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It makes us feel old to think about it, but in May 2019 the channel tunnel celebrates its 25th birthday!
This ground-breaking development made France easier to reach than ever before, and changed the way we travel to the continent from the UK. To celebrate this approaching milestone, we’ve picked out 6 fantastic walking trips in France that you can book now for 2019.
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or not, on this trip you can wander through fragrant vineyards, meet local winemakers, discover vine-covered valleys and visit private cellars. Burgundy claims the highest number of ‘appellations d'origine contrôlée’ than any other region in the country. Chardonnay originated here, and it remains the most commonly grown white grape. The ‘Route des Grands Crus’ runs through many of the great appellations of Burgundy wine, punctuated by nearly 40 picturesque villages and little towns. Read more here
On the Massif Central, above the broad valley of the Rhone, lies a walker’s paradise of hills where the Ardeche, Loire and Haute Loire regions meet. This little-known watershed for some of France’s great rivers is a land of steeply terraced slopes, half-hidden valleys and tumbling streams, where massive ruined farmhouses seem embedded into the landscape, and the bleat of goats and call of the wild birds are often the only sounds. This Ardeche ramble begins to unfold with breath-taking views across the enchanting Doux Valley from Le Crestet, a medieval fortified village built on a rocky hill. Read more here
Explore vineyards, wine estates and chateaux as you walk through the majestic Valley of the Kings, a region steeped in history – this is where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his retirement and Joan of Arc fought some of the battles of the Hundred Years’ War! The Loire is also one of the major wine producing areas of France: the ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap. With a cool continental climate that slows down the ripening on the vine, the region’s winemaking history dates back to the 1st century. Read more here
This beautiful rural walk winds between the bastides or fortified towns that sprung up between the Cathar Crusades of the 1200s and the Wars of Religion in the 1500s. They are situated in spectacular settings on rocky promontories or broad hills and are rich in history. No fewer than 4 of the villages on this tour (Cordes, Bruniquel, Puycelci and Castelnau-de-Montmiral) are included on the unofficial but prestigious list of 143 most beautiful villages in France. The intervening countryside is a beautiful mixture of forests, fields and river valleys with a distinct lack of tourists. This has become not only one of our most venerated walks, but also one of the most popular tours in France. Read more here
In 1888 Van Gogh left Paris for Arles in Provence where he started the most ambitious and productive period of his life. He worked under luminescent skies and the bleaching Provençal sun, painting the fields, drawbridges, cypress trees, cafés, local folk and ancient Abbey Ruins. This walk traces his footsteps through some of the places that he painted and would have known well. Here you will discover the many images of the landscapes he painted, from St-Rémy to the Baux-de-Provence and onto Arles. We are confident that you will have a better time of it than Van Gogh did; for a time he was in a hospital at Arles, he then spent a year in the nearby asylum of Saint-Rémy, working between repeated spells of madness. Just after completing his ominous Crows in the Wheat fields (1890), he shot himself on July 27, 1890, and died two days later. Read more here
This was one of our original hotel treks, and has been a consistently popular tour over the past 40+ years for those who love rural France and wish to visit some of its more unusual, less visited landscapes. The route covers a large swathe of the uplands of the Massif Central taking a path that the early Pilgrims walked on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain - one of the great journeys of history. This is a walk in deepest France, for those who really want a bit of peace and quiet away from it all, a flavour of the past with a dose of religious history and the echoes of The Hundred Year War. Read more here
This is just a small selection of trips that we offer to France. To browse all of our France holidays, click here.
4 active holidays to discover the other side of the French Riviera, behind all the glitz and glamour
There is more in southern France than the Cannes Film Festival and, especially beyond the seaside town, there is plenty of choice for active south of France holidays. Traditionally, the world-renowned festival takes place at the beginning of May and this is also a fantastic time to go out and explore some of the 60.000km stretch of tracks and trails that France is known for.
So, if the Cannes Film Festival has put you in the mood to discover the other side of France, behind all the glitz and the glamour, you can choose from a selection of self-guided week-long breaks across the southern part of the country…
On the Massif Central, above the broad valley of the Rhone, lies a walker’s paradise of hills where the Ardèche, Loire and Haute Loire regions meet. This little-known watershed for some of France’s great rivers is a land of steeply terraced slopes, half-hidden valleys and tumbling streams. Massive ruined farmhouses seem embedded into the landscape and the bleat of goats and call of the wild birds are often the only sounds you will hear on your hike. This active holiday in the south of France begins to unfold with breath-taking views across the enchanting Doux Valley from Le Crestet, a medieval fortified village built on a rocky hill, and is available over either 8 or 10 days, with the longer option taking in the hauntingly beautiful ruins of the Chateau de Rochebonne overlooking the River Eyrieux.
>> Find all active holidays in Ardeche
Gain a unique insight into rural French life as you walk the secret hills and gorges of the Luberon – some of which plunge to depths of 30 metres. This region in the south of France brings holidaying walkers the pleasure of discovering mas (stone Provençal farmhouses) and ochre coloured hilltop villages. Starting in the heart of Papal Avignon, you will cross a revolving landscape through magnificent forests filled with oak, maples, cherry and fig trees, but also butterflies, owls and eagles. The famed Luberon Nature Park also includes a Geological Nature Reserve, whereas Buoux is one of the most famous rock climbing areas in Europe.
>> View our active and introductory walking holiday in the Luberon
Did you know? In France the carpooling app Bla Bla Car is a great way to cheaply and quickly travel between places if you like to save money on taxi rides and save time on train journeys.
In the autumn of 1878 Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, set out to walk across the Cévennes accompanied by “a small grey donkey called Modestine”. His journey inspired Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes, which has since become a travel classic. Starting in the Auvergne, this south of France holiday follows a winding route across a region that boasts great natural beauty, sad romantic ruins and is almost totally unspoilt.
>> Find out about two walking holidays in the Cevennes
Along footpaths dotted with cypress trees, crumbling farmhouses and lone chapels, this trip follows in the footsteps of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Take this southern France holiday to walk from St-Rémy to Les Baux-de-Provence and onto Arles, where the painter famously cut off his ear. Take in the sublime images of the region, with highlights including the Saint-Paul de Mausole monastery (where Van Gogh painted 150 paintings in a year!) and the painter’s much loved second home, the city of Arles, where he lived in the late 1800s.
>> Find all active holidays in the Provence or learn more about Van Gogh’s Provence
If these active south of France holidays have given you some ideas to add to your travel bucket list or if you have any questions on any of the above-mentioned suggestions, please feel free to get in touch with our team of dedicated travel experts.
Walking in the Ardeche
Walking in the Ardeche you will experience true rural France with a delightfully slow pace of life. If you’re looking to get well off the beaten track in France, the Ardeche is a remote and rugged region, where the scenery is absolutely stunning with fantastic, far reaching views.
To the north the Parc du Pilat is a region of high pine forests; there is cross country skiing in winter here and on the high plateau to the west, overlooked by the hills of Mont Mezenc and Gerbier de Jonc, the source of the Loire. Eastwards lie a series of steep wooded ridges with small towns in the valleys and glimpses of the snow covered Alps across the Rhone valley. South is the wild rocky gorge of the Eyrieux and between them all lies a land of deep valleys and tumbling streams with scattered farmhouses and terraced hillsides of massive old chestnut trees.
Best time of year to walk in the Ardeche
We recommend walking in the Ardeche between May and September. May-June is still quite cool and April rains tend to have dried up leaving clear days and a stunning multitude of wildflowers, butterflies and bird life. August brings very warm weather and more local tourists. Later in the season September brings cooler days and the added interest of grape and other harvest activity.
Our Highlights of Walking in the Ardeche
Lamastre and St. Agreve are great little towns with bustling pavement cafes and bars for you to enjoy some local produce and cuisine. St. Bonnet le Froid is a pretty village ideally placed to enjoy some refreshment at the end of your walk.
From St. Bonnet le Froid to St. Agreve the walk around Lake Devesset is calm and cool with the possibility of a lake swim. The Hotel des Cevennes in St. Agreve is a real treasure of traditional France. The hotelier and his wife are so hospitable and the food is local, fresh and plentiful.
The walk then from St. Agreve to St. Martin de Valamas takes you across meadows, through forests and down the donkey track with magnificent views to the ruined Chateau Rochebonne, an incredible castle, perched on a high clifftop, built approx 1000 years ago (see below).
Food and Drink in the Ardeche
Charcuterie is a big deal in the Ardeche where pork was always plentiful and lends itself to preserving in a variety of ways, pates, terrines, sausages and hams. Caillettes (minced meat mixed with cabbage or chard and cooked in a cloth) is a regional delicacy and found on most menus. Chestnuts are a prominent local crop and feature in many local products including chestnut flour, puree, candied chestnuts and liqueur. You can also enjoy a popular local aperitif made from chestnut liqueur blended with white wine from the region. Don’t forget to sample the local wines from the south western Rhone vineyards while you are in the region. You may not have heard of them but many easily compare with the famous Crozes Hermitage.
As much of the walking in this region is quite rural and remote, we recommend organising a packed/picnic lunch each day to enjoy along the way.
Getting to/from the Ardeche
We’ve found Lyon is the best transport hub for getting to/from the Ardeche. Lyon is well connected with Paris and other UK and European centres by both air an rail. Starting in May this year Eurostar will be offering a direct service to Lyon from London St. Pancras (under 5 hours). From Paris there is a regular TGV service (just over just over 2 hours). From Lyon it is an hour long train to Tain l’Hermitage, and then either a bus or taxi to Le Crestet.
Our Walking Holidays in the Ardeche
Sherpa Expeditions offer an 8 or 10-day self-guided walking holiday in the Ardeche. Visit the Walking Holidays in the Ardeche page to find out more about each of these trips that will help you get the most out of your time there.