night of each trail which also varies with the seasons and according to availability. There is sometimes a private bathroom but you should be prepared to share bathrooms on this trail. Continental breakfasts are served at the accommodation each morning. Lunches are buffets with a wide choice (adaptable to particular diets) with wine, coffee and water. Dinner will be typical French fare served at the next accommodation (wine and other extras not included). The support van follows the trail to prepare your arrival for lunch and dinner. An assistant prepares the lunch buffet and is at your service if you have a special need. The luggage is transported in the vehicle and transferred to each accommodation.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
Visa are not required for U.K. or other European nationals. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas, health and vaccinations, legal issues and emergency issues. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk.
The British Consulate in Paris is at 35 rue de Faubourg St Honore, 75383 Paris Cedex 08. Tel + (33) 1 44 51 31 00. Email: email@example.com.
The French Embassy in the U.K can be found at 58 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7JT. Telephone: (020) 7073 1000. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
France, including the Loire Valley, is at its best in spring, though winter-like relapses aren't unknown. Summer is hot an dry, autumn is pleasant but the days are fairly short.
Weather conditions for Blois:
No special health precautions are required for visits to France, for further details please see your local doctor. We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org.
Voltage is the same as in the UK and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.
Shops are few and far between so please bring all your camera equipment with you. Mobile phone reception is available most days, internet access is not usually possible.
We have put together a suggested packing list for your trip. This should be used as a guideline as requirements may very according to your programme and preferences.
• Riding Helmet - we strongly recommend that you wear a properly fitted riding helmet of the current standard which is PAS015 or BSEN1384.
• Jodhpurs - jodhpurs, breeches or other comfortable trousers (jeans may rub and can also be quite hot)
• Riding Boots - it is important to have correct shoes or boots for horse riding. Jodhpur or ankle boots with a rubber sole are recommended but sturdy shoes with a definite heel are acceptable (such as walking boots)
• Half Chaps - these are great when worn with ankle boots and help prevent the stirrup leathers rubbing against your legs
• T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
• Fleece - Although the weather is generally very warm, the evenings can be a bit cooler
• Warm layers - At times the evening temperature drops significantly
• Casual Clothes - for when out of the saddle
• Water Bottle - it's very important to drink a lot of water when it's hot, especially when doing physical activities
• Raincoat - it is always a wise idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take inset repellent and plenty of sun cream
• Camera and Spare Batteries/Charger - an absolute must! It is also a good idea to take a camera case you can strap around your waist or onto a belt for whilst you are riding
• A copy of your passport
Set dates are available. Programmes last 8 days / 7 nights / 6 days riding.
2019: 22 (full), 29 June; 7 (full), 20 (full), 27 July
If a sharer can be found after the single supplement is paid this will be refunded.
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Périgord – any books on the history of Aquitaine
Bordeaux Wines & Loire Castles – any books on these subjects
The trails are suitable for non-riding companions, they can hire their own transport if they wish.
The French wrote the book on la vie en rose and gave the world champagne and camembert, de Beauvoir and Debussy, the Tour de France and the Eiffel Tower. It is a country steeped in history. Staggering monasteries and castles dotted all over the country are a reminder of a turbulent and often violent past, especially in the Carcasonne region where the Gnostic Christian organisation the Cathars held fast against a crusade launched in the 11th century by an angry and vengeful Catholic church for over twenty years. Despite their vow of non-violence they had a strong support base, including the Knights Templar, and their name often pops up in the legend of the Holy Grail.
The French character has undoubtedly been influenced by their past, today they are a proud and patriotic people famed for enjoying the finer things in life and displaying a great generosity character in their willingness to share their country with the millions of visitors they receive each year.
Food is very important in French culture, almost puritanical. Families eat dinner together late in the evening and their diet is usually very healthy, packed with home grown fruit and vegetables. You will hardly ever see anyone eating on the street; if you do chances are they're not French!
France is one hour ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram. The international dialling code for France is +33.