With its rolling countryside, hidden gems around every corner, and dependable weather, walking in France is an absolute pleasure. Whether it’s with or without purpose, walking the dog, integrating with the locals, or sampling local delicacies en route, there’s nothing better than getting outside and keeping fit at the same time.
With the endless network of public footpaths, charming “chemins”, miles upon miles of canal paths and vast expanses of unpopulated land, opportunities for walking in France are endless. In fact, more than 110,000 miles of possibility lies ahead of you. The weather certainly also helps to entice people into living a more outdoor lifestyle. And France has some surprising methods of enticement up its sleeve to encourage even the least enthusiastic of people into taking that stroll.
How does this country encourage walking in France to the least likely of candidates? Through food and drink of course! If you want to get your taste buds going then “Randos gourmandes” could be just your thing. Just imagine, walking in France with the benefit of delicious titbits on the way.
During summer months, most rural communes organise walks of this type at lunch or often in the evenings. Here you can not only meet the locals and walk alongside them discovering the beauty of the natural surroundings in your locality, but also sample a delicious meal along the way. It is worth noting you do need to reserve in advance.
Often the “stages” of the meal are laid out at various points along the route. And what honestly could be better than a warm up of a couple of kilometres before aperos, followed by another couple until starters, and so on? Talk about working for your meal. And yes, for the mathematically minded amongst you, due to the number of courses, randos conducted in this manner are often around 10km. But when you’re chatting as you walk with a convivial group meal thrown in, you barely notice the fact that all the while you’ve been doing something healthy.
Also on offer are “randos gourmandes” with specific themes. Often through forests and woods in search of truffles or areas renowned for their specific cheese production, some are even around the area known for creating a rice pudding flavoured with cinnamon. And of course, learning the history of provenance of all of these things is interesting. All creating the perfect fun packed day – walking in France, sampling delicacies and learning new things all at the same time.
France is famed for its meticulously organised walking holidays, which can be either guided or non-guided. The different types of terrain, from one area to another can be visibly and impressively surprising. From the high areas of rolling hills in Brittany and Normandy, the flatter plains and plateaus in the West of France, to mountain walking in the South, there are terrains to suit all levels. They’re suitable for both amateurs and the most seasoned walkers. As France was one of the first countries to form a ministry of environment in 1971, there are many national parks and regional parks dotted along these routes. A most welcome bonus for lovers of wildlife, flora and fauna.
Many companies offer tailor made walking holidays in France, using the vast system of walking trails. The benefit of using one of these companies is that the walks have been handpicked to showcase all the best viewpoints along the way. The work of plotting the route has entirely been done for you. So all you need to do is follow. And for single people looking to take holidays and meet with like minded folk, this can be the perfect answer to not feeling isolated but still enjoying a break away from it all.
Camino De Santiago
For those looking for a walk with a real purpose, what could be more appropriate than the Camino De Santiago? Famous as being the most popular Pilgrimage trek in the world, thousands make this journey year after year as a sign of faith.
The French Way is one of the most popular routes for pilgrims making the journey towards their final destination of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. This walk typically takes around 4 weeks, allowing for a few days of rest along the way. Also known as the GR 65, this long distance walking trail is part of the Grande Randonnée network extending from the French Prealps, across south central France and through the Pyrenees. With a few potential starting points in France, all routes converge at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. According to statistics in 2017, approximately 60% of pilgrims followed French Way to Santiago de Compostela.
Create your own journey
Of course, if you’re more of a nomad, you can simply choose your own path. With the vast amount of unpopulated terrain in France, holiday accommodation (particularly within more rural areas) often offers walking trails direct from your doorstep. Tourist information and town halls have maps plotting predetermined routes. And this way, you can march to your own tune entirely. Whether you take a short family stroll to tire the kids out, walk the dog, or take a long relaxing meander, just don’t forget to look up and around along the way. There is always something to see and a potential conversation starter all around you.
From old structures, no longer used (the original purpose of which may be obvious), to changing landscapes or wildlife passing through, walking in France is never boring. It’s a fantastic way of taking advantage of the great outdoors and the good weather whilst staying active. Plus, the glorious history of France is there right in front of you the whole way.
Walking in France is a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of normal life. It’s a wonderful excuse leave the technology at home, gather the family or friends together and spend quality time with nothing more on your mind than what is in front and around you. Enjoy!