three to eight day road trip through France, depending on how
much you stop to see. From Rouen to the
Mediterranean via some of France's historic cathedral cities, Loire
chateaux, UNESCO heritage sites, picturesque small towns, prettiest
villages, valleys and plains, vineyards, hills, ancient forests,
spectacular gorges and
high plateaux. And above all a journey along quiet country roads
through the heart of France.
Start from Rouen
route starts at Rouen, a
historic city on the river Seine, and home to one of France's greatest
medieval cathedrals. Rouen (population 111,000) is the only big city
on the whole route.
Rouen can be easily reached from the Channel ferry ports of Calais,
Dieppe, Le Havre or Caen
guide part 1:
Map markers: the
o markers on the route locate and give very brief
information on places described in the route guide
from Rouen to the centre of France
★★★ Rouen is
an attractive riverside port city, boasting one of the finest medieval
cathedrals in France. The old city around the cathedral is a maze of
narrow streets with many half-timbered houses. Among the other
great sights in the old city are the Gros Horlorge, a 14th century
astronomical clock on the facade of a Renaissance arch, and the
Renaissance Law Courts (Palais de justice), formerly the Norman
Leave Rouen following signs for Elbeuf . One way or another, you
should get onto the D 938 or the D7 (from exit 21 on the A13 motorway),
both of which lead to Elbeuf. Leave Elbeuf on the D840 following signs
for Le Neubourg.
You will now follow the D840 all the way to Verneuil sur Arve.
The road is mostly straight. Before Verneuil, you will drive through,
or skirt round, two small towns: Conches en Ouche ★ is
an attractive small town with a fine flamboyant gothic
church, the remains of a medieval keep, and other historic
sites. Further on, Breteuil
is a small town with a 12th century church and some typical Norman
Verneuil sur Arve ★★ is
listed by Michelin as one of the 100 small places in france that are
"worth a detour". Among its sights, the small town has a fine gothic
church with an impressive framboyant tower, and several noteworth
Renaissance town houses.
Leave Verneuil following signs for Brezolles and Chartres.
The D839 becomes the D939 just outside town, when you leave Normandy
and move on into the Centre-Val de Loire region. You'll follow the D939
all the way to Chartres, which will probably be your next stopping
is a small city of 38,000 inhabitants, and the site of one of the
finest medieval gothic cathedrals
in France, and one of the most visited on account of its magnificent
medieval stained-glass windows. There is an underground carpark close
to the cathedral, or street parking further away.
South of Chartres you'll be
crossing the wide almost flat expanses of the Beauce, the historic
breadbasket of France; you'll cross the Beauce on quite small roads,
through little villages and large expanses of farmland, and you'll need
to follow the route carefully.
following signs for Blois
and Tours on the old N10 road, now
D910. Pass through the village of Thivars, then at a roundabout just
past the entrance to the A11 motorway, turn left on the D131 for the
the D131 comes to an end, beside a church. Turn
right onto the D935. At the end of the village of Dammarie, the D935
swings left, but you don't. Take the smaller road that carries straight
on, signposted Fresnay le Chateau. You're now on the D127, an old Roman
road, which you'll
follow in an almost straignt
line until it meets the D27, in the middle of nowhere. Turn left
But don't go to Patay; two kilometres later, fork right where
the D127 resumes, following Varize.
At Varize, turn right and follow signs for Chateaudun on the
D927. After about 7 km, beside the village of Etauville, turn left
onto the D131 signposted Etauville and Lutz en Domois.
Follow the D131 on past Lutz. Cross the D955, then continue on the D131
and as far as the intersection with the D925. Turn left onto the D925,
which will take you as far as the next Michelin "worth a detour" small
banks of the Loire.
★★ Beaugency is a small
town that is well worth stopping at. The old town with its narrow
streets is dominated by a massive 11th century keep, has lots
more historic buildings too. Below the town, admire the Loire,
the biggest river in France, and its ancient stone bridge, parts of
which date back to the Middle Ages
by crossing the fine stone bridge over the Loire. At the end of the
bridge, fork right following Chambord
. Now just keep following the signs for
Chambord until you reach this the most famous of the Renaissance
Châteaux of the Loire. Until you reach Salbris, you'll be driving
through the historic royal forest area of the Sologne.
After stopping to admire or to visit the great château, built
for King François 1st, leave Chambord on the D33 following signs for Bracieux ★ an
attractive large village with a 16th century covered market,
and Cheverny ★★★. At
Cheverny you can visit another of the fine Loire chateaux.
Leave Cheverny on the D765 following Romorantin- Lanthenay. At Mur
de Sologne, turn left
in the middle of the village onto the D122, signposted Velleins. The D122 will take you
through the heart of the Sologne
forest ★★, through Velleins
as far as Marcilly en Gault, where you pick up the D121
which will take you to Salbris.
At Salbris, if you've had enough of small roads,
you can pick up the
A71 or A20 motorways to head on down to southern France. Otherwise,
in Salbris turn south onto the D2020, then left at the roundabout to
take the D944, which you follow as far as Allogny. Here you turn right for Mehun
sur Yèvre ★★,
another of Michelin's "worth a détour" small towns, with the remains of
a great medieval fortress, and a fine
medieval city gate. From Mehun it is just 18 km to Bourges.
Continue with next column
to stayZoom map for more detail
has selected a range of hotels along the
route. Click markers to book online with our partner Booking.com. There
are also campsites and motorhome overnighting
areas in many of the small towns along the way
. Bourges is a small
county town with a fine historic centre. It boasts
the third and last of the great French medieval cathedrals on this
trip, and the one that gets the least visitors. It too has remarkable
medieval stained glass windows. There is also the Palais Jacques
Coeur, a grand 15th century Renaissance palace built by the finance
minister of King Charles VII.
Leave Bourges in a
southeast direction on the D2076, then after the village of Saint Just
fork right onto the D953 for Dun sur Auron. At the entrance to Dun, fork
right where it's marked Saint
Amand Montrond, then in the village turn right onto the
D10, following Meillant and Saint Amand. After crossing the river
bridge, turn left at the roundabout, still following the D10. About 18
km later you will reach Meillant
where you may like
to visit the Chateau de
Meillant ★★ one of the finest late
medieval - early Renaissance castles in
France, a castle far less visited than the Loire châteaux.
A few kilometres later, you drop down into the valley of the
Cher, and reach Saint
Amand Montrond ★, the town thatt claims to be
geographic centre of France.
is a pretty small town, with a romanesque church, the banks of the
Canal du Berry, and a number of historic buildings.
kilometres west of Saint Amand, the Abbaye
de Noirlac ★★ , is one of the largest and
best preserved former Cistercian monasteries in Europe, with an abbey
church and cloisters dating from the 11th to 16th centuries.
After Saint Amand Montrond
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