Between Aumont-Aubrac and Figeac, the Chemin de Saint-Jacques passes though three of France’s most beautiful villages. The first of these is Saint-Côme-d’Olt which, if you are following my suggested itinerary, you’ll reach around lunch time on the third day of walking (or the eighth day if you started in Le-Puy-en-Velay).
(Published January 2016, updated March 2020)
Many of the highlights are located a block or two from the GR 65 path and are easily missed as you pass through.
What will you see as you wander around Saint-Côme-d’Olt?
As you enter the village, the GR 65 turns left and heads towards the church. Instead of following the path, turn right and walk one block further to find Chapelle des Pénitents.
This beautiful twelfth-century church served as a place of worship for over 800 years and is now an historical monument. Since 1930, it has been used as a cinema and community hall, and today it houses an exhibition of ‘twisted towers’ throughout France – a reference to the steeple on the parish church here in the village.
From the chapel, it is a short walk to l’Ouradou. This simple memorial honours the more than 1,500 villagers who lost their lives in 1586 when the plague swept through this region killing three-quarters of the population.
Continue on to the main square in the middle of the village where you’ll find the sixteenth-century church dedicated to Saint-Côme and Saint-Damian. The interior of the church is magnificently decorated in flamboyant gothic style and outside is a large pebble mosaic depicting the shell traditionally carried by pilgrims on their journey.
The church is perhaps best known for its unusual twisted spire, built to represent a flame – hence the ‘twisted tower’ exhibition at Chapelle des Pénitents.
On the right-hand side of the square (as you leave the church) is the mairie. Call in and ask for a map of the town. The guide—Au Pays d’Espalion—includes maps of Saint-Côme d’Olt and Espalion, which will come in handy later on.
As you explore the streets, and perhaps stop for lunch or a cold drink, check your map for the location of the old portes (gates) into the town and a short history about each one.
If you are walking in late May, you may arrive in Saint-Côme-d’Olt in time to meet the region’s migrating cattle and take part in the Transhumance celebrations. I recommend that you book accommodation well in advance at this time of year as beds fill up quickly.
Between Saint-Côme-d’Olt and Espalion, the GR 65 is quite hilly. These inclines can be avoided by following an unmarked path which branches right about 1.5 kilometres (one mile) after leaving the village and more or less follows the southern bank of the river.
The climb up the first of the two hills provides a stunning view back to Saint-Côme-d’Olt. After descending through a disused quarry, the higher route leads to a large statue of the Virgin Mary from which you can soak up spectacular views over Espalion and across to Château Fort de Calmont d’Olt, perched high on another hill.
The two paths meet just before Espalion at the church of Saint-Perse. I would normally poke my head into every church we pass but this time I was just too tired to detour the twenty metres up an ever-so-slight incline!
Which long-distance walk in France visits Saint-Côme-d’Olt?
Where is Saint-Côme-d’Olt, France? Find it on Google maps
Saint-Côme-d’Olt is located 148.5 kilometres (93 miles) along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques. If you’ve been following my suggested itinerary since leaving Le-Puy-en-Velay, you’ll arrive in time for lunch on the eighth day of walking.
Click through to find my suggested itinerary for all five stages of the walk
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)
The Compostel’Bus service runs every morning, connecting Saint-Côme-d’Olt with villages along the path between Le-Puy-en-Velay and Conques and making the return journey each afternoon. Other stops include Montbonnet, Saint-Privat-d’Allier, Monistrol-d’Allier, Saugues, Villeret-d’Apchier, La Roche, Les Faux, Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, Aumont-Aubrac, Nasbinals, Aubrac, Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac, Espalion, Estaing, Golinhac, Espeyrac and Sénergues.
Tourist Office in Saint-Côme-d’Olt
You’ll find an information office at the mairie in the main square across from the church. Opening hours are listed here.
Accommodation in Saint-Côme-d’Olt
You’ll find a range of options for lodging in Saint-Côme-d’Olt, including –
Where to eat in Saint-Côme-d’Olt
There are several cafés ready to welcome hungry and thirsty walkers in Saint-Côme-d’Olt as well as bakeries and grocery stores.
If you leave Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac late in the morning (as I did), you may be ready for lunch well before reaching Saint-Côme-d’Olt. An hour or so before reaching the village, keep an eye out for Chez Muriel where you can enjoy a cold drink with homemade tarts, salads and farçous – a delicious local speciality.
Fresh food markets are held on Sunday morning.
Saint-Côme-d’Olt is one of eleven ‘most beautiful villages’ found along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques du-Puy. Find them all here.