Author Rachel Crolla shares her favourite things to do in the Auvergne region.
Who better to explain what not to miss out on in the Auvergne, than guidebook author Rachel Crolla? We'll let her take it from here...
After telling friends about our new guidebook to Walking in the Auvergne, I was surprised to find that so few of them had ever heard of the region. It’s a huge area in the Massif Central of France and it’s chock-full of places and activities to whet the appetite of any outdoor enthusiast. Here are some of my favourites:
An afternoon ramble up Puy de la Vache and Puy Lassolas will make hikers think they’ve walked onto another planet. The Martian-like red volcanic rock of the summit ridge on these twin volcanoes glows eerily in the early evening sun. It’s also a great spot to view the unique pudding basin forms of the Chain of Puys.
A winter visit to the tranquil Montagne Bourbonnaise in northern Auvergne can bring idyliic skiing in beautiful forests of beech and fir. With plenty of Nordic cross country trails and a small downhill resort at La Loge des Gardes – it’s a perfect place to try and master the sport away from the crowds.
The Grand Horseshoe of the Puy de Sancy is a must-do on many serious walkers’ itineraries. The 17km route climbs from the lovely spa town of Mont –Dore to the highest peak in central France. On a hot day, after conquering the spiky ridge, the circuit ends at a superb waterfall called the Grande Cascade, where sweaty hikers can take a dip.
The Auvergne is home to many serious sport climbing venues, but a more friendly-angled place to get the ropes out is the Rocher de St Vincent, east of Vichy. Moderate bolted routes end at the top of several buttresses where panoramic views reward your efforts. One of the buttresses even boasts a small castle on its summit – a perfect climbers’ picnic spot.
As a rule, I like to avoid cities, but Le-Puy-en-Velay, in southern Auvergne had me enthralled. Its dramatic volcanic plinths dominate the cityscape and make the place seem like a magical kingdom. Some of the rocky pedestals allow visitors to climb above the shops and roads via impossibly steep staircases, so you can even have an outdoor adventure in the city!
42 Walks in Volcano Country
Guidebook to the Auvergne describing 42 walks between 5 and 20km in the quiet volcanic hills of central France. Five areas are covered: Cantal, Chaine des Puys, Mont Dores, Haute-Loire and Montagne Bourbonnaise. The volcanic geography provides a stunning backdrop to routes suitable for all walkers. Bases in Vichy, Clermont-Ferrand and Puy-en-Velay.