The Park Naturel de Haute Languedoc is situated in an upland area to the North West of Bezier in the Languedoc region of southern France.
Rising to over 1000m this area is split by many gorges providing a variety of interesting walks.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit this area for the first time when I was asked to guide a party of ladies for 3 days. Our base in the pretty village of Rocbrun was just 10 mins away from our first walk which started in the small village of Cep by the river Orb. The whole region is a major wine growing area and after traversing the village through narrow alleys we started to work our way through terraces of vines, beautifully maintained by the local workers. The soil varied greatly with vines being grown on schist, clay and limestone give wines with quite different flavours. Most wines are a blend of grapes with Carignan & Shirraz being prominent. Once through the vineyards we climbed through sweet chestnut forests to a high point where we had a great view of the Caroux plateaux, venue for our next days walk. Chestnuts, centuries ago, was one of the staple products of this region and was exported to be used as flour in baking.
To get back to our start point we traversed a “balcon” high above the river. overlooking the bright orange limestone cliffs of the Gorge D’Orb.
Our evening ended at our Chambre d’Hote de Mimosa with a lovely meal of local ham, lamb, selection of cheese made in the valley and a superb bottle of red wine made by Rocbrun grower.
Our second walk climbed the Gorge de Colombieres to the north. Fortunately these walks are very popular in summer and the local Marie has provided plenty of parking in Colombieres.
From the car park the path is accessed via a set of steep, narrow steps and then followed a well maintained path above the gorge. Many of these paths were originally built by the Romans over 2000 years ago, to allow easier access for animals to the high plateaux in summer to escape the heat. That these tracks are still in good condition is a testament to their building skills. This is a tough walk with a climb of over 600m on rough terrain and it is a surprise to find houses built into the cliffs where people lived centuries ago. These Troglodites were tough people. Near the top of the gorge there is a gite where walkers on the GR7, a long distance walking path, can find accommodation. It is disappointing that the gite does not sell drinks! This circular walk descends the eastern flanc of the gorge where panels show details of the rock climbing sites in the gorge. Unfortunately no signs of any climbers today. Lunch was on a grassy slope overlooking the gorge and soon we were on the long descent of 600m back to Colombieres. Again, this is a Roman road and great care needed to be taken as the path is really rocky and difficult to walk on.
After another good night sleep we were ready for our last walk up the Gorge de Heric (pronounced Eric!) There wewre a few aching legs this morning so it was fortunate that the road up the gorge is a good surface. This is one of the most popular walk in the area and is done by many families. There are panels every few hundred yards giving information on the area for the children, a really great way to learn.
The rock in the gorge is gneiss, a metamorphosed rock and very popular with climbers so it was no surprise that several of the road side crags were prepared with bolts for climbers. The much bigger cliffs in the gorge have several more challenging routes.
After 90 mins walking you arrive at the tiny hamlet of Herci and fortunately a café albeit without a toilet. After a really welcome coffee our path descended through the gite garden to the bottom of the gorge where we crossed the stream via an ancient bridge. A very steep climb through chestnut terraces brought us to the col de Bardu and up to a lunch spot on a huge rock over-looking the gorge and hamlet of Bardu. The descend covered yet another Roman road following two ridges down to the village of Mons where the well named sentier des Gorges took us back to the start of our walk.
This is a region really well worth visiting, especially in the cooler months of spring and autumn. Winter can be really cold and summer far too hot but being less than an hour from the Med and with lots of places to visit the Haute Languedoc should be on every-ones places to visit.
Till the next time