The Ardeche is a region of southern France where many of the country’s finest qualities battle for dominance over its unruly charms. Here, the high granite mountains of the Massif Central meet the fertile plains of the Rhone Valley, temperate air from Central France meets the warmth of the Mediterranean and ancient forests give way to endless vineyards.
When Robert Louis Stevenson took his broken heart on a trek through the region, his experience moved him to write a book that is still selling today. When we arrived over a hundred years after him, we found this little-known gem of Southern France to be just as he had recorded it – rugged, peaceful and deeply inspiring.
With such a varied landscape and rich history there are a huge variety of walks to be taken. Visitors choose from enjoying the high, ridge top trails of the western mountains, riverside scrambles in the famous gorge, broad paths criss-crossing the plateaus and enchanting rambles in the shade of the ancient forests.
Amid the sights and viewpoints we discover the fascinating remains of a complex past. The recently explored caves re-drew the map of Neolithic man’s migration across Europe. Their dolmens, paintings and artefacts tell the tale of pre-historic lives in the forests and grottos which generations later were to provide refuge for the persecuted Huguenots and WWII French resistance fighters.
The Roman centre at nearby Nimes still has the most complete amphitheatre in the world and was nourished by the phenomenal aqueduct at the Pont du Gard. To the east, the Pope’s palace at Avignon is a timeless reminder of Vatican influence whilst to the north, well preserved churches and castles speak of the region’s fractious catholic and protestant history.
In spite of the rugged appeal, walking holidays in the Ardeche are not only for the tough and the brave. Trails are well maintained and a little spirit of adventure reaps massive rewards. Simple forest paths reveal fascinating caves and waterways, limestone formations create natural labyrinths whilst vineyards and farms are only too happy to give up their bounty of local produce.
With accommodation and expert advice in English provided by the Ardeche Specialists at Evasion Travel, visitors can choose from accompanied tours or simply request a little advice for a self-guided adventure.
Walks vary from short day-walks bound for riverside picnic spots to longer outings and multi-day trips with accompanying donkeys to carry packs and provide a little entertainment. Visitors to the area are treated to wonderful fruits, meats and cheeses from local markets as well as opportunities to witness first-hand the traditional methods of a local community largely unfazed by 21st century influences.
Near to the main centres, the area has become very well known among adventure sports enthusiasts. The novice-friendly white water descent of the Ardeche river is a thrilling day or two-day trip whilst there are also plenty of opportunities for climbing, ropes courses, cycling, horse riding, underground caves tours and, of course, gastronomic adventures!
The author of the “Ardeche holidays with Evasion Travel” runs a hotel and restaurant near to the Southern town of Vallon Pont d’Arc as well as self catered gites on the border between the Ardeche and Provence. It specialises in France activity holidays and supplies trips for groups and individuals with optional transport and accompaniment.
Email email@example.com or visit www.evasiontravel.co.uk for information.