Golf, wine and food among the Châteaux of the Loire Valley
Have you ever wondered why, for centuries, the Loire Valley was
chosen by French kings and their court as their residence? If so,
why not stop in this part of the "Centre" region for a
few days on your next journey to the South of France, enjoy the
gentle climate, the beautiful food and wines, do some sightseeing
around the magnificent Châteaux and the delightful Sologne
region, and investigate some of the thirty beautiful golf courses
it has to offer?
Click here for a map of the 'Centre'
Click here for maps of the Loire Valley
This very welcoming region of France isn't all that far, just one
hour or so south of Paris. And if French is not your forte - don't
worry! The language should be less of a problem than elsewhere,
as here they speak the purest French in France with no accent at
all - the Loire Valley is indeed known as the cradle of the French
Our hosts, the Région Centre Tourist Board, selected four
beautiful courses out of the thirty in the region for us to sample,
all different but with one common factor - water. All but Vaugouard
are situated in the Sologne, which is a wooded area of unspoilt
beauty just south of Orléans, famous among other things for
its 3000 lakes and its excellent hunting and fishing. Pheasant,
partridge, venison and wild boar, as well as carp, pike, eel and
trout are to be found everywhere on the menu.
The Domaine & Golf de Vaugouard near Montargis is north of
the Loire, bordering the 50,000 ha "Forêt Domaniale de
Montargis", just over an hour south of Paris. After driving
up the private alley from the gates, we were first welcomed by the
powerful scent of the ancient wisteria climbing up the terrace wall
in front of the Château which was in full bloom.
The Château itself is a beautiful late 17th Century white
building. The welcome is warm, the human size reception rooms are
cosy, you have the choice of 46 lovely rooms and the catering is,
of course, superb.
The first nine holes of this wooded golf course are made more interesting
by five doglegs, while the more testing second nine is undulating,
featuring some very picturesque ponds and providing wonderful views
back to the Château which is nestled in greenery and cherry
blossom. The two most memorable holes are the 17th, where water
has to be crossed twice, and the par 3 12th defended by bunkers
on each side and a large pond in front.
The course also features a wealth of different species of trees
such as hornbeams, beach, birch and acacias and an abundance of
wild life with red squirrels, woodpeckers, and cuckoos very much
So if you're looking for tranquillity and comfort among perfect
surroundings and don't mind indulging in a little affordable luxury,
this is the place for you offering complete relaxation and something
for all the family to do, with swimming, fitness and sauna, billiards,
mountain biking, plus, naturally, the 18-hole golf course.
And if you want to make Vaugouard your base in the area, the very
welcoming staff will be more than willing
to help you organise your outings.
here for Vaugouard details
BLUE GREEN GOLF DE LIMÈRE
Down towards Orléans and across the river Loire we drove
to our next golf course, although sadly we didn't have time to play.
The Blue Green Golf de Limère is just over an hour from Paris
(120km) and 10km south of Orléans on the way to the Loire
Valley châteaux, situated in the huge Sologne Forest - from
here you could go all the way to Chambord, almost 40 kms away, through
Limère is regarded as one of the most beautiful courses
in France and has been voted 7th best in Europe by Golf Européen.
It winds its way through birches and heather and features many doglegs,
rivers, ponds, plus 94 bunkers! The holes are very varied and do
not run parallel to each other, so no monotony here. And there are
plenty of challenges, with four very tough holes.
The tough, but picturesque, 14th hole at Blue Green Golf de
The most difficult hole is the tree-lined 537m long par 5 6th,
with water coming into play on the second shot and a narrow, elongated
green guarded by water on one side and a bunker on the other. Also
tough is the 378 meter long dog leg par 4 4th, with water all along
the left and a multi-tiered green: watch out for the pin placement
The short par 4 14th is the most scenic hole on the course, with
its huge pond and its many rhododendrons, but its beauty should
not distract from its difficulty: the driver is best forgotten off
the tee or you might end up in the water, and you'll need to be
accurate with your shot into its well-protected green.
The final hole is tough again, with a water hazard near the drive-landing
area, a sloping fairway and an island green. Aim well left with
your drive and pick the club to go for the green with extra care!
In contrast, perhaps the easiest hole on the course is the par
3 16th, but it pays not to be too long when trying to avoid the
very popular bunker in front of the green.
Golf de Limère, formerly a motorcycle circuit, is not quite
as secluded as the other courses visited, with a number of private
houses dotted around, but is an excellent test for good players
that manages to remain playable by all, thanks to landing areas
that are quite generous and not too penalising.
Apart from golf, you and the family can also enjoy being pampered
at Les Balnéades Solarium & Balneotherapy next door or
take part in the many activities on offer such as traditional archery
or the very hi-tech laser clay pigeon shooting.
There will be no trouble finding accommodation, as the 3-star Domaine
des Portes de Sologne Hotel (see photo right) on-site has 120 rooms
plus another 120 self-contained cottages. As many conferences are
held here during the summer, it is perhaps preferable to visit Limère
in April/May or September/October; this is no hardship, as the course
is at its most beautiful in the autumn.
here for details of Blue Green Golf de Limère
CHÂTEAU DE CHEVERNY
Cheverny, only 15 minutes south of the city of Blois and the A10
Motorway, is situated in the heart of the Sologne region close to
the famous Châteaux of the Loire Valley and it is part of
the 142 hectare estate of forest, meadows and ponds belonging to
Château de Cheverny.
The La Rousselière pond at Château de Cheverny
in the Sologne
The wooded course is built over the former hunting grounds of the
Château, and organised around the huge La Rousselière
pond and other smaller ponds. It is flattish, which sometimes makes
it difficult to choose the right club, while water, numerous bunkers
and large, well-kept greens make it a challenging course that yet
remains playable by all levels of golfer.
The most difficult hole is the 10th, requiring a good drive aimed
left towards the big oak, with water all along your left, while
your second shot will need to be accurate to avoid the four bunkers
protecting the green and the stream across the fairway. The par
4 8th may be a birdie hole if you aim right of the fairway bunker
in the middle and manage to stay clear of the three greenside bunkers
with your approach. The most beautiful hole is probably the 17th.
When you play this natural course you get a feeling of peace, serenity
and space. It occupies 40 hectares (100 acres), and the wild life
here is amazing: ducks and swans, herons, coots, moorhen, deer and
much more. Plus, of course, not a house in sight anywhere, just
as at Vaugouard and Les Bordes.
The Clubhouse is in a renovated old French farm building, where
the restaurant serves excellent food at very affordable prices:
the Formule Par costs only £13 and the gastronomic menu a
modest £19. There are large bay windows offering beautiful
views over the terrace, the pond and the course and from which you
may even be lucky enough to spot the odd deer in the evening! It
offers all the usual facilities, with the addition of a swimming
here for Cheverny details
The delightfully scenic, serene and challenging woodland golf course
of "Les Bordes" is consistently ranked among the finest
Situated in the perfect seclusion of the Sologne forest, less than
two hours south of Paris on the south bank of the river Loire, the
course was the brainchild of industrialist Baron Marcel Bich (of
the famous Bic ballpoint pens) and his trading partner and friend
Yoshiaki Sakurai. The land was a former hunting ground belonging
to the Baron, and the two friends decided to create, for their own
pleasure and that of their guests originally, a world-class golf
course and an idyllic golfing retreat with excellent facilities
at which one would experience "no stress".
Les Bordes was designed by Texan course designer Robert Von Hagge
and it opened in 1986. With no expense spared, he created a beautiful
course winding its way through the forest, with long and challenging
varied fairways, huge white sand bunkers and water coming into play
on twelve of its eighteen holes.
The toughest hole without question is the 510 metre par 5 14th
with a drive over water, water also to the right, more water if
you pull your second and an island green awaiting your pitch!
Holes 15 to 17 have no water would you believe, but the magnificent
dogleg 18th more than makes up for this. When you play it, do remember
Michel's advice to us: "Try to be among the 20% who make it
on the 18th tee in two!" Onlookers staying in the cottages
along the 18th fairway once told him that they'd been counting the
players who managed the exploit. You have to be really very accurate
with your first shot to attempt the green with your second. And
being on the green on this hole as on many others here doesn't mean
you'll sink the ball in two.
The Baron's favourite however was the 7th for its natural Sologne
pond landscape look, it is a tough Par 5 where, whether you go for
the green in one or two, you may find water!
This course is indeed a challenge to even the best players; the
course record is one under par, held by none other than Jean Van
de Velde! It will punish the over-confident or the too bold but
if you follow Michel's other advice to play within your limits and
if you do manage to master your nerves, you will be in for a most
enjoyable and memorable round and will also gain a lot of confidence
When you first arrive here, you know you have come to a truly special
place "la crème de la crème" of golf courses
and you can't help but feel privileged. The grounds are immaculate,
the staff couldn't be more welcoming, the buildings, made with old
noble materials in the local Sologne countryside style are unassuming,
and you'll later be welcomed by a Rodin statue beside the practice
The Clubhouse Restaurant with its old beams and huge fireplace
is informal, simple but elegant - let's call it unpretentious luxury.
When you first walk in, you do indeed feel the relaxed atmosphere
the Baron so wished for.
The Restaurant serves quality traditional or regional cuisine in
the evenings, and although "à la carte" is available
for lunch, people more frequently choose to tuck into the appetizing
buffet with a selection of lovely desserts. And why not wash it
down with a bottle of the Baron's own Saint-Emilion? Wine was his
Inexplicably, golf at Les Bordes has an unjust reputation of being
both expensive and too demanding. In fact, the course can be managed
by all if played "conservatively", and as regards price,
a round of golf here will set you back between £48 and £82
as a non-hotel resident on weekdays, while lunch starts from £13
and dinner from £31.
Should you decide to stay in one of its rustic but most comfortable
cottages, Les Bordes could provide also an excellent base from which
to explore the châteaux and vineyards of the area.
here for more details of les Bordes
However, just in case you really did feel overawed, you could always
try the Baron's second eighteen-hole course, Golf du Prieuré
de Ganay just next door, where he wanted to create a course for
less experienced players with cheaper green fees.
here for details of Golf du Prieuré de Ganay
LOIRE VALLEY "REGION CENTRE"-
THE HOME OF FINE CUISINE
Good food, as celebrated by local famous 15th century writer Rabelais
and his gluttonous gigantic friendly characters Gargantua &
Pantagruel, has been a tradition here for centuries.
The "Garden of France" as the region is nicknamed, benefits
from an abundance of quality local produce: poultry from the Orléans
area, game and venison from the Sologne, fish from the numerous
lakes and rivers, vegetables such as Sologne wild mushrooms and
Cléry-St-André asparagus, and fresh fruit, including
strawberries, pears and apples from its vast orchards. And, of course,
we must not forget goat's cheeses and wine, as its sloping hills
are ideal for wine growing.
Here are a few specialities from among the many in the area:
Don't miss this renowned Montargis speciality, made from caramel-covered
grilled almonds created by the Duke of Praslin, minister and peer
of the realm, who used to be fond of handing them out to the ladies
in his entourage. They can also be used in cooking; we tried Duck
with Montargis Pralines - delicious!
Poire Tapée (literally 'Beaten Pear')
In the 19th century, Rivarennes a village close to the Loire river
was the capital of Poire Tapée. To preserve them, pears were
sun or oven-dried, then hit with a mallet and sent all over Northern
Europe. Today they can for example be marinated in Chenin wine and
accompany hot goat's cheese as en entrée, eaten with duck filet
as a main dish or served with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Tarte Tatin (Upside down caramelised Apple Tart)
Everybody's favourite, this dish was named after the two sisters
and hoteliers of Lamotte-Beuvron, and is very simple to make. You
will need the following ingredients:
- 150g butter
- 125 g icing sugar
- 1 kg apples
- Flaky or short pastry
1. Put the butter in a 24cm flameproof pie dish and sprinkle with
2. Peel the apples, cut them roughly into quarters, remove the pips
and place them side by side, curved side down, then fill the gaps
with large slices.
3. Cook until caramelised on a low flame (10 to 15 minutes) and
bake for about 15 minutes (thermostat 180° to 200°).
4. Roll out the pastry and spread it on top of the apples, making
sure it overlaps slightly, then put back in the oven for about 15
5. Take out of the oven and allow to stand for a few minutes. Turn
over onto a serving dish quickly.
Simply delicious especially served warm with vanilla ice cream!
Pithiviers aux amandes
This is an almond cake from the town of the same name and is again
very easy to make. You will need the following:
- 400 g of almond custard (see below)
- 600 g of puff pastry
- 50 g of icing sugar
- 1 egg
1. First make the Almond custard (crème d'amandes). Mix
100 g of powdered almonds with 100 g of sugar. Then add 100 g of
softened butter and mix again. Finally add 2 or 3 eggs one at a
time and mix well.
2. Now cut the pastry in two and roll out. Spread the almond custard
over one rolled out half. Put the other half on top and press down
the edges to seal in the custard.
3. Glaze the top with a beaten egg yolk and cut patterns in it with
4. Start cooking at gas mark 240º and turn the heat down to
200º when the pastry starts rising. Cook for 35 minutes and
CENTRE LOIRE VALLEY WINES
Vines have been grown on the sun-facing hills above the river Loire
On these gravel or limestone soils, wine growers only use a few
grape varieties: Sauvignon or Chenin Blanc for white wines and a
blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir for reds and rosés.
- Sauvignon gives a fresh and fruity dry wine with a green citrus
- Chenin Blanc is aromatic and has a very good natural grape acidity.
It is used for dry or sweet wines;
- Pinot Noir gives a dry red or rosé very fruity wine and
again a taste and smell of red berries;
- Gamay gives a fresh and fruity, lightly-coloured wine with an
aroma of red berries that can be very refreshing, when served
chilled, thanks to low tannins and high acidity.
The Loire Valley grape varieties (from L-R):
Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Gamay
PAIRING LOIRE WINE WITH FOOD
The reds are excellent with fish, rabbit, pork meats ("charcuterie")
They should be served cool. The whites are ideal with warm entrées,
aperitifs, fish, goat's cheese, as an apéritif...
You will find Loire Valley wines under the 'appellations' Sancerre
AOC, Mennetou-Salon AOC, Quincy AOC, Reuilly AOC, Châteaumeillant
VDQS, Coteaux du Giennois and AOC Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny.
The Domaine des Huards - Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny AOCs
New-comers to the French recognised AOC appellations, Cheverny
and Cour-Cheverny are situated close to the Châteaux of Blois
and Chambord and we were able to sample them at the award-winning
Domaine des Huards located just 4 kms from Cheverny Château.
The Gendrier family have grown vines here since 1846 and they have
been using biodynamic methods for quite some time now on their 34
hectares, no chemical weed killer or fertilizer here but it does
mean a lot more mechanical work to get rid of weeds and diseases.
They produce white, red, rosé and the delicious Crémant
de Loire, a sparkling wine made using the same method as Champagne.
For further details, click here: email@example.com
Or visit their website: www.gendrier.com
EXPLORING THE REGION & TOWNS
TO BE VISITED
While in the region, it is worth making an effort to visit the
towns of Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours, and also
because of their world-famous châteaux, Amboise, Chambord
Apart from the traditional visits such as the Château Royal
de Blois which was built for King François I in 1515 and
is one of the most prestigious Renaissance monuments in France,
you could also try the more innovative trails the Tourist Board
is constantly developing to promote the region, such as costume
tours in the old town of Blois.
You might even consider a cycling tour; there's no better way to
see this picturesque region and its wooded countryside at a leisurely
pace, and if you're not feeling too energetic, Blois even offers
The Maison de la Magie
In front of the Château Royal you will find the new 'House
of Magic', dedicated to Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin (better
known as 'Houdini'), the famous magician who was born in Blois.
The museum displays automatons form the 19th century, a collection
of magic objects and interactive attractions.
Up to four magic shows are performed every day from April to November.
Maison de la Magie
1 place du Château
Tel : +33 (0)2 54 55 26 26
Fax : +33 (0)2 54 55 26 28
Orléans was bustling with activity while we were there (first
week of May) as they were preparing for the commemoration of Joan
of Arc's liberation of the city for the 577th year. We walked around
the old town at night and everyone was indeed very festive, with people
eating out and music everywhere.
The beautifully furnished Château de Cheverny is said to
have the best preserved tapestries of all the Loire Châteaux.
Here you can go on a boat trip, admire its nature reserve, watch
the hunting dogs being fed, or visit the Tintin exhibition. Tintin's
creator Hergé took inspiration from Cheverny when he created
Marlinspike Hall (le Château de Moulinsart).
THINGS TO DO (apart from golf...)
The Centre Loire region is well worth exploring. Access is easy
- it is the next stopping point beyond Paris, and it is full of
history. You will also find it excellent value for money, it is
a paradise for nature lovers, and there is plenty to do, whether
you like your relaxation traditional or more adventurous:
- Visit a few châteaux in the Centre-Loire Valley
- The Cheverny & Tintin exhibition
- The House of Magic in Blois
- Visit at least one vineyard
- Hot-air balloon rides
- House-boat hire
- Cycling tours
Plus, increasingly rare these days, the golf courses are almost
here for more information on golf courses in the Centre Loire region.
HOW TO GET THERE
- By road: 1 hour south of Paris by the A10
- By train: Rail Europe combines Eurostar with trains to the region's
or Tel 08708 371 371.
- By air: London Stansted to Tours by Ryanair. (Tours is 60km
Near Golf de Vaugouard :
- Domaine et Golf de Vaugouard ****
Chemin des Bois
Tel : 02 38 89 79 00
Fax : 02 38 89 79 01
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.vaugouard.com
- Hôtel de La Gloire ***
74 Avenue du Général de Gaulle
Tel : 02 38 85 04 69
Near Golf de Limère :
Near Golf de Cheverny :
Near Les Bordes :
In Orléans :
October 30, 2006
For more information, visit the French Tourist Office website:
Photo credits: © CRT
Centre - Les Bordes - Domaine & Golf de Vaugouard - GolfToday