Architecture in the Queyras, French Alps
Our guided and independent walking holidays in the Queyras in France explore a number of villages with distinct and different styles.
The village of Ceillac situated on a level plain at the confluence of two mountain streams, is a farming community and an important centre for traditional and modern wood carving in the Queyras mountains, with a number of local stores. This is just one of a number of local traditions is this beautiful corner of the Alps in France. There are two large carpenter’s crosses in the town. The old village retains a number of historic buildings built in the local style. The architecture here is specific to this valley with a compact and austere character with squat buildings, not often open to the road. Built in an L shape, the buildings here have one or two stories in stone with the upper storeys (loft, beams, roof) in wood (mainly Larch). The ground floor, usually vaulted and partly underground, would have housed both animals and the farmer’s family. The first floor would have been for bedrooms and storage, whilst the loft above was for storing hay and cereals. The 19th century church of Saint Sebastien in the heart of the village is of architectural interest with a tower containing 6 bells, whilst the 15th century church of Sainte Cécile, situated at an isolated location at La Clapière has a tall spire. Our guided walking holiday includes a beautiful walk which starts from near the village and leads to the stunning lake Ste Anne underneath the highest summit in the French Queyras. Our independent walking tour of the Queyras stops at Queyras on its second night.
Next stop after Ceillac on our self-guided walking holiday, after passing by the Col des Estronques, is Saint Véran. Saint Veran is said to be the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe at 2020m or 6,622ft. It is a pretty, well-preserved village, classified as one of the prettiest villages in France. There are a large number of traditional historic properties whose form is without doubt the most original of all the Queyras types. Characterised by the preponderance of wood, the houses are composed of three distinct parts. The hay lofts are large and open on their sunny side with balconies and galleries. The Musée Le Soum is housed in the oldest house in the village, a typical dwelling built in 1641. The building has now been converted to a museum, dedicated to the lives and traditions of the village. Most of the dwellings are separate from one another allowing the sun to penetrate between the houses and along the roads. The sunshine is an important theme in Saint Véran with around 20 historic buildings having sundials painted on their walls. You'll have ample occasion to explore this fascinating village on our guided alpine walking holiday: Queyras - Best Kept Secrets in the Alps.
After passing by the Col Agnel and the beautiful Bouchouse Valley the self-guided walking circuit descends to the Guil Valley. Built essentially from wood, Aiguilles has been affected by a number of large fires, such as those in 1746 and 1829, when the entire village centre was destroyed. Many other villages of the Guil valley have suffered from fires and attacks by the Italians during the Second World War, leading to the abandonment of some and the rebuilding of others such as Ristolas where large farms were built with help from the state that still make up the majority of the village.
In Aiguilles it was the fire of 1828 that saw a number of people from the village emigrate to South America to create a new life and to create businesses. Some of them returned after having become rich and built large bourgeoisie houses in the architectural style of the times. The best examples are the Chateau de l’Auche and the Grand Hotel. A further example is the hotel Bellevue, which we often use on our independent walking holiday in the French Alps. Another surprising house is that built by Gustave Eiffel. It is built entirely out of metal with square towers. It was exhibited at Bordeaux in 1895 and then reconstructed in Aiguilles.
The Arvieux Valley in the north east of the Queyras region has a distinct architecture unique in the Queyras. The rich architecture of the local farms show the importance of agriculture in this area. The farms are large, built in a u-shape, with the building opened to the south by a series of vaulted arcades and pillars often built on 2 or 3 levels, with an artistic style from Italy. The lower floors included the stables and habitable rooms whilst the storage was on the upper floors. Stone dominates in these farms with wood only used on permanent awnings, beams and balconies. On our guided walking holiday in the Queyras you'll stay at the lovely Chalet Viso in this valley. It is also the final guest house for our independent walking holiday in this secret area of the French Alps.