…using the GR 70 Chemin de Stevenson as a case study
Are you dreaming of a long-distance walk through the glorious countryside of rural France…visiting picturesque villages, ancient châteaux, tiny chapels…?
It sounds amazing…but you’re not sure how to start?
In September 2016, I followed the GR 70 Chemin de Stevenson, a walk first taken by author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1878 through the Cévennes region of southern France. Accompanied by a donkey named Modestine, Stevenson walked 227 kilometres (142 miles) from the village of Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille south to Saint-Jean-du-Gard.
This seemed a good opportunity to document the process, so read on to discover how I made this dream a reality—from planning to walking—and all the steps in between!
Choosing a walk
Funnily enough, this was the hardest and most time consuming part of the process!
France has so many beautiful regions and over ten thousand kilometres of long-distance walking paths. This network is overseen by the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP); an organisation that maintains all walking paths in France, assisted by an army of enthusiastic volunteers. (Long-distance paths, or Grand Randonnée, are referred to as GR paths and use a system of red and white blazes to mark the way. Shorter paths use red and yellow blazes and local paths use a single yellow stripe.)
I considered the GR 65 from Geneva to Le Puy-en-Velay, the GR 213A from Abbaye de Fontenay to Vézelay and finding a path that would visit all the most beautiful villages in the Dordogne.
I ruled out the GR 10 across the Pyrénées and the GR 20 and Mountain to Sea walks in Corsica—walks I’d like to do, but perhaps not alone.
Looking for inspiration, I asked members of the I Love Walking in France community to nominate their favourite walk. One walk—the GR 70 Chemin de Stevenson—was mentioned over and over.
This walk quickly became the obvious choice, ticking several boxes for me—
(1) Robert Louis Stevenson started his walk twenty kilometres (twelve miles) to the south of Le Puy-en-Velay, a town that I love, oozing with charm and character—ancient chapels, a magnificent cathedral and cloister. And since the train stops in Le Puy, that’s where we’ll start, walking to Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille the following day.
(Le Puy-en-Velay also marks the start of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques du-Puy, the ancient pilgrims’ route which takes walkers to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and then across northern Spain along the Camino de Santiago. I’m looking forward to going back 🙂 )
(2) I particularly loved the first few hundred kilometres of the Chemin de Saint-Jacques du-Puy. Although the Chemin de Saint-Jacques leaves Le Puy-en-Velay heading south-west and the Chemin de Stevenson heads south, I’m hoping the landscapes will be similar—sometimes hilly, but mostly wide open spaces and green rolling hills, small villages, stone houses and chapels.
(3) When I first started planning, I thought I would be walking alone—not my favourite thing to do! I thought the Chemin de Stevenson was sufficiently well-known and popular that I’d encounter other walkers each day and I’d find someone to chat with over dinner. And since it is quite popular, it should be well-maintained and well-marked and hopefully, I’m unlikely to get lost! (Now my friend Lisa is coming and I can blame her if we get lost 😉 )
Keep reading for more tips using the GR 70 Chemin de Stevenson as a case study—
And plenty of other practical information here