Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under Dates & Prices tab)
We fly into Lyon and transfer by road to Le Puy-en-Velay, a journey of just over two hours. Our hotel is only a stone’s throw away from the busy and attractive centre of town.
Le Puy-en-Velay: In the morning we gently ease into “Pilgrim mode” with a pleasant walk to the impressive Fortress of Polignac. All around us are the “puys”, imposing vestiges of the area’s relatively recent volcanic activity. After lunch back in Le Puy, we spend the afternoon exploring the town’s old streets, visiting the 12th century cathedral and the seemingly inaccessible Chapelle St Michel, perched atop a slim volcanic plug. The chapel’s exquisite polychrome frescos make the climb well worth it.
10km / 6 miles, +150m/-150m, 2 ½ hours
Le Puy to St Privat d’Allier: The picturesque Place du Plot with its weekly food market is the historical starting point of the “Via Podiensis”, the route we will follow all the way to Conques. A conspicuous sign tells us that our final destination is 205 kilometres away – we had better start going! Our route today follows little paths and pleasant tracks winding through pastures and woods. This really is deepest France and apart from “pilgrims” like us, the villages we go through see few visitors.
23.5 kms / 14.7 miles, + 700m/-350m, 6 hours
St Privat d’Allier to Saugues: After a short and easy climb we arrive at Rochegude and its picturesque Chapelle St Jacques. The view from the chapel plunges down the gorges d’Allier, the route of the Cévenol, one of the most scenic railway lines in France. The local architecture is remarkable, everywhere are huge stone farmhouses built to last forever. Mid-morning, lunch and afternoon stops allow us to refuel and, more importantly for some, the opportunity to collect additional stamps for your Pilgrim’s Passport.
18.8 kms / 11.7 miles, + 700m/-360m, 6 hours
Saugues to Les Faux: Our longest day today. Fortunately, the terrain is easy with no steep uphills or tricky downhill’s. Even better, unlike 19th century pilgrims we have nothing to fear from “La Bête du Gévaudan”, a wolf-like monster that killed over 100 people in this area. Most of the time, we feel on top of the world, with wonderful long distance views in every direction. We make the most of our rest stops by sampling “Tarte aux Myrtilles” and “Coupétade”, a local take on bread and butter pudding.
28 kms / 17.5 miles, + 300m/-260m, 7 ½ hours
Les Faux to Aumont Aubrac: An easier day after yesterday’s exertions. The pleasantly undulating terrain is not too taxing and we have plenty of time to enjoy our refuelling stops.
22 kms / 14 miles, + 250/-270m, 5 ½ hours
Aumont Aubrac to Nasbinals: Another long day made easy by the comfortable terrain. Shortly after our lunch stop, the scenery changes dramatically as we enter the Aubrac, a volcanic and granitic plateau strongly reminiscent of the Yorkshire moors. The area is famous for its eponymous cattle and harsh, long winters.
27 kms / 17 miles, + 150/-120m, 6 ¾ hours
Nasbinals: A well-deserved rest day in Nasbinals, a small village nested around an 11th century church. Here we can unwind by doing very little or by going on a half day scenic circular walk.
12 kms / 7.5 miles, + 200m/-200m, 3 hours
Nasbinals to St Chély d’Aubrac: We are on our way again, crossing the last section of the Aubrac plateau and reaching the highest point of our walk, 1368m, 23m higher than Ben Nevis. It is no wonder they have 150 days of subzero temperatures here. From there, our downhill walk takes us to the village of Aubrac, dominated by La Tour des Anglais and a large Romanesque church. Less than two hours later, we have left the high plateau and are in St Chély on the banks of La Boralde.
16 kms / 10 miles, + 200m/-600m, 5 ½ hours
St Chély d’Aubrac to Espalion: Today’s mostly downhill walk leads us to the fertile Lot valley, with its rich woods of oak and sweet chestnut. In the afternoon, we reach the wonderful village of Ste Côme d’Olt, one of France’s official “Plus Beaux Villages”. It is also one of the 104 villages in Europe boasting a church with a twisted spire.
22 kms / 14 miles, + 290m/-780m, 6 ½ hours
Espalion to Estaing: A short stage today, from Espalion to Estaing, another “Plus Beau Village de France”, dominated by its castle. On our way, we stop to visit the wonderful Romanesque church of Bessuéjouls and its intriguing upper chapel.
12.7 kms / 8 miles, + 200m/-200m, 3 ½ hours
Estaing to Espeyrac: A day of many ups and downs. Depending on the weather, we may briefly leave the Route St Jacques and reach Espeyrac via the scenic GR6.
24.5 kms / 15.3 miles, + 400m/-410m, 7 hours
Espeyrac to Conques: A short morning walk and we reach the end of our journey. By lunchtime, we arrive in Conques, an extraordinary medieval village dominated by the stunning abbey church of Ste Foy. We have the entire afternoon to relax, explore ...and collect our last stamp.
11.8 kms / 7.3 miles, + 260m/- 360m, 3 ½ hours
Conques and return flight: A lazy breakfast for some, more exploration for others; around midday, we start our coach journey to Toulouse airport from where we catch our return flight to the UK.