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).
In total it's around 260km from Bordeaux to Toulouse, so around 5 days at 50km a day or a bit more.
I get enquiries all the time about this route, so I've devised the following itinerary for people who want to cycle it themselves without the support of a tour company.
I've tried to keep the itinerary in (roughly) 50km sections but I have offered alteratives for people wanting fewer miles a day. For more, simply combine two sections into one day.
Please note that Bordeaux-Toulouse Canal de Garonne route is nowhere near as developed for cycling as the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to the Med. On some sections of the Bordeaux-Toulouse route it can be hard to find accommodation in peak periods, with the B&Bs and hotels generally smaller and often booked out. You should plan ahead and book early. If an accommodation option below is full, you may need to mix and match sections, or adapt the distance the day before/after to find reservations.
If you need bike hire, you can use my bespoke bike hire service to arrange bike rental.
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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.
From 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. For more of a budget option, head to Hotel Atena.
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.
From Creon to Sauveterre/La Reole, 35km
At Rauzan, a worthy 4km diversion from the route, there is the L'îlot-vignes B&B. It's run by Laure and Pierre-Yves, and they are hugely welcoming towards cyclists. They offer B&B + table d'hôtes (evening meals), which you should say yes to given Pierre-Yves has worked in some fine French restaurants in his time. There is also a pool and a local bike delivery service. More info here.
Further on, 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.
This it not the Alps! Nonetheless, the Sauveterre to La Reole section is the hardest part of the Bordeaux-Toulouse route. There are hills! This stretch may be a little 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.
From La Reole to Buzet-sur-Baïse/Damazan
From this stretch onwards it's pretty easy riding. There are two distance options to be recommended:
1) La Reole to Marmande: approx 26km from La Reole.
If you need a shorter stretch, there is the Hotel Le Capricorne at Marmande, a short detour from the canal (approximately 26km from La Reole). Marmande is a nice town with good restaurants and bars, and this hotel is used often by cycle tour companies working the canal. From Marmande you can then continue on to Buzet-sur-Baïse or Damazan the next day.
2) La Reole to Buzet-sur-Baïse or Damazan: approx 60km from La Reole.
If you need a longer stretch, the Cycle South West France accommodation at Buzet-sur-Baïse is, as the name suggests, run by cyclists for cyclists. This is a great place to top up on local cycling advice. Another option here and nearby to where the Garonne river meets the Lot (ideal if you're moving onto the Lot Valley bike route) is the Inter-Hotel de la Confluence at Damazan.
There are a few restaurants when you reach the Villeton/Mas d'Agenais areas.
From Buzet-sur-Baïse/Damazan 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. There also aren't that many established bike-friendly hotels/B&Bs.
Around 9km short of Agen is Kate's B&B Les Peupliers. There aren't restaurants close by, so she will prepare evening meals. As a result though, she favours groups of four or more to make it worth her while.
Hotel-Restaurant Au Colombier du Touron is also just before Agen. In Agen itself there is this hotel with accueil velo ('welcome cyclists') status).
Chateau Saint Marcel is just south of Agen and is a lovely option and a special place to stay.
After St Jean de Thurac
1) St Jean de Thurac to Moissac: Approx 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 Monbéqui: Approx 63km from St Jean de Thurac
The A La Reine B&B at Monbéqui is small (there are only two bedrooms) but it's bike-friendly and offers a homely welcome.
3) St Jean de Thurac to Montauban: Approx 65km 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.
4) St Jean de Thurac to Grisolles: Approx 70km from St Jean de Thurac
Villa Toulousaine is more of a budget option but a nice place to relax.
5) St Jean de Thurac to Grenade-sur-Garonne: Approx 78km from St Jean de Thurac
Villa Léopoldine is a small detour from the Canal de Garonne towpath itself but we're told it's a worthy diversion, with its stately rooms.
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.
Taking a self-guided tour
There are tour companies workig this route daily from sprig through to November. if you want to save yourself te. hasle of booking everythign yourself, you can take a self-guided package with bikes, accommodation and route maps. Drop me a line via my bespoke service if you need suggestions.