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Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland


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Spanish Armada and Mayo

1588 – The Spanish Armada and Mayo

In May 1588, King Philip II of Spain sent his armada of ships towards the English Channel, under the command of Alonso Pérez de Gúzman, Duke of Medina-Sidonia (a municipality near Cádiz in Andalusia). Of the 130 or 132 that departed the ports of Spain (and today’s Portugal), just 67 would ever see home again. The connection between the Spanish Armada and Mayo is a story of wrecked ships and substantial loss of life.

“Take heed lest you fall upon the island of Ireland,

for fear of the damage that might befall you upon that coast”


Having failed to achieve their objective of collecting soldiers in Spanish Netherlands (today’s Belgium) and invading England, what was left of the armada fleet headed north into the North Sea, then west around Scotland and down along the west coast of Ireland, aiming for A Coruña and safety. Many no longer had anchors, having cut them loose in trying to escape England’s fireships at Calais. Of the 65 ships lost, whether due to damage from battle or weather, somewhere between 17 and 24 ships are believed to have met their end in stormy waters around Ireland. Perhaps 5 of them lie off Mayo.

spanish armada and mayo

Spanish Armada and Mayo – the ships

1. La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada (carrack; 820t; 279 men; 35 guns; Alfonso Martinez de Leiva; Squadron of Levant)

Ran aground at Fahy Strand, Ballycroy.

2. (El) Gran Grin (carrack; 1160t; 329 men; 28 guns; Pedro de Mendoza; Squadron of Biscay)

Smashed on rocks at Clare Island.

3. San Nicolas (Prodaneli) (834t; 355 men; 26 guns; Maria Prodanelic; Squadron of Levant)

Possibly ran aground within Broadhaven Bay, perhaps at Inver or Toorglass.

4. Ciervo Volante (urca; 400t; 189-222 men; 16 or 18 guns; Juan de Peranto; Squadron of Urcas)

Lost between Downpatrick Head and Benwee Head.

5. Santiago (urca; 600t; 86 men; 19 guns; Juan de Luna)

There were several ships of this name in the armada, one of which may have been lost off Mayo, possibly in Clew Bay, south of Corraun or by Burrishoole.

spanish armada and mayo route

Another ship, the Nuestra Señora de Begoña, is said to have entered Broadhaven Bay. However, she proceeded southwards and reached Spain safely.

La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada

Of all the stories concerning ships of the Spanish Armada and Mayo, this seems the most concrete. Probably already damaged at some stage, whether during the battles off south-east England or later due to weather and conditions at sea, the Rata was blown into Blacksod Bay and ran aground at Fahy Strand, near Ballycroy, on September 21st, 1588. The crew is said to have burned the ship to avoid its salvage by the British and headed to nearby Fahy (Doona) Castle. The captain, de Leiva, eventually met up with survivors from other ships (presumably including the one that ran aground at Inver / Toorglass) and they made their way to Donegal on board the Duquesa Santa Ana, which had moored in Blacksod Bay and was still seaworthy. However, the Duquesa appears to have floundered in Donegal, with the result that all boarded the Girona, which had moored at Killybegs, apparently with rudder damage. Rather than heading west and south to Spain, they decided to aim for Scotland, a Catholic country, but crashed on rocks off Lacada Point in Co. Antrim, with the loss of all but 9 of the estimated 1,300 men on board.

Losses of Men

In his book, Downfall of the Spanish Armada in Ireland, Ken Douglas identifies 23 ships wrecked in Ireland and estimates the total losses at around 5,000 men, of which the following are attributed to the Mayo boats :

La Rata Santa Maria Encoronada – 448 (on the Girona)

(El) Gran Grin – 336

San Nicolas (Prodaneli) – 294

Ciervo Volante – 171

Santiago – 65

For a total of some 866 in Mayo’s waters and a further 448 who had been on Mayo soil.


Very little is known as a matter of fact about the fate of armada ships (and their men) that attempted to sail down the West of Ireland coast. There are several issues. First, there are very few contemporary records still extant, if indeed any ever existed. Second, numerous ships had similar names, some in Portuguese and some in Spanish, and names have been ‘warped’ over time and through translations into English or French. Third, so many ships have no record whatsoever as to their fate that this can add to the confusion about those that appear to. Regarding the number of men lost, the musters taken at Lisbon and A Coruña differ, plus many would have been transferred between ships at various stages of the disastrous expedition. In addition, Richard Bingham, Governor of Connacht at that time, may have captured and killed unknown numbers of Spaniards and their Irish sympathisers, so the figures given above can be taken only as rough estimates.

Fahy Strand and Castle are just west of Ballycroy

If you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit Ballycroy National Park. If you’re into hill walking, you could choose to climb Slieve Carr, Ireland’s most remote mountain.

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Balla to Ballintubber Walk

From Round Tower to Abbey

Our round towers and abbeys are among the most visible still extant reminders of early and medieval Christian Ireland. While the former date from the 9th to 11th centuries, what remain of our medieval abbeys tend to be from the 12th to 15th. This Balla to Ballintubber walk links examples of both.

In Mayo, we have five remaining round towers and multiple abbeys and friaries, including the most magnificent of them, like Rosserk, Moyne, Murrisk and Burrishoole. Just across the border in north Galway is perhaps the finest in the West of Ireland, at Ross Errily.

This first section of the 60km+ Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail almost links Balla round tower with Ballintubber abbey, although a diversion is required. An easy trail, we traverse nice small sections of broadleaf woodland, fields and numerous interesting sights. Unfortunately, almost 50% of the route is on roads, minor as they are.

Balla to ballintubber walk

Mixed woodland at Balla

The abbey at Ballintubber was founded by Cathal Ó Conchobhair, King of Connacht, in 1216 and recently celebrated its 800 years. An abbey of the Augustinian Canons Regular, it was substantially destroyed by Cromwellian forces in 1653, but continued in service while roofless and has been rebuilt, most notably in 1966 to celebrate its 750 years.

Balla to ballintubber walk 2

Ballintubber Abbey

Although by no means a spectacular walk, this 15.5 km from Balla to Ballintubber is nonetheless a pleasant stroll, taking 4 to 5 hours. Along the way, you’ll see ringforts and ruined castles, notably the one at Donamoma. It was here that numerous Gaelic lords submitted to the authority of Richard Bingham, Lord President (Governor) of Connacht, in 1588.

A tougher walk in winter than in summer, due to waterlogged and boggy stretches, this season does, however, bring the additional attraction of numerous turloughs along the way. Mind you, you’re unlikely to keep your feet dry!

Somewhat bizarrely, once you’re at Ballintubber Abbey, you have the choice between two paths if you wish to continue onward towards Croagh Patrick and Murrisk. You can either regain and follow the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail, or simply depart the abbey on the Tóchar Phádraig.

Balla to Ballintubber Walk

15.5 km; total ascent 88 m; approx. 4.5 hours.

The route is well marked (if not entirely accurately) on OSI Discovery map sheets 31 and 38. You can make do without the latter, as it only covers a little bit of the trail.

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What Now for the Wild Nephin Farce?

Coillte has exited, so what now for the ‘Wild Nephin’ farce?

Farce (n); a broadly humorous play based on … improbable situations; a ludicrous situation or action. [Collins]

And so, just 8 years on, Coillte has exited stage left.

Back in December 2009, Coillte’s internal Project Scope Document noted that Wild Nephin would provide “a real opportunity for Coillte to lead the way in a landscape scale transformation (and management) of lands”. The document further enthused that, thanks to its “considerable competencies in habitat restoration [and] its major land ownership in suitable areas”, Coillte had the potential to contribute to a response to the European Parliament’s call on member states to “look at setting aside lands as wilderness or ‘restoring’ lands to primitive qualities”. Indeed, one of the project goals was to “enhance Coillte’s environmental and social credentials”.

While it departs without having achieved anything of the sort, unfortunately the state-owned forestry company would appear to have managed to leave one tentacle inserted, apparently simply leasing the land to the NPWS, rather than selling it lock, stock and barrel.

Perhaps this might have something to do with the approximately 260,000 non-native conifers it has planted on the site over the last 3 or 4 years. One day, they might just want to harvest those trees. Heck, if they once more conveniently forget to seek a derogation from the Forest Service, sure they could re-plant conifers again thereafter. {1}

So, what now for the Wild Nephin farce? Here’s what I believe will happen over the coming years. Naturally, it’s only my opinion …

First, nothing will be done about invasive rhododendron, because the NPWS presumably doesn’t have the manpower, cash or equipment to do anything about it. Unless, that is, my suggestion below is taken up. Coillte would have had the resources, but never the interest. {2}

Second, having re-planted all the non-natives, the forestry company will indeed come knocking on the door in the future to harvest them. They will, presumably, be accommodated.

If you try to mix a timber harvesting, land owning monolith like Coillte with conservation, then sincerity and commitment are unlikely to be among the ingredients.

Here’s an excerpt from last month’s article in the Irish Environmental Network’s GreenNews.ie magazine (Dec 2017) :

In a statement, Coillte said that the removal of forestry has focused on “opening vistas onto the mountainous terrain and lakes” as well as improving boundaries between forests and adjacent open land and preparing areas for bog and riparian zone restoration.
“Forest regeneration, supported by tree planting, also aimed to encourage natural regeneration and harvesting activities which took place fitted within the overall objectives of improving landscape and habitat quality,” the statement continues.

Pure unadulterated rubbish.

Read the full article here.

In an article in the Irish Times earlier this month (Jan 2018), Michael Viney wrote that “some forest roads have been narrowed into backpacker trails”. I’m not aware of any that have. He notes, in what I would consider quite the understatement, that the “10- to 15-year conversion planned for Coillte’s forestry has been slow to get under way”.

Read this article here.

Not wanting to bore the reader by once again going over the details, suffice it to say that this area is now less wild than it was prior to this ‘project’. You can find such details in this previous post from 2015.

Ultimately, what we have here is institutional spin, Irish style. This spin emanates from the same gene pool that spawned Bord na Móna’s laughably cynical “Naturally Driven” advertising campaigns and Bord Bia’s “Origin Green” programme, recently described as a sham by the Irish Wildlife Trust.

We have a deep-rooted problem in Ireland with spin regarding the environment. I’m not sure what the reasons are. Does it have something to do with the almost total ignoring of the natural world in our primary and secondary school curriculums? Is it a legacy from the imperial days, manifested in an attitude of “now that we have possession of the land, we can abuse nature as we wish”? Is it the traditional man-is-superior-to-beast doctrine of the organised religions? Is it because of our inclement weather that people don’t interact with the outdoors much and are, therefore, oblivious to it?

So, what should happen now, if anything is to come of this joke?

Here are some suggestions :

Allow all local landowners and those with commonage and turbary rights within the area bounded by the bothy at Letterkeen – Keenagh crossroads – Bellacorick – Bangor Erris and down the spine of the Nephin Begs to harvest non-native trees for their own consumption only over the next, say, 100 years. With the sole exception of the nice Monterey Pines just beyond the bothy. But with two conditions. First, that all turf cutting within the same boundaries be 100% abandoned forever. Second, that the method and precise location of extraction be dictated to them by NPWS, e.g. using what I call the ‘waterdrop’ method to create open spaces within the plantation to allow in light and break up the stands. See image below. {3}

Remove immediately the 260,000 newly planted conifers, or let the ruminants in at them. Failing that, certainly don’t allow Coillte or any of its harvesting contractors back on site ever.

Remove all fencing, other than that which surrounds the pathetically small native tree stands and increase the number and variety of such stands.

Stop the building or installation of any further huts, shelters or other structures and let the ones in place rot over time (my personal preference would be to remove them immediately).

Ban the reinforcement of any existing tracks and the creation of any new ones.

Block all vehicular access, other than to locals only for the removal of felled timber under the conditions outlined above.

Restore the natural levels and behaviour of water on the site, by blocking artificial channels dug over the decades.

Allow volunteers in to remove the rhododendron, using uniquely environmentally sound means, i.e. no chemicals whatsoever, managed by experienced and competent people and insured by NPWS, Mayo County Council or other public body. Groundwork, perhaps?

Research the viability of introducing red squirrel and/or any other native species that can be shown through proper ecological research to be capable of establishing viable, sustainable populations.

Plant loads of native trees from local seed sources.

Otherwise, leave it alone.

Over to you, NPWS,



Coillte hid behind the Forest Service requirement to re-plant conifers where conifers have been felled and used this as its excuse for having re-planted conifers well after “Wild Nephin” was announced to the public back in 2013. This is bogus, because with both the People’s Millennium Forests of almost 20 years ago and the EU-Life Restoring Priority Woodland Habitats project of almost 10 years ago, they did not re-plant conifers where they had been felled. In other words, where there was a will, there was a way…


Regarding Tourmakeady, one of the People’s Millennium Forests, Coillte stated that “rhododendron and laurel will be eradicated as they are invasive non-native plants.” This never happened.

Gerard Murphy, MD at Coillte Forest, comically tweeted in 2017 that there’s a “significant invasive threat of rhododendron” at so-called Wild Nephin.

what now for the wild nephin farce - tweet

What I call the ‘waterdrop’ method involves removing some trees alongside tracks in a roughly semi-oval fashion to break up the wall of trees that is so typical of conifer plantations, then enough to create a ‘corridor’ a few metres wide into the deeper forest, then felling in a waterdrop shape within. Apart from allowing in light and breaking up the stands, this could also contribute to increased windfall of trees.

what now for the wild nephin farce

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Tales from the GR36 Walking Route in the South of France

Tales from the GR36 Walking Route in the South of France

Marie d’Arles

“Je suis ravie de rencontrer quelqu’un”.

Marie d’Arles smiled out from beneath her poncho. Despite her petite frame, she was no lightweight. Marie was undertaking the full 752 km Via Podiensis, all the way from Le Puy to St. Jean Pied de Port, at, as she put it, “20 km par jour”.

It’s early autumn and the glorious walking tracks of France are empty. These extraordinary routes are not like our local walking loops, where the vast majority of people are out for a one-hour stroll. These are great linear pathways, where the only hikers are either enjoying a walking tour for pure pleasure or are dedicated to the impressive goal of one day reaching Santiago de Compostela.

We had a nice chat, me explaining to her how I lived for four years just up the road from her beautiful hometown of Arles. We joked about the local festivals I spent years attending, but this wasn’t a day for standing around too long. As we parted, I glanced over my shoulder at her, jealous of the mammoth undertaking she was clearly enjoying.

The poncho-wearing weather had curtailed our meeting. Constant rain accompanied us that day. Not that it could dampen the spirits of those who trod these gorgeous tracks. Any Irish person indifferent to the charms of km after km of oak-dominated native, mixed and healthy woodland would need a zap of the nearest defibrillator.


The Squirrel

It was l’écureuil that welcomed me back to the big river, by pausing half way up his tree so we could have a good look at each other. This typical red squirrel behaviour afforded me the chance to note how dark his coat appeared, compared to that of his Irish cousins.

Discover our 2018 guided walking holiday to France.


The Sunflowers

Les tournesols stood like sentinels to a lost leader. Drooping, blackening, falling, rotting; they looked like they were waiting for a harvester who had forgotten to come. In fact, sunflowers go brown / black before being harvested, although whoever had the job of gathering the seeds here was clearly a little late. The birds had already eaten half of them.

tales from the gr36 walking route sunflower


The sweet corn just across the narrow little-used road and the vines further along looked the same, as if they too had been neglected. The once luscious red grapes looked like they were definitely past their “best harvest” date.

tales from the gr36 walking route sweet corn

Sweet corn

Rural de-population is a huge issue in France, certainly even more so than here in Ireland. Today’s youth equates “la France profonde” with the older generations living in tiny villages with few services or none.

Register your interest in joining our walking week here.


The Raptors

The southern French raptor population is in a far more healthy state than its Irish cousins. While at home a sighting is still a special occurrence, immediately followed by a crushing fear that some other less benign observer may have laid eyes (and crosshairs) on the magnificent bird, in the south of France these beauties are commonplace.

Today, we were restricted to enjoying their evocative calls from deep within the oak forest. With rain falling, no self-respecting buzzard, kestrel or kite would bother to open his wings and rise out of the branches. Still, even their sound is a treat and reminds me that there are plenty more magnificent creatures on this earth than us humans.

“Ni le ciel ni la terre ne nous appartient.”

Neither the sky nor the earth belongs to us.

Here’s a nice webpage about birds of prey in France (English language).

Tales from the GR36 walking route

If these simple little tales from the GR36 walking route inspire you, or you’d like to create your own, then why not join our small group walking holiday to this wonderful part of France from September 2 – 9, 2018.

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11 Great West of Ireland Pubs

Naturally, my bias ensures that 5 of these 11 great West of Ireland pubs are located in Mayo, but what else would you expect?

The Irish pub can be such an alien concept to continental Europeans, especially the southern French I know best, that I always have to make it my business to at least get them in the door to experience what it is all about. I’ve seen reactions vary from wide-eyed wonder, delight and glee, to disbelief, shock and discomfort at the crowds and noise. Watching what happens when people don’t find a place to sit down is always a source of amusement. Some don’t know how to react and beat a hasty retreat (needing to be gently, sometimes forcibly, coaxed back in), while others just dive in and enjoy the experience. It takes all sorts, as they say!

Of course, many foreign guests also need to be gently informed that it’s expected of them that they buy a drink … Yes, the clichés are true : (Southern) French groups will sit in a pub and barely buy one drink among them, let alone one each, unless “instructed” to do so.

So here is a selection of 11 of the finest establishments from around the province of Connacht. They’re in no particular order, not even alphabetic!

11 Great West of Ireland Pubs

1. McDonnell’s, Belmullet (Béal an Mhuirthead)

Certainly among the best small town pubs in the province, this is just a legendary place and one where you’ll feel comfortable at all times of the day or night. Sit up at the bar. As they say of The Lobster Pot, “you can get in, but you can’t get out”! Here they are on Facebook.

West of Ireland pubs

Inside McDonnell’s, Belmullet

2. Úna’s, Blacksod (An Fód Dubh)

A few years back, this place was on its last legs. It was always totally down-to-earth (still is), but now it’s buzzing and full of far-end-of-earth life. This quintessential isolated, coastal West of Ireland pub is 25km beyond Belmullet (Béal an Mhuirthead). Visit their Facebook page.

great west of ireland pubs una's

Úna’s, An Fód Dubh

3. JJ Harlow’s, Roscommon Town

A beautiful pub, filled with the ordinary, lovely, decent people of Roscommon. Visit their Facebook page.

west of ireland pub

JJ Harlow’s in Roscommon Town

4. Seán’s, Athlone

Reputedly the oldest pub in Ireland, you’ll get a crick in your neck from looking at all the stuff on the walls and ceiling. When my late father had a boat on the Shannon, he used to record the number of paces from his mooring spot to Seán’s in his “captain’s log”. A really brilliant pub. Here’s Seán’s Facebook page.

West of Ireland pubs

Seán’s, Connacht side of the River Shannon, Athlone

5. Tigh Neachtain, Galway City

Possibly the most beautiful city pub in all of Ireland, this is where the heart of Galway city beats strongest. Its range of Irish craft beers is very impressive indeed.  A truly wonderful pub full of character, they are on Facebook.

Galway pub

Tigh Neachtain, Galway City

6. Matt Molloy’s, Westport

Some might frown at all the tourists, but this is just a fantastic pub, especially when there’s a proper trad music session going on, which is virtually every night. Perhaps the most famous of all West of Ireland pubs. Visit their Facebook Page.

great west of ireland pubs molloy

Matt Molloy’s, Westport (pic source www.jar.ie)

7. The Beach Bar, Co. Sligo

A pure legend of a place, down by the sea. I could tell you where it is, but I’d have to sh**t you. Find them on Facebook.

great west of ireland pubs beach bar

The Beach Bar, Co. Sligo (their own pic)

8. Tí Joe Watty, Inis Mór

Located a little outside the main village of Cill Rónáin, Watty’s is well worth the short stroll. While not necessarily the most attractive pub, there’s always a great atmosphere in this place. As well as islanders, you’ll meet revellers from all corners of the globe in this spot. Tí Jo Watty is on Facebook.

great west of ireland pubs wattys

Tí Watty, Inis Mór

9. John McHale, Castlebar

Castlebar’s finest pub is old, unique and very relaxing. Johnny’s is on Facebook.

great west of ireland pubs john mchale

Johnny’s, Castlebar

10. Lynott, Achill Island

In this day and age, with drink-driving a serious no-no (thankfully), it’s a wonder this remarkable tiny middle-of-nowhere pub manages to stay open. The fact that it’s a Mayo institution helps. This ridiculously small pub is located between Cashel and Bunnacurry, on the lhs as you drive west. Blink and you’ll miss it.  I don’t think Lynott’s has any online presence.

great west of ireland pubs lynott

Lynott’s on Achill (pic Matt Smyth on Flickr)

11. Anderson’s Thatch, near Carrick on Shannon

It is remarkable and wonderful that this small rural, north Roscommon pub has survived. It’s beautiful from the outside and beautiful on the inside. As with Lynott’s above, just make sure you have a designated driver. Here’s the pub’s Facebook Page.

great west of ireland pubs andersons

Anderson’s, between Carrick on Shannon and Elphin

Great West of Ireland Pubs

Of course, there are many other great West of Ireland pubs and I’m not even claiming these 11 are the finest. And lists like these cause arguments in, er, pubs … But great examples these are, for sure. Which other ones would you suggest? If you have pubs to propose, please include photos with your suggestions.

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Guided Walking Holiday in the South of France

Guided Walking Holiday in the South of France

Once her official character was demasked, Michèle was a hoot. In her capacity as receptionist and ticket seller at la Chapelle des Pénitents Noirs, she was as detached as any other French heritage site employee. She had no change, you see. She needed her colleague to skip across the road to get some, along with two coffees while she was at it.

Vous en voulez un aussi, monsieur ?

I declined the coffee, but with the offer and as the other lady vacated the building, out popped the real Michèle. We joked about the town, the hoteliers who don’t answer enquiries by email, the chambres d’hôte which claim to remain open all year but which, in reality, hibernate from September 30th.

As I left this wonderful old church, Michèle pleaded down the street after me to go and tell the local Tourist Office about these issues. After all, this was not good for the image of her town. I assured her I would, but didn’t.

There’s little resemblance between the French people that mass tourists meet on the streets of Paris or the Côte d’Azur (if they meet any at all) and the rural southerners you meet while out walking in the Midi. The southern rural French person is warm and inquisitive. They’re interested. And for that, they are interesting themselves. Walking in this part of France is a real treat. Not only does the south of this wonderful country have spectacular scenery, full of broadleaf forest cover, vineyards, sunflowers and more, but the people make the trip special.

guided walking holiday in the south of france
As we left Villefranche, to climb towards Monteil on a 23km long day, we met Yves building a stone wall perimeter to a new primary school, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We discussed the state of our economies which, he mused, paled into insignificance compared to that of Spain, the homeland of his beautiful wife. We could have stayed chatting to this total stranger for an hour, but had to push on. He didn’t mention having to get back to work …

Back in Limogne, the almost impossible to contact local taxi driver (I had sent multiple texts and emails, to no avail), when eventually I got to speak to him, declared himself unable to take us the few km we needed to hurdle. When I told a local our story, he offered to being us in his own car. We had a great chat along the way.

guided walking holiday in the south of france najac
Then there was the evening we forgot to get food for the following day’s lunch. Arriving in a tiny village, luckily for us the market had pitched up on the square. Lunch consisted of a glass of rosé, a handful of Muscat grapes, two apples and some cheese. All accompanied by un café. We were the talk of the town that day, with locals asking about where we had come from, where our destination was and the state of the Irish economy.

guided walking holiday in the south of france concots

Guided Walking Holiday in the South of France

Our one-week guided walking holiday in the south of France in September 2018 consists of five days on stunning forest tracks, one ‘link day’ mostly on small rural roads, one rest day visiting the beautiful town of Villefranche and one ramble through vineyards. We will stay in a combination of basic gites d’étape, chambres d’hôte and small hôtels. As always, we will travel in a small group (no more than 12 guests). The cost of the trip will include B&B each night (sharing), 3 dinners and 2 packed lunches. Flights are not included and guests are reminded that you must be covered by your personal travel insurance and ensure that you have an up-to-date European Health Insurance Card (aka E111).

If you’d like to join us in France, or learn more, please get in touch by email to info[at]tourismpurewalking.com or call me on 086-8318748.

Dates : September 2 to 9, 2018

On this guided walking holiday in the south of France, we will be traversing the southern départements of Lot and Aveyron, a wonderful rural area far from the madding crowds and brim full of traditional French culture. Come not just for the walking, but for the sights, food and wine!

Walking will be mostly on lovely off-road tracks through magnificent oak-dominated forests, stretching across the hills to the blue skied horizon. We will walk “entre deux rivières” from the banks of the River Lot to those of the River Aveyron, rising up onto the so-called Causse that stands between the valleys. Le Causse is a rich limestone landscape – think of our Burren, but still covered in its soil carpet and enormous forests. While one day is almost entirely on-road, these are tiny roadways that see very little traffic as they sinew from one small hamlet to the next.

guided walking holiday in the south of france track
Highlights of our week include the gorgeous little towns of St Cirq and Najac, both among the select range of “Les plus beaux villages de France” and the former the initial winner of “France’s favourite village” in 2012. The larger town of Villefranche is great too, boasting numerous excellent visits, including France’s largest cloister at La Chartreuse, splendid churches, its arched town square and medieval architecture throughout.

We will experience one of this nation’s famed outdoor markets and her world-renowned cuisine, while enjoying seven days of the best of walking in France. With one day’s rest in Villefranche for visiting and relaxing, the pace is nice and easy throughout the week. We walk between 12 and 24 km over most of the other days, with inclines few and far between. Most of all, we will take our time to discover this wonderful place and her people.

guided walking holiday in the south of france bouzies
Accommodation is in twin rooms (sometimes triple) and, due to the fabulously rural nature of the areas in which we will walk, quite varied. We walk from basic hôtel, to simple gîtes d’étape, to comfortable chambres d’hôte to gastronomic hôtel. Indeed, the variety is part and parcel of the experience of walking in France.

Guided Walking Holiday in the South of France 2018 – Provisional Programme (subject to change, depending on flight times, etc.)

Day One – Arrival & 16 km walk
Day Two – 17 km
Day Three – 12 km
Day Four – 19 km
Day Five – Rest day, for visits
Day Six – 24 km
Day Seven – 15 km
Day Eight – 9 km, before departure

Please note that walking distances are approximate, in function of flight times and other factors.

Luggage transfer is provided on each day, so we will only carry a rucksack with our requirements for the day’s walk.


The trip is on the basis of per person sharing and excludes flights.

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. Get in touch, on 086-8318748 or by email to info [at] tourismpurewalking.com to express your interest and receive the detailed brochure.

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