I’ve spent many happy days and weeks having walks in France and even when I was a young lad, bereft of my Inter-rail ticket and happily strolling without a map or clue where I was going, the highways and byways from Calais to the Côte d’Azur offered endless opportunities for adventure.
Inspired by books, such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and music by the likes of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, my early attempts at walking in France were more idealistic than I’d like to admit and after having to sell my belt for food in Orange and almost getting accosted on the Lido Plage in Nice, experiences came thick and fast.
These days, I prefer my trips to the continent to be slightly more organised and to include elements of cultural insight as opposed to coming-of-age enlightenment. With this in mind, I’ve prepared a small guide to some of my favourite French locations where vacations consist of gastronomy, scenery and history as opposed to teenage beatnik wonderment.
The Best Walks in France
The sun-kissed south of France is an amazing location and if you’ve got a hankering for quiet coves, peaceful villages and superb coastal paths then you’ve come to the right place. This is an excellent option for all lovers of walking holidays as the contrasts from the scorched Mediterranean hillsides and the shimmering harbours and marinas of the coast present an incredible amount of variation to suit all types of holiday-maker.
Situated between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees, the Dordogne is a wonderful region for walking holidays where meandering rivers, hilltop châteaux and plentiful forests all form the backdrop to some indelible scenes. This is a must for all lovers of medieval history as you’ll find over 1500 castles dotted throughout the region including the likes of Beynac, Castelnaud, Domme and Montfort. With plenty of scenic spots for river bank picnics as well as lots of valley and cliff top walking trails, the Dordogne is as good as it gets for walkers.
The Emerald Coast
If you really want to find out more about the rich history and gastronomy of the continent then guided walking holidays in France are an excellent chance to learn as you explore. Areas such as the Emerald Coast, in the west, are excellent for walkers as thanks to the dramatic coastal paths, charming medieval towns and plenty of golden sand beaches; you’ll uncover some incredible locations. Dinard, Mont St Michel, and the seaside resort of Saint Malo, all make excellent options for exploring or staying overnight.
The High Alps
If you want to take your next walking holiday to new heights then check out the French Alps as from pine-forested hillsides to snow-capped mountain peaks, there are plenty of paths and trails available in the summer season. Mont Blanc, the Dents du Midi and the Matterhorn all make classic backdrops and if you’re a picnic lover then the flower-scattered pastures are absolutely the pièce de résistance of any walking tour.
The meandering rivers and charming villages of the Loire Valley present an excellent chance for anyone wishing to concentrate more on relaxation rather than exhilaration. This is simply a beautiful area and with a relatively flat landscape you’ll find a superb range of trails to suit every level of walking holiday-maker. Loads of restaurants and riverside cafes make the Loire an awesome option if you’re looking to get away from it all and enjoy the French countryside in between some delicious plates of food.
Author Chris is head-over-heels in love with walking holidays in France and between wine and cheese, considers the vocation as close to perfection as earthly possible.