Haut Quercy

Walk the old ways with the donkeys in this timeless and very traditional part of south-west France. Step between wild orchids, discover ancient villages and cliff lined river valleys and lunch in a spectacular chateau as you go. Dates 2019: 15th - 21st September

Walking in the Quercy is all about following the old ways through valleys filled with ancient woodland, along the banks of the river Lot and over high limestone plateaux. Accompanied by donkeys, Mimo and Ulysse, who carry all the refreshments, it is possible that you might lose touch with the 21st century and slip into an older and slower time. Wild orchids growing in the meadows are a sure sign that the paths we follow are not trode often.

The May week is essentially a floral week and on every walk we will be keeping an keen eye out for the snakeshead fritillaries, a plant that only flowers on untilled soil.

In this wooded land of plenty expect to encounter traditional French markets and dine on local game and wild mushrooms washed down with excellent full-bodied south-western reds.

The highlight of the trip, we think, is lunch in the courtyard of Chateau de Cénevières, a cliff-top Renaissance chateau towering over the River Lot. Lunch at the chateau is followed by a private guided tour by the castle’s dynamic 90-year old Marquis. Another high point is the perfectly preserved medieval village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie just a few miles up river.

St-Cirq Lapopie is regarded as being one of the prettiest villages in France perched high on the limestone cliffs overlooking the Lot valley. You stay four nights in the heart of the village listening (in Spring) to the nightingales at night and the quiet of the medieval streets at dawn and dusk. The leader of the Surrealist movement, André Breton, lived here in the early twentieth century so artists like Man Ray and Salvador Dali, Giorgio de Chirico would visit to discuss the future of and meaning of art.

Unlike the world-famous cave of Lascaux, the Pech Merle cave you visit is the original cave that was discovered in 1922 and which is estimated to be about 25,000 years old. It has beautiful geological features as well as highly important polychrome paintings. This is a land of prehistory, a utopia for mankind a few hundred thousand years ago ... and little changed since! This is the cave where, in 1953, Andre Breton, wiped his finger on one of the drawings to verify that they had not been retouched. A fight and court case ensued!

James hosts this trip. Hotels, restaurants and visits have been carefully selected to reveal the character and colour of the Haut Quercy. The donkeys and Mag, the muleteer, will follow at the back for the first two days, although they have been known to rush to the front at elevenses for homemade biscuits. All meals are included and lunch will be a mix of picnics and restaurants.

Accommodation

L’AUBERGE SOMBRAL

A charming C16th century hotel situated in the heart of the village of St Cirq Lapopie perched on cliffs above the River Lot and one of the prettiest villages of France. 10 comfortable bedrooms of character: 6 are doubles of which 3 can be twin-bedded. All have bathrooms en suite. Wifi. 4 nights.

HOSTELLERIE LE VERT

Bernard and Eva Philippe make you feel at home in their Quercy stone manoir in Mauroux that has a total of 6 bedrooms: 3 twins and 3 doubles, all en suite.  We will normally occupy the whole house.  The excellent cuisine has a great reputation. Heated pool. Wifi. 3 nights.

Grade Of Walking

This is a dramatic week of walking but nothing too strenuous. We will cover a maximum of 68 kilometres. We do ascend the cliffs lining the river Lot near St-Cirq Lapopie, but it is a very gentle solid path that sees us up to the top. Otherwise we are walking along good quality paths and lanes along the river or between dry stone walls. We always suggest walking the morning walk. For those feeling tired in the afternoon there is always a vehicle to take you back to the hotel. Our hotels have been carefully chosen (see ACCOMMODATION) so they are all excellent places for relaxing, reading and just taking it easy. The fact that we do not officially offer time in the villages that we stay in, as we always have walks on offer, means that often people will take an afternoon off to enjoy village life.

FOOD & WINE

The week begins in St-Cirq Lapopie with some lovely dishes cooked in the Auberge Sombral such as trout in a Cahors wine sauce and cep mushrooms in homemade puff pastry. The donkeys accompanying the walks will be carrying Diana’s freshly-made picnics and the week will be rounded off with the elegant ‘cuisine’ of Bernard Philippe in the Quercy region.

Gaillac, Marcilhac, Cahors, Jurancon – these are the names of the south west France wines we will be enjoying and wines for the picnics come from our own cellar with good variety and excellent quality. The list of grape varieties is very long and we’ll do our best to taste the vast majority!

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DURATION

7 Days

DISTANCE

39 miles

PRICE

€2690 pp

SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT

€360 pp

DATES

15 Sep - 21 Sep

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