Route St Jacques
This is a classic walk through France Profonde, from Aubrac to Figeac. Part of the route follows the Sentier de St Jacques (a segment of the Camino de Santiago), following the Allier River through a series of striking gorges. It crosses the plains of the high and wild Aubrac plateau, where summer grazings have fed cattle since Roman times to produce milk for Cantal cheese. The area is even said to be home to the mythic Beast of Gévaudan, the Gallic equivalent of the Beast of Bodmin, who lurks amid forests of oak, beech and chestnut.
This is a demanding trail, with 11 days of walking, ranging from eight to 18 miles and several days with ascents of over 2,460ft. The ground can be rough but the paths are reliable. Another highlight of the route is medieval Conques, officially one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (france-beautiful-villages.org/en), with its Abbey Church of Saint Foy — historically one of the most popular stops on the Santiago de Compostela, its monks were known for the encouragement they gave to passing pilgrims. From there, it’s a two-day walk to the route’s end at Figeac. Unlike the pilgrims that went before, you can stay in comfy hotels, pensions and gîtes.
How to do it: Ramblers Walking Holidays covers the 130-mile route described above on a 14-day trip, with 11 walking days. Prices start at £1,380, with half-board accommodation, including flights, transfers from the airport, baggage transfer and the services of a walking leader.
Windy Mountain, Northern Provence
How to do it: From On Foot Holidays for £1,025 per person. Includes most evening meals and picnics, luggage transfers, full walk pack and local support.
Pont du Gard
How to do it: Walking option and route variations can be found at pontdugard.fr/en/walks-and-hiking
Camino Le Puy Way, Gascony
How to do it: Macs Adventure offers the Camino Le Puy Way from £675 per person, including all dinners, baggage transfers and maps.
Published in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)