Tag Archives: Paddling

A view over the Allier river from Le Chambon, Velay, France

8 Day Allier River Tour

This is a 7 Night, 8 Day tour in which we canoe down the Allier river for several days. We paddle through a basalt Gorge and downstream through a beautiful green valley. The upstream sections are bouncy and fun whilst lower down the river becomes calmer. We can paddle any number of days and can save the more strenuous parts for later in the week.  We’ve planned for 3 days on the water and three days walking & visiting. We can amend this balance if you prefer. The region also has fabulous hikes: including the start of the Way of St. James and the Robert Louis Stevenson trail as well as more local walks.

  • Fully Guided whilst on the river & trail

  • Full minibus support throughout

  • Includes all accommodation in B&Bs & small Hotels, or alternatively in a single base, self-catering gites

  • Includes all breakfasts, lunches and evening meals, unless you are self-catering

  • Join your guides for a pre-breakfast walk

  • optional all day hikes

  • visits to local historic villages & towns

Tour Description

The Allier river, in it`s upper stages is more technical than our usual rivers and has rapids which are described as 2+ or 3. The rapids are fun and not continuous so that there are long stretches between them. Several weirs, with chutes, also have to be negotiated. The lower stretches are easier with quicker water patches rarely above grade 1. We`ll suggest that you paddle a lower section first before tackling the upper stretches.

If the group is in the mood we can also do a mornings rafting on one particular stretch, have a riverside picnic and then paddle further downstream in the afternoon.

The emphasis on this trip is to enjoy the rich history and natural history of the region from the unique viewpoint of the river.

At some point we will stop for a fabulous picnic lunch and in the evenings we will enjoy dinner in small family run restaurants or in the hotels where we are staying – or self-catering if this is the option you`ve taken.

You will be accompanied on the river by an experienced river guide who will make sure you see all the interesting places along the way. If necessary we can provide top-up/reminder paddling lessons if it’s a while since you paddled.

The Allier river flows north in the Massif Central region of France between the Auvergne and the Velay in a area famous for its volcanoes: many of the famous villages and towns are placed on volcanic plugs. It flows for about 100km until it joins the Loire which eventually flows west to the Atlantic.

We will visit the villages and chateaux along the way.

Day to Day description

Day 1. Arrival and first meeting.

You will be met at our arranged meeting point by our guides for your transfer to the Allier valley. This is usually Le Puy-en-Velay Station for those guests arriving by train from Paris.

Alternatively arrangements can be made for arrivals at regional airports: Lyon, for example.

We will meet you off the train that arrives about midday. The drive to Lavoute-Chilhac in the Allier valley takes about  60 minutes. We will stop here for a picnic lunch, get to know each other and go over the trip together. It is a 10 minute drive from here to our accommodation, or a 45 minute walk instead.

On our arrival at tour accommodation (small hotel or gites) we will make our evening arrangements and relax before dinner.

Day 2. Today we will explore where we are.

This will involve a visit to our local town at Lavoute-Chilhac and our first look at the river. We can visit the local church and museums too.

The Allier river at Lavoûte-Chilhac, Haute-Loire, France

The Allier river at Lavoûte-Chilhac, Haute-Loire, France

After this we will take a longer hike within the valley of the river, including river side stretches, then rising up the side of the gorge and around the plateau. Along the way will we visit a village or two perched on the volcanic plugs. Somewhere along the way we will have our picnic lunch nand if we’re lucky we’ll find a small cafe somewhere for refreshments.

Chilhac, from the metal suspension bridge, Haute-Loire, France

Chilhac, from the metal suspension bridge, Haute-Loire, France

Day 3. Our first day on the river.

Today we will paddle the Allier river from Lavoute-Chilhac to Brioude, a distance of 24km, stopping for lunch at La Vialette.

Day 4. Continuing down the Allier river.

We will paddle today from Langeac to Lavoute-Chilhac, which is about 17km. We’ll find somewhere to picnic along the way.


Day 5. Rafting and paddling

In the morning we can raft on the section of river between Monistrol and Prades with a local guide to take us through the Grade 3 to 5 rapids.

After a riverside lunch we will exchange the raft for canoes and paddle the afternoon down to Langeac, a distance of about 15km.

Day 6. A day off the river

Today we take a day off the river to do some hiking. We have many choices. perhaps a section of the GR65 (Way of St. James) from Monistrol, perhaps the GR70 (Stevenson Trail) or any number of local walks that include the river gorge or the volcanic plateau. We could also visit local villages, several of which are listed in the ‘Le Plus Beaux Villages de France’. Another alternative is to view the river by riding the train from Langogne to Langeac – the railway follows the Allier through the Gorge (no road) and we can look down on stretches of river that we have rafted and paddled.

Day 7. A final day on the Allier river

Our last paddle on the Allier as we go downstream from Brioude, which we can visit first, down to Auzac. This is an easy and relaxing stretch of river and we can take our time and picnic wherever we wish.


Day 8. Time to leave

After a leisurely breakfast we will return to Le Puy-en-Velay in time to catch the midday train to Paris – unless we have made other arrangements with you.


The accommodation for this tour has not yet been finally decided. We are considering offering the opportunity on this tour to go for a single base self-catering option – this would probably be in a local gîtes, which is a hired villa, which usually has to be hired from Saturday to Saturday. Obviously some have more space and better facilities than others: a swimming-pool for example.


From our accommodation above the Allier At Lavoute-Chilhac

From our accommodation above the Allier At Lavoute-Chilhac

We have not yet finalised our choice of hotels for this tour should you wish to go for our traditional Inn-to-Inn Hotel and B&B accommodation style.

More Details

More information including dates, prices, maps and more photographs can be found on our regular website at the 8 Day Allier Tour page.

Yoga & Canoe Poster

6 Day Yoga & Canoe Retreat


Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Spectacular cliffs on the Célé river, Lot France

Combined Yoga & Canoeing Vacation

New for the 2017 season we are introducing this tour which brings Yoga sessions to one of our favourite canoeing tours on the Célé river in the Lot region of the south of France.

It is a 5 Night, 6 Day tour which combines morning and early evening yoga sessions with gentle and relaxing paddling down the beautiful Célé river.

Our instructor, Elizabeth Reed is an Inner Axis yoga teacher, focusing on breath work and non-competitive movement to increase well being, strength, flexibility and relaxation. On this tour she concentrates on general well being; specific postures relating to issues identified by individual participants and postures for warming up and preparing for paddling. It is suitable for beginners or those with some experience of yoga.

Elizabeth is a fun and knowledgeable teacher who focuses on learning and enjoyment, with tips and techniques you can take away and use to benefit your health in a number of ways.

We will explore the little known Célé valley by both canoe and foot and visit its beautiful villages and see its wonderful wildflowers & butterflies & dragonflies. We will also visit the famous cave paintings at Pech Merle.

A brief description of the tour is given below but more details, including dates, prices, maps and photographs can be found on our Yoga & Canoe Retreat web page.

Riverside Yoga Position

A Riverside Yoga Position

Benefits of Inner Axis

In physical terms Inner Axis Yoga has positive effects on back ache, stiffness, blood pressure, diabetes,  and balance. It can further aid the digestive system, and your strength, flexibility, posture and gait. The concentration on controlled breathing aids asthma and other breathing related difficulties. In general it helps towards a leaner and more toned body.

From a mental and emotional point of view Inner Axis Yoga provides a calmer mind, with less anxiety, which is more resilient to stress and life issues. It overcomes a depressive and negative mind set which contributes towards better sleep and gives an improved ability to relax and focus. This in turn instills greater personal confidence.

In social and spiritual terms Inner Axis Yoga builds community spirit, dispels resentments and old patterns which prevent happiness, promotes being your best self in relationship to yourself and others, and fosters gratitude & enjoyment of life.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The Abbey in the village of St. Cirq Lapopie, Lot, France

Features of Inner Axis

Inner Axis is jargon free, taught in simple, clear and concise language and does not use Sanskrit terms.

Inner Axis teaches a variety of breathing exercises and correct breathing techniques, which are scientifically recognised to have a hugely beneficial impact on health and well being.

Inner Axis uses slow and safe yoga movements that are adaptable to your physical needs and condition whatever your age or your level of fitness. It uses props such as blocks, straps, bolsters etc to facilitate faster development.

The focus of Inner Axis is on healthy alignment and the explanation & reasoning behind the methods used.

Inner Axis uses mindfulness and inspiring visualisations.

Inner Axis is non-competitive and fosters an attitude of kindness to yourself and others.

Inner Axis is for everyone who desires inner health as well as physical health, no matter what religion or ideological beliefs they may hold.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the ‘English Trail, in the Célé valley, Lot, France

Tour Includes

  • A Trail & River Guide whilst on the river & trail
  • A Fully Trained Yoga instructor
  • Full minibus support throughout, to transport us to & from the river and transfers to and from our departure point (local Railway Station or Local airport).
  • Includes all accommodation in a local farmhouse
  • Includes all breakfasts, lunches and evening meals
  • All necessary equipment for Canoeing the remote valley and stream of the Cele
  • An opportunity to hike along the route of the Way of St. James
  • Join your guides for a pre-breakfast walk
  • Visit the ancient cave paintings at Pech Merle
  • See the beautiful villages of Marcilhac, Espignac, Cabrerets and St. Cirq Lapopie
Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Family fun on the Célé river, Lot France

Tour Description

Everyday of the tour will be book-ended by a yoga session. The friends of the Célé organisation have arranged that the river is set aside for fishing before 11am and for canoeing thereafter. We will use these morning hours for our Yoga sessions, often by the riverside, and for short walks.

Yoga and canoeing through the gentle waters of the Célé are the perfect companions to bring the mind into the body, to refine our awareness and deepen mindfulness. This tour teaches you techniques that can be practiced and used in the hurly-burly of our everyday lives.

After our day on the river we will have time for another yoga session, or you may relax if you prefer. Our accommodation has a small swimming-pool but we can also wild-swim if we wish too. Evening strolls are also possible.

When we are on the river or trail you will be accompanied on the river by an experienced river guide who will make sure you see all the interesting places along the way. If necessary we can provide top-up/reminder paddling lessons if it’s a while since you paddled, or indeed if you have never paddled before.

The rivers are easy paddling and suitable for inexperienced paddlers. The emphasis on this trip is to enjoy the rich history and natural history of the region from the unique viewpoint of the river.

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

We shall enjoy lazy days meandering down the river and take our time to enjoy all that we see along the way and taking the time to visit many of them as we go. We will certainly visit the world famous caves at Pech Merle and see the ancient cave paintings.

Everyday we will stop for a fabulous picnic lunch and in the evenings we will enjoy a home-made dinner in the farmhouse where we are staying. We will take dinner out one evening too.

The Célé is a small winding stream that flows down a steep sided valley into the Lot. On the way it passes through several small and picturesque villages such as Espignac, Marciilhac, Sauliac and Cabrerets.

Along the same valley a long-distance trail winds its way. Sometimes besides the river but mostly up high along the valley’s edge. This is the GR651 which is a small deviation off the famous GR65 more commonly known as the ‘Way of St. James’ or the ‘Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle’.

In an adjacent valley flows the Lot river with the famous cliff-hanging village of St. Cirq Lapopie.

We will explore the dramatic scenery as the river winds its way through a deep limestone valley stopping at pretty villages along the way. We will watch the birds along the riverbank: herons, kingfishers, wagtails, dippers and various hawks and admire the glittering colourful damselflies and dragonflies.

For those so inclined we will have a pre-breakfast walk and before we start canoeing each day we will have our yoga session. If we have the time and inclination we will also explore the trails along the causse above the valley and find dolmens left by ancient man. We will see plenty of colourful butterflies in the meadows and in the season plenty of wildflowers too, including some exotic orchids, like the Lizard and Bee Orchids.

The Célé valley is a quiet and largely undiscovered small valley and we shall probably have the river all to ourselves. If it is warm enough we can find some beautiful spots for wild swimming.

Our evenings will be spent discussing our day over a family style evening meal with plenty of opportunity to make the conversation flow.

Yoga & Canoe Poster

How to Paddle in a Tandem Canoe

Tandem Canoeing.

Though solo canoeing is always an option, nothing moves a canoe better than a well-matched tandem team. The trick is good communication and knowing your job. Here are a few tips to get you started.

The bow is for power.

If you’re sitting in the front you provide forward momentum and correction strokes when the boat wanders. You set the stroke cadence with a steady rhythm and are the lookout, identifying obstacles and making course corrections. The draw is a bow paddler’s key correction stroke. Instead of using the paddle to push the canoe forward, you’re using it to pull—or draw—the bow toward the paddle, thereby changing the boat’s direction. It’s great for avoiding rocks.

The trick is to reach well out of the boat, plant the blade firmly, and then pull the paddle shaft toward the canoe. To practice the cross-bow draw, simply swing your torso to plant the paddle on the “off” side, without switching hand positions (one on the top of the handle, one halfway up the shaft), and draw the canoe in the opposite direction.

The stern is for control.

If you’re sitting in the stern, or the rear, paddle in sync with your bow partner with your paddle on the opposite side of the canoe. Identify and steer the general course, sighting on a distant point or open downriver channel. You also complement the corrections made in the bow. Paddling a tandem canoe is like dancing. Talk to each other. Forgive each other.

Again, the draw is a key correction stroke, but since the stern paddler can’t efficiently draw on the “off” side, you’ll want to use the pry instead. Trail the paddle behind your hip, turning the blade parallel to the hull (like a rudder). Lever the blade emphatically away from the canoe to change the boat’s direction. Finally, because the canoe seats are set asymmetrically, the stern paddler overpowers the bow and has to correct every few strokes with a brief rudder, or J-stroke. After roughly every third forward stroke, pivot the paddle into rudder position and give a short flick (not as dramatic as the pry).

Stay stable.

In waves or white-water, drop from a seated position directly to your knees if things feel dicey. This lowers your centre of gravity and puts you in the most secure stance. Second, take a stroke, any stroke. Get that paddle in the water. It will act as an outrigger or brace.

Paddle smarter, not harder.

“Ramming speed” is the default strategy of neophytes. More often than not, paddling harder only makes bad things happen faster and more dramatically. Instead, back-paddle gently through standing waves to keep from swamping, and to slow the action as you read your way through moving water.

When in doubt, stop and scout.

The canoe world is full of scary and embarrassing stories about rapids not scouted. When you see something coming up that looks iffy—a funny break in the river horizon line, a downed tree, an unclear route—overcome the aversion to stopping. It’s always worth taking a look and staying safe.


Original article by Alan Kesselheim


28 Reasons to go Canoeing: The Poster Collection

The Collection

All the posters are collected here in a Poster Collection magazine. I originally posted 28 Reasons to go Canoeing day-by-day through February 2014. They are all here with a few posters that didn’t make the cut thrown in for good measure.

Our Posters, Prints, T-shirts, IPad and Phone cases are for sale at  Redbubble and Posters and Prints are for sale at DeviantArt.


Details of our Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips and our brochures.