Walking from Martel to Rocamadour, France
The walk from Martel to Rocamadour weaves through 130 kilometres (81 miles) of French countryside and picturesque villages and towns.
From Martel in the Midi-Pyrénées, your journey takes you north into the Limousin region and circles around through Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne before heading south once more into the Midi-Pyrénées and your destination of Rocamadour.
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Visit six of the most beautiful villages in France
There are more than 30,000 small villages in France but only 154 of them can claim to be among the ‘most beautiful’.
To qualify, a village must enjoy a rural setting, at least two historical monuments which it commits to protecting and preserving and have a population of less than 2,000.
This corner of France has more than its fair share of most beautiful villages and on the walk from Martel to Rocamadour, you’ll visit—
Turenne—a charming maze of narrow lanes, all leading uphill to the ruins of a tenth-century château
Collonges-la-Rouge—with its distinctive red-brick cottages and fairy-tale turrets, this picturesque village is the highlight of the walk (I think 😊)
Curemonte—home to three medieval châteaux and a source of inspiration for the French novelist Collette
Autoire—a relatively modern village, rebuilt in the sixteenth century following the devastation of the Hundred Years War
Loubressac—perched high on a hill and offering magnificent views over the surrounding countryside
Carennac—founded in the eleventh century by Cluny monks who built the magnificent church and adjoining cloister.
Stock up on trail mix at the local markets
In addition to the visual feast that awaits you in these lovely places, you’ll discover fresh food markets at several villages where you can find regional delicacies to bolster your picnic lunches. Time your walk to visit at least one!
Martel—Wednesday and Saturday morning
Curemonte—Wednesday evening from mid-June until mid-September
Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne—Wednesday and Saturday morning, except for Saturday following the local fair which is held on the first and third Friday of each month. In July and August, a local produce market starts at 5 pm on Monday evening.
Bretenoux—Tuesday and Saturday morning
Carennac—Tuesday evening in summer
Explore Château de Montal and Château de Castelnau-Bretenoux
Take a taxi from Biars-sur-Cère or Bretenoux to the sixteenth-century Château de Montal. A brochure (available in many languages) will guide you through the beautifully decorated rooms which provide a fascinating insight into the daily life of the nobility.
As you leave Bretenoux and continue on your walk, you’ll reach Château de Castelnau-Bretenoux, a thirteenth-century fortress where ruling barons kept an eye out for invading armies. Climb the artillery tower for stunning views of the countryside.
Go deep underground at Gouffre de Padirac
From Loubressac, a variante of the GR 652 walking path offers a shortcut to the next village of Carennac. You could follow it and enjoy a restful day but I recommend taking the longer route which passes by Gouffre de Padirac—a series of underground lakes and caves 103 metres below the surface.
From Easter until October, a guided tour takes you by boat along an underground river before you disembark and continue on foot past majestic stalagmites and stalactites.
Finish your walk in Rocamadour
Seven days of easy walking from Martel brings you to Rocamadour—an ancient village clinging precariously to the side of cliff.
It is said that Zaccheus (also known as Armadour and a servant of Mary, mother of Jesus) came to live here in the caves as a hermit, bringing with him a black, wooden statue of the Madonna. The statue is displayed in the Chapelle de Notre-Dame and many famous figures—including King Henri II of England, accompanied by Sir Thomas Beckett—have come to pay their respects over the last nine hundred years.
GR paths and IGN maps
The walk from Martel to Rocamadour follows a number of connecting Grand Randonnée paths—the GR 46, GR 480 and GR 652. There is no TopoGuide unfortunately which summarises this walk into a single book but a few easy-to-follow IGN maps will keep you on the track. You’ll need—
Martel to Turenne—follow the GR 46, IGN map 2136 ET
Turenne to Collonges-la-Rouges—follow GR 46 and GR 480, IGN map 2135 O
Collonges-la-Rouge to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne—follow GR 480, IGN map 2135 E
Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne to Bretenoux—follow GR 480, IGN map 2236 O
Bretenoux to Carennac—follow GR 652, IGN map 2236 O
Carennac to Rocamadour—follow GR 652, IGN maps 2236 O and 2136 ET
If you prefer online maps, you can use the GPS built into your phone to track your location on the IGN map using Géoportal which also shows GR paths clearly marked in purple.
Suggested itinerary for walking from Martel to Rocamadour
The walk from Martel to Rocamadour is one that is best taken slowly; an experience to be savoured and enjoyed. Each day brings new delights—your biggest challenge will be deciding whether to linger where you are or move on to discover the next village.
It is certainly possible to complete the walk in fewer than the recommended eight days, but this schedule is based around my ‘enjoy breakfast, walk ten kilometres, have a nice lunch, walk another ten kilometres and linger over dinner’ philosophy.
My suggested itinerary leaves plenty of time to lean against the stone walls of an ancient chapel and ponder the hands that built them a thousand years earlier; to look out through the observation slits in a medieval tower and imagine invading armies charging up the hill…
Day 1 Martel to Turenne (16.7 km/10.4 mi).
Day 2 Turenne to Collonges-la-Rouge (6 km/3.8 mi).
Day 3 Collonges-la-Rouge to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne (27 km/16.9 mi).
Day 4 Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne to Bretenoux (18 km/11.3 mi).
Day 5 Bretenoux to Loubressac (15.9 km/9.9 mi).
Day 6 Loubressac to Carennac (16 km/10 mi).
Day 7 Carennac to Rocamadour (26.6 km/16.6 mi).
Day 8 Rocamadour. Take a well-earned rest and explore Rocamadour.
Accommodation from Martel to Rocamadour
Villages along the long-distance walking path from Martel to Rocamadour offer accommodation at intervals to suit most walkers.
The longest section, from Carennac, requires a walk of 25.6 kilometres (16 miles) to l’Hôpital or 26.6 kilometres (16.6 miles) if you continue on to Rocamadour.
My suggested itinerary recommends a mix of long and short days to allow plenty of time for exploring Château de Castelnau-Bretenoux and for lingering in the six most beautiful villages this walk visits.
But there is an itinerary to suit every time frame and dodgy knee. Accommodation is available in the following villages, with distances given from the starting point of Martel.
(Click on the link for a comprehensive list of accommodation—updated in 2017)
16.7 km (10.4 mi) Turenne
22.7 km (14.2 mi) Collonges-la-Rouge
37.7 km (23.6 mi) Curemonte
49.7 km (31.1 mi) Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne
71.7 km (44.8 mi) Bretenoux
82.2 km (51.4 mi) Autoire
87.6 km (54.8 mi) Loubressac
103.6 km (64.8 mi) Carennac
129.2 km (80.8 mi) l’Hôpital
130.2 km (81.4 mi) Rocamadour
Where is it in France?
Map of the path from Martel to Rocamadour
Ready to go?
Download the 2018 (PDF) edition of the I Love Walking in France guidebook—Martel to Rocamadour
77 pages packed with dozens of photos, taxi phone numbers, links to accommodation websites and train and bus schedules, Tourist Offices, market days, where to find a pharmacy or an ATM, useful French phrases—and many more practical tips!