The seven-day walk from Martel to Rocamadour weaves through 130 kilometres (81 miles) of glorious French countryside, visiting fairy-tale castles, underground caves and passing through six of France’s most beautiful villages.
It’s a walk best taken slowly; an experience to be savoured and enjoyed.
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…
(Published May 2014, updated April 2020)
Where is it in France?
Map of the path from Martel to Rocamadour
Highlights of the walk from Martel to Rocamadour
Visit six of the most beautiful villages in France
There are more than 30,000 small villages in France but only 159 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
From Biars-sur-Cère or Bretenoux a short taxi ride will take you to Château de Montal. Built in the first part of the sixteenth century, the château has been faithfully restored and refurnished, providing a fascinating insight into the daily life of the nobility.
A brochure (available in many languages) will guide you through the beautifully decorated rooms.
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. A climb to the top of the artillery tower will reward you with stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
Guided tours are available and expositions are often held during the summer months.
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
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.
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.
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.
Accommodation is available in the following villages (click on the link for a comprehensive list of accommodation).
Distances are given from the starting point of Martel.
0.0 km (0.0 mi) Martel (H,T)
16.7 km (10.4 mi) Turenne (H,C)
22.7 km (14.2 mi) Collonges-la-Rouge (H,C,G,T)
37.7 km (23.6 mi) Curemonte (C)
49.7 km (31.1 mi) Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne (H,C,T)
71.7 km (44.8 mi) Bretenoux ((H,C,T)
82.2 km (51.4 mi) Autoire (H)
87.6 km (54.8 mi) Loubressac (H,C,T)
103.6 km (64.8 mi) Carennac (H,C,T)
129.2 km (80.8 mi) l’Hôpital (H)
130.2 km (81.4 mi) Rocamadour (H,T)
If you prefer to set your own agenda, I share the steps I take to calculate distances on any long-distance walk (using the Chemin de Stevenson as a case study)
Many walkers arrive in Rocamadour having followed the Chemin de Saint-Jacques variante from Figeac. It is possible to return to the Chemin de Saint-Jacques at Figeac or Cahors using bus services from Biars-sur-Céré, Bretenoux or Rocamadour. Timetables are available here.
Ready to go?
Download the 2020 (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!