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Secret France: The Ardeche - 8 Days

Secret France: The Ardeche - 8 Days

Trip Highlights

  • A Walking Holiday Off The Beaten Track!
  • Hiking on the Massif Central
  • Historic Towns and Villages
  • Extensive Views Across the Rhone Valley

Trip Summary

Facing the Alps across the broad valley of the Rhone lies a walker’s paradise of hills where the Ardeche, Loire and Haute Loire regions meet. This is a watershed for some of France’s great rivers, a land of steeply terraced slopes, half-hidden valleys and tumbling streams, largely absent from the guidebooks. Massive ruined farmhouses seem to have grown from the landscape and the bleat of goats and call of a wild bird are often the only sounds you will hear. From your hotel at Le Crestet take an ancient drove road, partly through orchards, to the market town of Lamastre, set amongst hills covered with ancient chestnut trees of enormous girth. Turn North now and climb to the old spa-town of Lalouvesc, perched at 1100m above the Rhone valley, with views East as far as the snow-covered Alps on a clear day. Skirting the Haut-Vivarais, looking down on tiny red-roofed hamlets clinging to steep grassy slopes, continue to the hill-village of St. Bonnet le Froid; then South through fields yellow with wild daffodils in late Spring and orchids in early summer, skirting the Lac de Devesset (good for a possible dip on a warm day) to St Agreve, its narrow main street crammed with old-fashioned shops, selling Le Puy lentils and Rhone wine from the barrel. Set against the backdrop of Mt Mezenc, and Mt.Gerbier de Jonc, the source of the mighty R. Loire, this small market town is a centre for cross-country skiing in winter. (The 10-night circuit goes South past the ruined Chateau de Rochebonne overlooking the R. Eyrieux, to the narrow valley town of St. Martin de Valamas; then back to St. Agreve next day by a different path). Both circuits then head West along an ancient mule-road, the “Voie des Marchands”, with breathtaking views of the meticulously terraced slopes of the Haut Vivarais to the North, on the way back to Lamastre.

Suitability

The tour is graded moderate (Grade 3); the terrain is not difficult but there are some ascents and descents. Fitness: The walking should present no difficulty to anyone in good general health who is accustomed to hiking.

Itinerary

Individual arrival at your hotel in Le Crestet, overlooking the winding valley of the R.Doux. Accommodation: Le Crestet - A small friendly hotel (** Logis) overlooking the winding valley of the R. Doux. Facilities are ensuite. Meals are served on the vine-covered terrace on warm evenings. The hotel has a small swimming pool.

Meals:  D

Climb out of the village on a waymarked trail through orchards into wooded hills. The shady path follows an ancient drove road, where flocks would be transferred to the summer pastures in days gone by. Accommodation: Lamastre - A long-established family-run hotel (**Logis) in a quiet shady corner near the center of the small market town of Lamastre; situated opposite the old railway station, comfortable rooms with ensuite facilities. Excellent dinner served in the conservatory style dining room above the small swimming pool.

Meals:  B,D

Views back over Lamastre as you climb out of the valley on a well-graded path. At around lunch time you arrive at the pretty village of Nozieres Further woodland and field walking brings you to Col de Buisson from where there is a steep ascent up onto a long open whaleback ridge before a final forest walk into Lalouvesc. There are glimpses into steep little valleys and views across towards the Alps on a clear day. Accommodation: Lalouvesc is perched at an altitude of 1100m and enjoys splendid views across the Rhone valley to the distant Alps. Our simple walker’s hotel (*) is in the main street of this old spa town. The Patron, M.Guironnet, is a welcoming host and you will eat well in the 1950’s décor of the large dining room.

Meals:  B,D

Steep terraced slopes fall away to the South as you descend in to a wooded valley, and the views are particularly good from the church at St. Pierre du Doux, an excellent spot for a picnic, you then have a climb through forest to the pretty village of St. Bonnet where the normal hotel is a couple of kilometers out . Accommodation: St Bonnet-le Froid - You enter the department of Haute-Loire tonight, to stay at a smart modern hotel (***) with indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. The old stone building was formerly a convent. Rooms are comfortable and the restaurant features of the gourmet food of Cecile and Thierry Guyot,

Meals:  B,D

Rest day 10km circular walk (optional) taking you around the high woods and meadows speckled with flowers of this village. There is a good bar restaurant to have café and crepes, particularly nice on a cold day, when the village lives up to its name. Accommodation: St Bonnet-le Froid - You enter the department of Haute-Loire tonight, to stay at a smart modern hotel (***) with indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. The old stone building was formerly a convent. Rooms are comfortable and the restaurant features of the gourmet food of Cecile and Thierry Guyot,

Meals:  B,D

A lightly undulating day in woodland and high open country past Lac de Devesset to St Agreve (pop 2723) at 1050m under Mt. Chiniac There are some great views when it is clear. You can extend the walk slightly by visiting the holy spring. Accommodation: St.Agreve - A tall narrow hotel ( ** Logis) in the central square of this busy little market town, it is family run, and recently refurbished. Food is locally grown, often with wild mushrooms from the woods, and a superb chestnut ice cream. The bar seems to be the hub of the town, and previous customers have reported a particularly warm welcome here.

Meals:  B,D

Leaving the high plain of St.Agreve by small paths you join an ancient mule-road, whose paved causeway can still be seen. The old village of Desaignes is worth exploring, then the trail follows the high ground overlooking the valley of Doux before dropping to the river to regain Lamastre. Accommodation: Lamastre - A long-established family-run hotel (**Logis) in a quiet shady corner near the center of the small market town of Lamastre; situated opposite the old railway station, comfortable rooms with ensuite facilities. Excellent dinner served in the conservatory style dining room above the small swimming pool.

Meals:  B,D

Depart Lamastre after breakfast

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 7 breakfasts, 7 dinners
  • 7 nights accommodation in country hotels on a twin share with ensuite facilities where possible
  • Luggage transfer
  • Information pack including route notes & maps
  • Emergency hotline

What's Not Included

  • Lunches & beverages
  • Entrance fees
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel to the start and from the end point of the trip
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Unscheduled transfers required during the trip

Upcoming Travel Dates

AT A GLANCE

Duration:8 Days
Countries:France
Starting Point:Le Crestet
Finishing Point:Lamastre
Activities:Self-Guided Walking
Grade:Moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:J8A
Prices From:GBP£930 Per Person
single supplement:GBP£170  Click for more information
Solo Traveller:GBP£200  Click for more information