Wild France

Posted by Mark Armstrong 15th February 2016

In our review of Monty Don's book Road to Le Tholonet I noted that he was a regular visitor to France and each visit reminded him of how big the country is. "The range of landscapes is astonishing and ....... there are still vast tranches of the country that are unspoilt, sparsely populated and staggeringly beautiful." He finds the 'empty vastness of France' compared to the 'pretty clutter of Britain,' 'stimulating and exciting.' In this blog, I take a look at some of this French 'wilderness.'

Gorgeous

Deep valleys and gorges can offer secluded and wild areas with tumbling streams and dramatic waterfalls, making for a wonderful walking holiday experience.
In the Ardeche our walking holiday explores the beautiful area of Tanargue in the Ardeche Regional Park as well as the lower valleys close to Aubenas. The world famous Ardeche gorge is as impressive for its remarkable underground caverns, as it is for its 25km gorge that cuts its way back and forth through the limestone plateau. See Tour of Ardeche: Rustic Trails

In the Jura our guided walking holiday explores the gorges or “reculee” from above and below, including the Herisson valley which contains a breathtaking collection of 31 waterfalls in a 3km stretch. The two most famous of the falls are the Eventail with its series of steps and the Grande Cascade which plunges 60m. Our Jura Wine Trail takes a linear course from Arbois in the north to Baume les Messieurs in the south, the dramatic location for the confluence of 3 branches of the gorge. See Jura Wine Trail

The Hills Are Alive

Some of the wild mountainous regions of the Alps are home to an abundance of unique flora and fauna.
The Queyras landscape is as diverse as it is spectacular. A large part of it is designated a regional park which seeks to reconcile the protection of wildlife and man’s traditional activities. Its fauna and flora is exceptional with chamois, ibex, wolves, marmots, golden eagles and a vast array of rare wild flowers. See Tour of Queyras: An Alpine Secret

The Mercantour is acclaimed for being one of the wildest and most unspoilt parts of the French Alps. The proximity to the south coast of France, gives these alpine mountains a Mediterranean touch with a large diversity of wildlife. There are over 2000 species of plants, 40 of which are only found in the Mercantour mountains, including types of saxifrage and orchid. Animals include deer, wild boar, chamois, mouflons (thought to be one of two original ancestors of all modern day sheep) and a population of over 1,000 alpine ibex. See Marvels of Mercantour

The Vercors Regional Park in France is made up of large valleys, limestone plateaux, deep gorges and gigantic cliffs over 1500 feet high. It is a haven for a multitude of wildlife with deer, wild boar, hares, chamois, marmots and the bouquetin (ibex) roaming the upland slopes. As for the flora, there are 80 protected species represented, including the Sabot de Venus and wild tulips. See Panoramic Vercors

Ever dreamt of traversing the Alps? Well, now you can on our Alpine Adventure holiday which follows the French Alps all the way from Lake Geneva to Nice going via the Mont Blanc range, the Vanoise and Mercantour National Parks, as well as the Queyras Regional Park. See Alpine Adventure Lake Geneva to Chamonix - Chamonix to Briancon - Briancon to Nice

Tour de Force

The heart of southern France is made up of one vast upland region the size of Scotland, known as the Massif Central.
At its core is Auvergne with its dramatic volcanic peaks. In the north a sea of perfectly formed volcanic cones pepper this extraordinary landscape. With some volcanoes as young as 7000 years old, this geologically unique site lets you walk back in time to an era when lava and hot ash filled the skies. Central Auvergne is home to some larger and slightly older volcanoes, where glacial erosion has laid bare their volcanic rocks to reveal amazing natural wonders, including strange rock towers and beautiful waterfalls. See Auvergne - Volcanoes, Lakes & Historic Villages

In the southern Auvergne, the Cantal mountain region is one gigantic ancient volcano rising from the plains below. It's formation took place between 13 million and two million years ago. Measuring more than 60km in diameter, the Cantal volcano may have been about 3000m high during its formation. Collapse and then erosion by ice and water has since created a series of ridges, peaks and valleys of stunning beauty that you'll simply never tire of. See Cantal Mountains: The Rugged Heart of France

The Haute Loire, in the southern Auvergne, is for the most part a gently undulating plateau. However, these wide open spaces are punctuated by small volcanic hills (known as Sucs), circular lakes, woodland and secluded valleys with tumbling streams. One of the more unique volcanic structures of the world 85m column of lava that forms the pedestal on which sits the Chapel of St. Michel d’Aiguilhe in Le Puy en Velay. This steep-sided tower is thought to be the lava-filled throat of an extinct volcano that resisted the effects of erosion much better than the rest of the cone, which has long since washed away. See Tranquil Auvergne Trail

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