Le Puy to Conques, France
The Way of St James - 210 km, 13 days
THE LE PUY TO CONQUES WALK is one of the best loved walks in France. This walk takes you over a number of ranges and valleys including the Auvergne plateau and the Lot River valley. We start off in the marvellous city of Le Puy-en-Velay (Le Puy) with its Black Madonna, Sauges with its wooden sculptures, Espalion and Estaing with their bridges and Conques with its Abbey church and dedication to St. Foy.
ALISON RAJU wrote one of the original guidebooks ‘The Way of St James’, which is a useful book, with maps, route directions and accommodation suggestions.
The Le Puy to Conques route is 210 km long and for those contemplating this trail for their walking holiday in France, planning is required. Although the GR 65 (Grand Randonnee) path is well marked, a map and compass is required as you can find yourself meandering off the route.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE WALK: Le Puy to Conques Route: Starting from Le Puy, the 210 km trail wends its way westwards and ends at Conques, an old pilgrimage centre. The French countryside is definitely picturesque and there are some steeper sections to cross.
The terrain is quite variable, taking you through warm flat regions to colder, wetter river valleys. Good footwear, and a range of walking clothes including wet weather gear is neccessary to make your journey a pleasant and memorable one.
Luggage transfer: This efficient service is readily available and can be organized through a number of tour operators on the ‘self-guided’ or ‘guided’ itineraries.
Your Le Puy to Conques Accommodation: This is usually in auberges or hotels and should be booked in advance. Other options include Gite détapes and youth hostels which we advise to book in advance.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS: Le Puy’s conical hills and the chapel of St Michael, Chapel of St Roche near St Privat D’Allier, Church of St Pierre Bessejouls, burons (shepherds huts) on the Auvergne, Tours des Anglais at Aubrac, St. Come-d’Olt with the church of the twisted spire, and the chapel of St Foy in the woods outside Conques.
WALKING ROUTE PLANNER: The number of days required depends on how fit and how quickly or leisurely you want your walking holiday to be. Work out the average number of kilometres you are prepared to do in a day, taking into account the landscape and the town or village in which you will end your day. It's also nice to plan on arriving a little earlier in a village if there are interesting attractions you may like to visit, such as in Aumont Aubrac or Espalion. We did the walk in 13 days, however it's also possible to do it in 10 days.
READ THIS COMPANION GUIDE BEFORE YOU WALK
Your COMPANION GUIDE for Le Puy to Conques
LE PUY TO CONQUES.
This will prepare you for your journey and give you that "edge" which can make a journey so enjoyable.
French Camino History.
French Culture and Food.
Sites to Visit.
Gear to Take.
Challenges and Rewards.
Price includes Post.
AN IDEAL COMPANION GUIDE for all walkers setting out for LE PUY to CONQUES.
ITINERARY for Le Puy to Conques - 210 km
The following is an outline of the 11-day (includes rest day) walk itinerary that we chose. We decided on this itinerary because of the reasonable distances and the available accommodation.
- Begin at: Le Puy-en-Velay.
- How to get there: Take a train from Paris Gare de Lyon to St. Etienne, and then a local train to Le Puy.
Walking itinerary: 11 days (includes rest day)
- Day 1. Le Puy- St Privat d'allier (22 km). - After exploring Le Puy the previous day, the GR 65 soon takes you out into the countryside. Climb out of Le Puy and onto a large plateau passing small villages and a chapel dedicated to St. Roch, the patron saint of pilgrims.
- Day 2. to Sauges (18 km). Up out of the valley and along the trail to Saugues. Stay at the hotel which is the traditional meeting place for all pilgrims coming from the Auvergne region.
- Day 3. to Les Faux (25 km). Continue along the valley to Clauze past forests of pines. Visit Chapelle-Saint Roch with a statue of St. Roch with his dog. Some pilgrims may prefer to walk a part of today’s route and take the local coach the rest of the way.
- Day 4. to Aumont Aubrac (27 km). Visit the village of St. Alban and its Romanesque church. Desolate region, treeless yet with wild flowers, we follow part of the old Roman road of Agrippa into Aumont. Some pilgrims may prefer to walk a part of today’s route and take the local coach the rest of the way.
- Day 5. Rest Day. Time for relaxing, or exploring the local villages and towns.
- Day 6. to Nasbinals (26 km). Cross the remote and vast plateau of Aubrac. Warm clothing advised (except July/August). Burons- huts built of lava and granite topped by limestone slabs. Drailles – old drove roads. Follow the forest path. Take lunch.
Nasbinals- market town with 11th century Romanesque church. Statues of St. James and St. Roch inside. Some pilgrims may prefer to walk a part of today’s route and take the local coach the rest of the way.
- Day 7. to St Chely d’Aubrac (17 km). Tiny hamlets and ancient bridges. Lunch at Aubrac. Aubrac – The village was founded by a Flemish knight who was attacked by bandits while on his way to Santiago. On his return journey he was almost killed during a wild storm here. He decided to build a pilgrim refuge on the site of his deliverance. Aubrac is a great transhumance centre where livestock is moved to and from for seasonal grazing. Walk past the Tour des Anglais, constructed in 1353 as a defence against the English during the 100 years War. Pass the ruins of Templar castle and make our way down into St. Chely.
- Day 8. to Espalion (26 km). Take lunch. Some pilgrims may prefer to walk a part of today’s route and take the local coach the rest of the way. To the Lot Valley. St-Come-d’Olt is classified as a “Les plus beaux villages de France.” The village of Espalion with its pilgrim bridge.
- Day 9. to Estaing (11 km). Church of St. Pierre-de-Bessuejouls has a chapel of pink sandstone. Estaing has the festival of St. Fleuret in which costumed folk follow a procession to commemorate St. Jacques and pilgrims. The chateau of the Counts of Estaing is now a monastery with mass said daily.
- Day 10. to Espeyrac (25 km). Take lunch or have it at Golinhac. Some pilgrims may prefer to walk a part of today’s route and take the local coach the rest of the way.
- Day 11. to Conques (13 km) - your destination! Walk through Senergues with its picturesque castle. A dramatic descent into Conques, one of the finest hill-towns in France. Lunch at Conques. Visit shrines and relics reputed to cure blindness and restore vigour.
- How to get back from Conques: Taxi to Rodez and a train to Toulouse, then to Paris. Another option is: 08.15 bus to Rodez train to Toulouse about 5 hrs, then to Paris.
Walking this old pilgrim path is a real treat. You get to stay in some wonderful inns in ancient villages. The scenery varies every day. Conques is a remarkable place. There is a lot to see on this 210 km journey through France, so don't forget to bring your camera. Be prepared for wonderful walking. The GR 65 is a French gem, and the village churches and restaurants will delight you.