In this part of France we enjoy some excellent cycling thanks to the efforts of the Conseil Régional to link old railway tracks and canal towpaths to make an almost seamless cycle track which runs for 800 km around Burgundy.
The cycle track round Burgundy
Our part of this grand scheme is the 70km voie verte that runs from Chalon to Mâcon. The old railway has been tarmacked to make a smooth and fairly flat track. Former railway stations provide tourist information, bicycle hire and places to stop for a picnic.
Our section of voie verte running from Chalon to Mâcon
Mile after mile of easy cycling would be rather monotonous except for the boucles, little signposted tours off the voie verte, which direct you round nearby villages, chateaux and points of interest.
From La Maison du Curé in Cormatin we often cycled south to Cluny or north to Buxy. But recently we thought it would be good to cover all of the voie verte. This we did in several sections, driving to a different starting point each time. I liked to park at the northern end as it is easier to start off downhill!
You start off in the outskirts of Chalon in the vineyards of Côte Chalonnaise, an area famous for its AOC wines. The first port of call is Givry, an enclosed town with two round towers. Its town hall is housed inside a monumental gatehouse dated 1771 which looks a bit like the Arc de Triomph. The pinot noirs of Givry were the favourite wines of Henry IV (reigned 1589-1610).
The gate leading to the mairie at Givry
I would say that this part of the voie verte is the prettiest, lined with banks of irises and bluebells when we were there in early April. We had a detour to look at this medieval church, now incorporated into a farm.
Medieval chapel near Givry
Next comes Buxy which is worth visiting for its interesting wine cellar housed in a tower.
The cave at Buxy
This co-operative also has a cave in St Gengoux. Visitors are welcome to taste the wines but remember you have to get back on that bike.
Chris by the station in Buxy
Saint Gengoux is fascinating with its 12th century church and winding medieval streets. After Saint Gengoux you go to Cormatin, passing round the back of the Chateau.
The station at Cormatin - how it used to be
You skirt the hill at Taizé before arriving at Cluny station. Cluny marks the end of the really easy cycling. It’s a bit steep getting down to the Bois Clair tunnel but easier than going over the top of the hill which you have to do in winter when the tunnel is shut to let the bats hibernate. The tunnel is 1,600m long, the longest voie verte tunnel in Europe. That pinpoint of light in the distance never seems to get nearer however long you pedal.
You emerge from the tunnel to see the fairytale castle of Berzé-le-Châtel on your left. You are in the Lamartine valley where you can take a boucle to visit Milly, Saint Point and Pierreclos, chateaux of the famous poet Lamartine. Cycling on towards the Saône you can’t fail to be impressed by views of the Roche de Vergisson and the famous Roche de Solutré.
Mâconnais vineyards with Vergisson and Solutré
You are in the Mâconnais wine country passing La Roche Vineuse and Prissé.
The end of the railway track is at Charnay-les-Mâcon which is renowned for its production of appellation Macon-Villages and Crémant de Bourgogne. As with Givry, its wines appealed to royalty as in the 1660s they became the favourite of Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715) .
So if you like cycling, or wine, you would enjoy a holiday at La Maison du Curé in Cormatin, with easy access to the mid point of the voie verte. You get to know the area so much better if you go by bike.