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AuvergneLarge1 - Visitor Information - Walking

with so many wonderful walks, it is hard to know where to begin. What follows is merely a pointer.
France has a superb network of waymarked footpaths. National paths known as GRs = Grande Randonnée have an overnight stop (Gîte d'Etape) at the end of each day's walk, for example the Gîte de Saignes in La Godivelle. Map IGN 903 shows all national footpaths which are marked on the ground by a white paint flash over a red. A red and white X denotes no path, making the system easy to follow.
A walk of up to a day is a PR = Petite Randonnée.

Published by Chamina, the “Balades à Pied en Auvergne” books cover hundreds of local walks, all waymarked and mostly circular. Walks up to 2 hours are marked in blue, 2 to 4 hour walks are yellow, 4 to 6 hour walks are green. Departure points have a discreet information board.
Best walking maps are IGN's TOP 25 1:25,000 series. There is a local set in every house.

Ask Di if you would like to borrow maps of areas further afield or local Chamina books (in French - they also cover flora, fauna, architecture, geology & much more).

The expert walker: Di and the dogs have walked all over the place. She will advise you on the sort of walks you’ll enjoy. The 2 hour Montboudif loop is a good starter. In hot weather there are several pleasantly shaded walks. A botanical walk has been laid out near Riom-ès-Montagnes, either guided (info from the Tourist Office opposite the Mairie in Riom (ès-M), but the commentary is all in French) or make your own way round. Afterwards, sit in the shade at the farm at the start/finish with a cool drink; they also sell jam and who knows what else.
Place names are not always spelled the same on maps and signs. For example, Anglaret and Marniac, the hamlets up the road, are also Anglariex and Margnat - being the French and Occitan forms.
Height comparisons:
the ridge opposite La Borie is 1,000 metres, the same as England's highest mountains. Laquairie is at 900 metres. Super Besse is 1,350 metres, the same as Ben Nevis. The Puy de Sancy is 1,880 metres.

Keep an eye on the weather. Go into the mountains when it’s fine. If it’s wet, go down the hill; on a damp spring morning in Issoire it may well be snowing on the Sancy. Temperature falls about 1°C per hundred metres. At altitude it can and does change quickly. Heat, cold, sun, rain and snow are more significant the higher you go. Thunder storms usually give lots of warning; avoid peaks and ridgeways in lightening. You can get sunburn on a cloudy day in winter, particularly if your skin is fair or unused to weather; sun screens are very effective, or hats in summer.
On longer walks, have boots or strong shoes suitable for the terrain you may cross. We take a compass; if you don't have one, point the hour hand of your watch at the sun, the bisector of the angle between midday and the hour hand is South. Or using the traditional method, just see which way the satellite dishes point.
On walks over two hours, we take water (plenty when it’s hot) and usually a waterproof and a bite of lunch (or Emergency Rations). Di's advice is to wear/take “layers”.
Cantal_Mountain2 Cantal_Mountain6
Cantal_Mountain13 Walking2 Some favourite walks
There are walks from La Borie d'Estaules from several minutes to several hours. For example:
1. Up the lane, past the Sweet Little House, and keep walking until tired. Then come home again.
2. Down the lane to the main road. Sharp left and follow the track beside the river, across the stream (bridge), up through the forest and take the first track on the right. This leads to a house and pasture (Chastelet), cross the fence and walk between the house (on your right) and a small building (the old bread oven on your left) and keep straight on. You will soon see a notice board (on your left) and YELLOW paint flashes which take you zigzagging up the hill. It’s a good climb but the views are wonderful. Follow the yellow flashes along to ridge to Chez Francois and then right at the lane into Charreyre. Through the hamlet, still marked yellow and drop down onto a track just past the last farm house. This goes steeply down through the forest to Le Danty where you turn right (still waymarked yellow) and follow the track along the river. At the wire fence you follow the markers up through the steep, pretty wood until you come back to the notice board you started from. Then straight on past Chastelet and home the way you came. Allow 2½ hours or more. Take a map or speak to Di before you go.

3. Up the lane, past the Sweet Little House and in 250 yards take the vehicle track on the left. Follow it until you come to a fork (½ mile?) and bear left up the newish steep rutted track. Keep climbing (ignore all tracks on the left) through young pine forest and up to the top. On a good day you will have wonderful views north to the Sancy range and south to the Cantal mountains. At the junction you have several choices. You can EITHER go right, leaving the hamlet of Le Bac on your left and come back to La Borie on the lanes. At the other side of Loubinou you can pick up a track (on the right) which brings you out on the road between Anglaret and Margnat (the beginning of it is marked on the map). Then pick up walk 5. Allow a good 2½ hours. OR turn left and follow the track along the ridge and into the forest. Down through the forest until the steep bends, where you MUST take the track on the left which follows the contours and brings you back to the stony track you climbed up earlier. (NB. on the map it looks as though you can continue down and get back to La Borie, but this is no longer possible. If you miss the left turn you will eventually end up on the main road between Condat and Egliseneuve). This takes about 1½ to 2 hours. OR you can pick up the BLUE circular walk through Le Bac and Chanterelle which will add another 1½ hours. OR, if you are really energetic follow the blue flashes into Le Bac and pick up the GR/Vache Rouge (red cow) markers, and on to Egliseneuve!
Short waymarked walks
4. The Tranchades at Laquairie, a 2 hour scramble through curious narrow rock clefts up to 100 feet deep. Moss, big trees, potted geology, glimpses of mountains, unique, pretty, demanding. 2 hours. Not suitable for little children. Difficult in places but very interesting and the way out is tough going. Talk to Di before attempting this “walk”.
5. Montboudif. 10 minutes by car. The walk has exceptional flora, beautiful views and entertaining sign panels. Park by the church and head up hill on foot, bearing right to keep the cemetery to your left. Take a map. Waymarked blue. 2 hours. Also suitable for mountain bikes.
6. La Godivelle - 20 minutes by car: park at the church, take the waymarked circuit through forest, over high grazing land, through the hamlet of Brion (q.v.) and round in a big circle through Jassy back to La Godivelle. 3 hours. Other options possible. Map needed. Waymarked yellow.
7. Egliseneuve - 10 minutes by car: park by the Post Office. Go over the main road, down the hill; blue waymarks. The Bogon walk follows high ground and is a favourite of Di’s. 1½ hours.
8. Boslabert is half an hour by car, off the D32 from La Godivelle towards Issoire. The circular walk goes past a curious abandoned village with no road where little but a church with graveyard remains. Different countryside. 2 hours. Map required. Little walked by anyone.
9. Lugarde - 15 minutes by car: park in the square. Waymarked blue, circuit takes 1½ hours. An easy walk with glorious views.
10. St Bonnet de Condat - 25 minutes by car: park by the church. A circuit which takes you up on top of the “orgues”. With only modest effort you will see both the Puy de Sancy and the Plomb du Cantal. Waymarked yellow, about 2½ hours.
11. St Amandin – Park at campsite. Waymarked blue. At campsite entrance, turn left on and cross the main road. Take the track on your right. Follow the markings up through forest and lanes to Vezol. Climb the Suc de Vezol for the most spectacular view. A must for a clear day. Allow 2 hours.
12. Lac Pavin –Circular walk round the lake which takes about 50 minutes. Ideal after a morning shopping in Besse. Handy café.

Longer waymarked walks
13. From La Morangie up to the top of the Puy de Sancy is not in the books but follows GR 30. This is one of our favourites. La Morangie is just over half an hour away, at the end of a lane off the Picherande/La Tour d’Auvergne road. Map and suitable gear essential as the Sancy is 6,000 feet. This bit of the mountain is quieter by far than the Super Besse side. 5 to 6 hours. A couple setting off on a mild morning in September '99 who assured us they had “walking clothes” had to turn back at the ridge because they were so cold. In early October, from the top of the Sancy, where there was fresh snow above 1,500 metres, we have seen Mont Blanc sparkling white in the sunshine, 197 miles away!
14. Ravel – park on the D203. Waymarked green. A 5 hour circular walk, which takes you to Lac Chauvet and the beautiful Cascade de la Barthe.
15. Egliseneuve – Park at the campsite opposite the lake. Follow GR 30 across the river and up the hill to Les Angles and then to La Clide. Just after that you leave GR 30 and follow the green markings to Espinat. You pass Lake de la Fage, Moudeyre and finally Graffaudeix and back to the campsite. Allow 4 hours. This and Walk 14 are good for days when the weather is too unsettled to go higher.
16. The Plomb du Cantal is over an hour by car but don’t be deterred. There are many walks, this one is more than worth the effort. The flowers - blue gentians, wind flowers and alpines - are superb and the southern range has fewer people and more wildlife - deer, moufflon and chamois can be seen. Well waymarked from the village of Les Gardes, near St Jacques des Blats. Map and suitable gear essential. 5 hours.
17. To save walking up the hill take the cable car from Le Lioran – they start at 9.30 am, and walk the ridges. Follow GR 400, white and red markings, towards Puy Gros (SW) for spectacular views, flowers and butterflies.
18. Col de Serre – park in front of café. A long spectacular walk, waymarked green, for experienced walkers only. Allow 6 hours. Follow GR 400 south and either climb on to Puy Mary (concrete steps) or take the variant to the ridge, below the summit, and cross the Breche Rolland (a scramble) to the Col de Cabre. From there the path goes down into the valley ,with Peyre Arse above and on the left, to La Courbatière and then back to Col de Serre.

There are many more wonderful days out in both the Cantal Mountains and on the Massif de Sancy. For more information/ideas, talk to Di. All houses have walking maps, and you will find she has made alterations, where the route/ path has been changed. Times given are walking times, not allowing for stops. For all high level walks proper walking gear is essential.