Thursday, 19 July 2012

Walks and Footpaths in France

On our recent camping holiday to Brittany we walked some of the Breton coastal footpath GR34. This was a well laid out, easy to follow stretch of footpath which offered great coastal views.

The Breton coastline of sea inlets, coves and cliffs is particularly stunning and makes for interesting walking.  The whole GR34 route would take you over 1000 miles right around the coast of Brittany and is predicted to take about 10 weeks, but thankfully you can chose to walk just part of the way !
Depending on where you are holidaying in France, you can see if there are any routes near you.

France has a national network of long-distance footpaths or hiking trails, which are known as "Sentiers de grande randonnée". The 35,000 km of marked and signposted footpaths that make up the main network are designated by the letters GR followed by a number. More locally, you will find local hiking routes which are designated as PR paths or "Chemins de petite randonnée".
GR routes are marked (on trees, posts, stones, etc) by a short red band above a white band. PR routes are marked with a yellow band. If you see the marks making a cross shape then you have veered off onto the wrong route !

Most of the major long-distance trails run through villages so if you are hiking the whole route, then you will be able to plan for overnight stops in accommodation such as bed and breakfasts, "gîtes d'étape" (rather like small hostels), campsites or small hotels.

Examples of some of the long distance hiking trails include :

GR2 - From Le Havre, via Paris, to Dijon.
GR3 - The Loire Valley trail - From La Baule, to the source of the Loire
GR4 - The Alps-Atlantic trail: from Grasse, in the Alps, to Royan, on the Gironde estuary.
GR6 - The Aquitaine-Alps trail, from Ste. Foy la Grande, near Bordeaux, to Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye.
GR10 - The High Pyrenean trail, following the line of the Spanish border.
GR 34 - The Breton coastal footpath, from Vitré to Quimperlé.
GR 36 - The 1000 kilometre trail, from the Channel coast to the Spanish border.
GR 37 - The central Brittany footpath, from Vitré to Douarnenez.
GR 39 - The Trans-Brittany trail, from Mont St. Michel to Guérande.
GR 51 - The Mediterranean Balcony - from Marseille to Menton
GR 59 - The Jura and Bugey trail, from the Vosges to Grenoble.
GR 65 - The Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route, from Le Puy en Velay, via Conques, to the Pyrenees.
GR 2013 ® - A Brand new walking path laid out from Aix en Provence as part of the events surrounding Marseille as a European Capital of Culture for 2013
GR 223 - The Cotentin and Normandy beaches trail.
GR 700 - Regordane Way - historic pilgrimage route from Le Puy en Velay to St. Gilles du Gard.

Some Useful links : - The Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre is an excellent source of information about hiking and walks in France. The Federation represents over 3,000 local hiking clubs and aims to promote hiking.

Understanding the markings on these walking routes :

Fab interactive map of walking routes and veloroutes etc. in Brittany :

Link to the new Marseille/Aix en Provence/Provence route the GR 2013 ®

To find a map of walks in the area of France you are going then you can search on Amazon, starting with "carte de randonnees" and you should begin to find some maps.

Plesae let us know if you have any other links which walkers would find useful and which we could list here !

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