I had an enquiry from a reader wanting an itinerary for cycling the Canal de Garonne from Bordeaux to Toulouse. Here's what we worked out.
There are many itinerary options for riding the Canal de Garonne from Bordeaux to Toulouse (or vice versa). It really depends how far you want to cycle in a day and also on the types of accommodation you want to stay in. The following is based on hotels and B&Bs, though there are of course camping options along the canal (I haven't had a chance to start recording these yet).
I helped one reader with this itinerary. She also used my bespoke bike hire service to arrange bike rental and luggage transfers from Bordeaux to Toulouse.
She was a first-time cycle tourer and wanted hotel and B&B accommodation. She was worried 50km in a day would be too much. I suggested the following with a few shorter stretches out of Bordeaux to get her going. Here are the stops and some B&B and hotel options I sent her.
* If you find my information useful, please consider booking accommodation using the links I've provided on the site – your support helps me to keep Freewheeling France going (and all the advice free). You can also make a donation here.
Cycling accommodation in Bordeaux
There are lots of options in Bordeaux but you do need to check about bike storage as some city centre hotels have limited space. I have a few options on my website that accept bikes and that would also be fine if you need to have hire bikes dropped off. With Bordeaux (unless you have an early/late flight), I would definitely recommend staying in the city rather than near the airport so that you can make the most of the city at night.
For a more lavish but lovely stay, try this boutique hotel or stay at one of Bordeaux's smallest wineries. The Hotel Grand Francis is a cheaper and retains some old Bordeaux charm. For more of a budget option, there's the Ibis Styles near the railway station – clean with a locked meeting room for bike storage.
Day one – Bordeaux to Creon, 29km
The Chateau Camiac is a wonderfully lavish option if your budget stretches to staying in a chateau. Yes, it's expensive but it's also a proper Bordeaux chateau and a real treat. It's not far from the Roger Lapebie bike path. If you want a longer first day (or if you're short of time), you can skip Creon and continue on to La Reole (below), for 64km day.
The Roger Lapebie bike path is not 100% flat but it's more than doable for novices. Some of the old stations along this converted railway line have been converted into cafés, though they may not be open offseason. Great surface for cycling.
Day two – Creon to Sauveterre/La Reole, 35km
L'Autre Vie is a lovely, small B&B tucked among the vineyards just the other side of Sauveterre. It's a short detour after you leave the Roger Lapebie bike path. This is a lovely place to stay, with a pool and deck that overlook the vines. A little bit further on just south of La Reole at Fontet (and a bit cheaper) is this old mill that now offers B&B.
The Sauveterre to La Reole section is the hardest part of the Bordeaux-Toulouse route. There are hills! This stretch may be hard for some novice cyclists and also for children/families, so be prepared, take plenty of water on hot days and don't plan too many kilometres if you're worried about the hills.
Day three – La Reole to Buzet-sur-Baïse, 58km
From this stretch onwards it's pretty easy riding.
The Cycle South West France accommodation is, as the name suggests, run by cyclists for cyclists. This is a great place to top up on local cycling advice.
There are a few restaurants when you reach the Villeton/Mas d'Agenais areas.
Day four – Buzet-sur-Baïse to St Jean de Thurac, 41km
From this stretch onwards there aren't many restaurants and water points can also be hard to find. Take supplies with you.
Les Peupliers is a homely B&B run by Kate, who knows the canal well. It's a regular stop for cyclists on this route. Agen would be a nice lunch stop on this day, with plenty of options. (If you end up staying in Agen, here is a hotel with accueil velo status).
Day five – After St Jean de Thurac
1) St Jean de Thurac to Moissac: 32km from St Jean de Thurac
The Hôtel Le Moulin de Moissac is a worthy diversion from the canal towpath as the hotel overlooks the Tarn River.
2) St Jean de Thurac to Montauban: 60km from St Jean de Thurac
There's the elegant Abbaye des Capucins, which is set in an old abbey in Montauban, a short detour from the canal.
3) St Jean de Thurac to Grisolles: 52km from St Jean de Thurac
Villa Toulousaine is more of a budget option but a nice place to relax.
Day six – Arrive Toulouse
As with Bordeaux, Toulouse has stacks of hotel and B&B options. We like the Crowne Plaza – it's a bit pricier than your standard chain hotel but a nice place to rest at the end of a journey (or to recoup if you're continuing on the the Canal du Midi). A slightly cheaper option in the atmospheric Hôtel Le Père Léon, which was recommended to us by cyclists. Adagio also has an apartment hotel for self-caterers.
Of course you can always choose your own adventure. See our map at the top, which also shows how the Canal de Garonne links with the Canal du Midi, for more hotel and B&B options.
If you're cycilng in March/April or September/October (or on a Sunday, Monday or public holiday), always ask at each accommodation to check lunch stops for the next day as some restaurants and cafes will have closed for the year and it may be best to pick up sandwiches at a boulangerie or a picnic lunch en route (some accommodation owners will prepare these for you for a small surcharge).
This route is not as well developed as the Canal du Midi in terms of facilities, restaurants and lunch stops, so always plan lunch stops ahead or carry supplies in your panniers.