Cycling in The Rhone Valley

he first attraction which set our pulses racing was the Voie Verte , which forms part of the Via Rhona, a 650km green leisure trail ,following as closely as possible the Rhone River ,from Lac Leman to the Mediterranean.

The imagination and scale of investment in leisure cycling in France surpasses anything in the UK. Luckily for us there was a 20 km section from Tain to Valence, which followed the Rhone very closely, until you reach the outskirts of Valence, where it deviates on quiet roads to bring you into the town.

The voie verte is a mixture of gravel and paved cycle ways, so a daytrip to Valence is easy and rewarding, as it is an attractive town with a mixture of an old medieval centre and open spaces with more modern open boulevards.

The town is very proud of its bandstand which is situated in the open area, Champ de Mars, which offers great views over parkland to the River Rhone below.

This strange funeral building, known as Pendentif  dates back to the sixteenth century and is located in the grounds of the Cathedral of San Appolinaire. During the religious wars many parts of the building were destroyed and looted . In the eighteenth it became a shop, it was then bought back by the City .

An alternative is to follow the cycle route along the river Isere, shortly after the bridge which crosses it, parallel to the railway crossing. This bridge in itself is amazing, can you imagine us in the UK throwing a bridge, dedicated solely to non-motorised traffic, across a river say the size of the Thames.

Sadly north of Tain the cycle route does not follow the river.

Tain Le Hermitage is a short walk along the riverbank and is famous for its vineyards.It is not an unattractive town but Tournon, with its chateau and winding medieval streets, across the footbridge over the Rhone, offers a more atmospheric alternative.

A classic walk to get an overview of the town is to climb the hills to the Chapelle de L’Hermitage; though in our opinion the walk across the river from Tournon centre,  ‘The Sentier des Tours’, offers an attractive alternative. Effectively you are going to climb to the ruined towers that you can see above the town. This is a circular walk which takes about an hour and offers superb views of Tournon and Tain.

Tain L’Hermitage

We had been staying at Macon and  the only requirement for our next stop was that it was south of Lyon and only 2 hours away. The ACSI Guide, Camping Cheque Book and Sat Nav drew a blank but we came across the ‘Camping Municipal Les Lucs ‘ in the Michelin Guide on French Campsites and what a find.

Firstly at 15 euros, all inclusive, it is always going to figure strongly but with its picturesque setting on the banks of the Rhone, its voie verte, literally outside the campsite and two attractive towns, Tain and Tournon, within easy walking distance, plus a superb welcome, it is always going to be a winner.

An overnight stay was transformed into 3 nights and the site manager was genuinely appreciative that we had chosen to stay in his town for the extra days.