4+ hour Walks (with lunch)
La Vacquerie ***
The Auberge des Causses at La Vacquerie is highly recommended for lunch or dinner, but the pleasure is greatly enhanced by arriving on foot. The route takes you up to the Plateau de Courcol, involving a climb of some 400m and a distance of about 10Km. You need a minimum of 3 hours just to get there but allow extra for scenic stops and rests. If you don't relish the walk back, arrange for a taxi to pick you up after your meal.
We have described two ways to get to La Vacquerie and one return route. The first outbound is harder as you climb an extra 100m and it takes 30mins longer but it provides greater scenic variety. The second is more or less the same as the return route but has the advantage of offering a cheat! See La Vacquerie shortened route below.
For the first part of the walk, follow the directions for the Bergerie de Courcol, though you will probably not have time to mount the Puech Haut summit. Continue on the track past the bergerie and turn left when you hit the forest track after 50m or so. You are now on the GR7 (grande randonnée); follow its red and white markers over the Plateau de Courcol on a mixture of track and path all the way to La Vacquerie. The Courcol is a narrow peninsular from the Larzac plateau at a height of 700 - 750m and if you take a short diversion left or right you will be rewarded with views north to the Cevennes Mountains and south to the Mediterranean plain.
Follow the directions to Parlatges. When you get to the path down to the village marked by yellow stripes go past it for a few hundred metres and take the path, also marked by yellow stripes, uphill to the right. This will take you on a strenuous, 2 stage climb up to a higher contour road where you turn left. Follow this gently rising road until you reach a junction. Turn right and, after another 2-300m left on to a metalled road (LOE3). The first track to your right after just a few mins will take you to La Vacquerie.
If you are brave enough to return by foot, find the Ancien Chemin de Parlatges (marked by ceramic plaques) by taking one of the alleyways opposite the auberge and turning right after 30 metres or so. (This is the same chemin by which you arrived if you took the 2nd option.) Follow the track without diverting until, after 30 mins or so, you reach a T junction. Turn left on this metalled road and take the 1st proper road to the right (there are 2 other tracks) where there is a “feux interdits” sign. At the following T junction, after 2-300 m, turn left and follow this gently declining contour path for several Km (ignore the yellow marked path downhill, even if you came that way) as it twists and turns above Parlatges village and below the massive rock outcrops of the northern edge of the Plateau de Courcol. The track ends by joining a steeply descending metalled road (LOE3) which takes you down to the LOE2 on which you set off some 8 hours before! Turn left for home.
La Vacquerie cheat (shortened route)
If you want to knock 2 hours off the walking time without totally losing the sense of achievement, you can drive to Parlatges and park at the entrance to the village. Walk down to the bottom of the village and cross the stream. Turn left and follow the path (marked with yellow stripes) up to a forest track and turn left. You are now on the 2nd outbound above. Return from La Vacquerie the same way.
There is a very good café/bar in Soubès (pronounced “Soo- bess”, emphasis on 2nd syllable) which can be reached by 2 or 3 routes along quiet roads within 90mins on foot. Perhaps the best routing to take advantage of the scenery and sun-position is to go out via the road south of the D25 and the Rivière Brèze and back along Chemin de Molenty which is north of the D25, both routes being roughly parallel to the D25.
Set off as for Aubaïgues. On reaching the village look for the path near the chapel threading between the cottages leading down to a lower road where you turn left and cross the stream. Follow this road, bearing right at the first intersection, until you come to a T-junction with a tarred road after a few hundred metres. Turn left and follow this heavily wooded road (Les Condamines) parallel to the river for several Kms, passing the acclaimed wine domaine, Mas Fabregous, and the Camping des Sources campsite.
300m past the campsite look out for a track down to the river which it crosses and then rises up to the main road through Soubès (D25). Turn left and, soon after, find a path uphill on your right which leads up to the Place du Terral where the Cafe du Terral is situated, next to the post office and opposite the shop. (If you miss the path down to the river, don’t worry, the road comes to a T, turn right and right again on to the D25. After crossing the river, there are several routes up to the Place du Terral)
Turn left on leaving the café and go past the chateau and the school, through a crossroads, to a T junction. Turn left uphill and after 20 or 30m, just below the Maison Rouvière, take the road to the right, labelled Chemin Farrat. At the fork after approx 200m, bear right (don’t stay on Chemin Farrat, which is an ancient Roman paved path rising several hundred metres to the top of the causse (plateau), although this is a wonderful walk in its own right – see below) and follow this almost level track round the side of the hill towards St Etienne de Gourgas, where it becomes the tarred Chemin de Molenty. After passing several urban roads left and right you’ll see a path downhill to your right. Take this which leads into Chemin des Graves. After another few metres take another path downhill to the right which will lead you down to the main tarred road between the village and the hamlet of Gourgas. Turn right and you’ll hit the D25 after 2-300m. Turn left and after crossing the river and passing the mairie, take the road to Aubaïges and thence home.