Day 2: Montbonnet to Monistrol-d’Allier (14.5 kilometres, 9.1 miles)
For an hour or so after leaving Montbonnet, the Chemin de Saint-Jacques (also known as the GR 65 or Way of Saint James) wanders through rolling, green fields – it’s easy walking, with only gentle hills for the next few miles.
Soon after, the path descends through the forest towards the hamlet of Le Chier and the sturdy gravel path becomes an uneven, rocky track.
(Spare a thought for all the early pilgrims who made this journey in bare feet! I’m grateful there has been no rain to turn it into a slippery, muddy mess!)
As the Chemin de Saint-Jacques approaches Saint-Privat-d’Allier, the path leaves the forest and follows the road into town. It’s a relief to get back onto solid ground and enjoy the scenery instead of concentrating on where to put your feet!
A few hours after leaving Montbonnet, you’ll arrive in Saint-Privat-d’Allier —at the perfect time for lunch, or at least a cold drink. There are several cafés here to choose from and, if time permits, to take a wander around town.
A visit to the church and château requires a climb up through the back streets which are lined with gorgeous stone houses. Many have been stuccoed over, as was often done to disguise their humble origins. Thankfully, nowadays, the stonework is considered beautiful and worth showing off!
There is a lot of climbing—up and down—once you leave Saint-Privat-d’Allier. For the first few kilometres to Rochegude, the Chemin de Saint-Jacques zigzags back and forward, running almost parallel to the road. A sign advises, that in heavy rain, walkers should follow the road instead of the path and I can see why!
In good weather though, it’s an enjoyable walk and easy to imagine a line of hooded pilgrims, centuries ago, making their way to Santiago!
An hour after leaving Saint-Privat-d’Allier, the GR 65 reaches the hamlet of Rochegude—a cluster of farmhouses watched over by the remains of an ancient château and a twelfth century chapel. It is well worth the five minute climb off the path to look inside the tiny church whose doors are open to visitors and worshippers.
And don’t forget to fill your water bottle before you leave!
After Rochegude, the GR 65 descends steeply through the forest. When I walked, the path was littered with a light covering of loose pine needles—very slippery and much trickier to walk on than it appeared.
Nestled into the base of the gorge is the town of Monistrol d’Allier—my suggested stop for the second night.
The town is divided by the Allier, a wide, fast flowing river and for the past century, walkers have been crossing via a high bridge built by Gustave Eiffel, the same man who gave us that beautiful tower in Paris. For five hundred years before that, pilgrims crossed by ferry or a succession of bridges, all of which were eventually washed away by flood waters. And before the fifteenth century? I guess they had to swim!
Although today has been another short day mileage-wise, it’s been a strenuous day of climbing up and down gorges. There’s more to come tomorrow, which makes Monistrol-d’Allier a good place to stop for the night. There are several options here for accommodation and a café.
There is also a church, of course, and I always like to poke my head inside, light a candle and ask for protection against blisters! This one was locked unfortunately which is very unusual along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques.
(NOTE: Cafés in France are often closed—on a Monday (or at least one day each week), because it’s not lunch time, or when the owner goes on vacation. Always carry plenty of trail mix and water.)
In Monistrol-d’Allier, you’ll find accommodation at –
Enjoy a walk from Le Puy-en-Velay to Aumont-Aubrac along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques du-Puy from the comfort of your armchair 🙂
Day 2: Montbonnet to Monistrol-d’Allier