From Cahors to Eauze, the GR 65 Chemin de Saint-Jacques meanders through 190 kilometres (120 miles) of mostly gentle terrain.
On this walk, you will climb a few gorges and follow some shady paths through the forest, but for much of the way you’ll find yourself surrounded by rolling hills and a patchwork of cultivated farmland. Tucked among those rolling hills are vast fields of sunflowers, and in summer, swathes of dancing yellow faces will keep you company throughout the day.
Medieval splendour is on display here in this south-west corner of France. Over the last thousand years, several of the larger towns were once home to ruling noble families and have played important roles in the area’s history.
Fortified bastide villages and towns occupy prominent positions on the ridges that separate the wide valleys—perfect locations for guarding against invading armies—and it’s not difficult to imagine the battles that were fought here long ago.
Although most of the châteaux and fortified walls were damaged during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, you will still see grand cathedrals and stone and timbered houses throughout your walk.
Along this section of the walk, the Chemin de Saint-Jacques passes through three of France’s ‘most beautiful villages’—Auvillar, Lauzerte and Montréal. A fourth—Larressingle—is a one-kilometre (fifteen-minute) detour from the path. All of these lovely towns provide glimpses into medieval life in a fortified village and offer a delightful setting to enjoy a cold drink, lunch or an overnight stay.
You’ll pass through many more charming hamlets and small towns along the walk, each offering shelter to tired pilgrims, so you’ll never find yourself too far from a fresh supply of bandaids or an ATM.
A highlight of this walk is the UNESCO-listed, fourteenth-century church and cloister in La Romieu. Although a fire destroyed the wooden upper floors of the cloister in 1569 during the Wars of Religion, the delicate stonework of the ground floor arches remains, and frames the lovely garden beds in the centre of the cloister. From inside the church, it is possible to climb the spiral stone staircase in one of the adjoining towers and enjoy the glorious views over the countryside.
Many towns along this section of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques host a busy calendar of festivals and fairs throughout the warmer months, and so I recommend booking your bed as far in advance as you can—particularly if your visit falls on a weekend. I know that for some of you, this apparent lack of spontaneity may take some of the fun out of a holiday, but if you’d rather not book too far ahead, you’ll need to do some careful planning to time your visit between festivals.