May 14, 2022
This cycling holiday is all about getting to know a rarely visited but beautiful part of France. You’ll explore gorges, forests, vineyards, limestone plateaux and rolling green hills all on very quiet roads. You’ll be riding through endless stunning medieval villages too – this is a place which has barely changed for centuries. It takes you away from over-crowded bucket list destinations and just concentrates on great cycling on roads which will take your breath away.
It’s aimed at people who ride regularly. You’ll need to be reasonably fit – maybe you ride with a club or do sportives, but you don’t need to be super-human either. What it’s not is a training camp – we’ll be riding at a civilised pace and no-one will get left behind. Distance will be between 80 and 120km per day with plenty of opportunity for café and photography stops. There’s climbing to be done, after all St Antonin is in the hills, but the climbs are never too demanding and are linked together by quiet valley roads. Because it’s fixed base you can dip in and out of the ride program, but most people don’t want to miss any of it!
The holiday includes a generous home cooked breakfast every day. In the evening there are lots of eating options on our doorstep – we can help with recommendations and booking so don’t worry if your French isn’t up to much. We have a guest kitchen so you’re also welcome to self cater. It’s a lovely town to unwind after a bike ride. Our wonderful open air pool is very close by, you can swim in the river or hang out at one of the bars people watching and admiring the medieval buildings.
Le Cheval Blanc, our base, has a guest kitchen so self catering is also easy if you prefer.
Arrival and settling in. If you’re here early enough I can lend you a GPS which will guide you around one of my favourite short rides.
This a great local circuit taking in two beautiful valleys. We quickly leave the Aveyron valley heading towards Cordes sur Ciel, an amazing fortified hilltop town. Cordes itself isn’t very bike friendly, but riding past in the valley it’s a spectacular sight. Higher up the valley, the hills close in and we follow a winding road known locally as the cyclists “autoroute” because it’s so nice everyone uses it! We’ll have time for a quick coffee and look around Monestiés with it’s medieval bridge before the climb over to a completely different valley, the Viaur. The Viaur is a narrow steep sided valley which feels very remote, but it’s also a popular swimming spot if you fancy a freshen up. We’ll have lunch in a riverside creperie followed by an easy spin down the valley maybe including a coffee stop in the riverside town of Laguépie, from where we join the Aveyron for the ride back to St Antonin.
We have a great local train service which we use to get to new places and this is a real customer favourite. The historic line to Figeac runs through the upper Aveyron gorge, which as well as being stunning is only accessible by train. Figeac is a beautifully preserved medieval pilgrim town in the Lot where we’ll stop for a quick coffee. Then we ride almost the whole length of the stunningly remote Célé valley with it’s perfect villages and cliffs. Shortly after lunch we reach the Lot valley at the tourist honeypot of St Cirq Lapopie from where we climb gently up to the Quercy limestone plateau. The scenery on the plateau is completely different to the rest of the ride. It’s one of the most sparsely populated parts of France where time has stood still and a handful of farmers still eke out a living on the stony soil. We drop down from the plateau along the idyllic Bonnette valley which is reputed to have more watermills than anywhere in France and which brings us back to St Antonin. This is the longest ride of the week, but the terrain is gentle throughout.
We’re heading east today, climbing out of the gorge on a climb used by the Tour de France in 2018 into a dwarf oak forest which eventually gives way to the flat plain around Montauban. We follow the Aveyron river past the mud brick farms typical of that area before climbing into the Quercy region, known for its well preserved hilltop villages, vineyards and, for the cyclist, wonderful ridge roads which give spectacular 360 degree views.
We have one of the best markets in the region on our doorstep, so it’s the perfect excuse for a rest day. You can wander around buying local produce or grab a coffee and watch French life unfold much as it has done for centuries. In the afternoon, if you want to ride I can lend you a GPS and sort you out with a route, or you could do one of the many outdoor activities available. The most popular is kayaking down the gorge, but there are many others.
Today we’ll be exploring more of the Aveyron valley. We start with an easy spin up the valley to warm up, then a long (but not too steep) climb up to a high ridge which gives fantastic 360 degree views, especially the ruined hilltop chateau of Najac. A white-knuckle descent back down to the valley is followed by an easy ride into Villefranche de Rouergue where we’ll have lunch in a wonderful family run restaurant. We ride back over the green hills above St Antonin.
No cycling trip to St Antonin is complete without a ride down the spectacular lower Aveyron gorge, so that’s the finale of the week. You’ll ride past huge cliffs, through tunnels and chateaux perched precariously high above the water before having lunch in the spectacular hilltop bastide town of Puycelci. The second part of the ride takes in the vineyards around Gaillac before climbing up to the former stronghold of the Knights Templar at Vaour. The ride finishes with the spectacular descent down the vertical gorge walls into St Antonin.
The end of the week, but you can extend your stay if we have rooms available, either at the beginning or end of the week.
Prices for this cycling holiday is €800 per person based on two sharing, but this is lower if you’re a group of 4 in our family suite.
You can book below. First you book one person into a room, then add extra people into that room using the additional services area.
If you’d love to ride with us, but the dates don’t suit, get in touch. If you’re a group of at least 6 we can run this cycling holiday at a time to suit you if we have availability in our accommodation. If you’re a smaller group, we can always do self-guided holidays, and out of season might consider running a guided trip for smaller numbers.
If the riding in this programme is too hard or too easy for you, we’ll consider changing it if there are at least 6 of you, or we could run a bespoke trip another time.
Is €800 per person based on 2 sharing each room. We offer discounts if three or four people share a room – don’t worry, there’s plenty of space! Of course if you book as a group you can choose who you share with. Get in touch to book your space.