September 1878. Robert Louis Stevenson, 28, starts in Monastier-sur-Clermont a 12-days hiking trip that will become the GR®70, one of the most famous trail in France.
Tormented, heartbroken, the apprentice writer from Scotland intended to visit the mythical Cevennes he only knows from stories when he was a child: protestant, revolted and clandestine. But confused by old maps, he only entered the heart of the Cevennes 4 days before he arrived in Saint-Jean-du-Gard. His hiking trip bring him through the Velay, the Gevaudan and the Mont Lozere, from North to South.
Itinerary of the GR70
Stevenson’s original trip has been slightly redesigned and extended from Le Puy-en-Velay to Ales to become the GR®70. The trail is now 252 kilometers long.
From Le Puy to Langogne (66 kilometers), the hiking trail crosses the Loire river two times, first in Coubon then in Goudet. This is the the Velay, part of French region Auvergne. Heading South-East, the hiker first follows the GR®430 to Monastier-sur-Gazeille, where Stevenson started his trip. The famous GR70 really begins here. The path first goes south-west to le Bouchet-St-Nicolas before heading South to Langogne. The hiker will enjoy rural landscape, stepping from highlands to valleys.
Crossing the Allier river in Langogne, the hiker enters the Languedoc Roussillon French region and the Gevaudan.
The Gevaudan is particularly famous in France because of the Beast of Gevaudan, who attacked and terrorized humans in the 1760s. Stevenson described the incident: “For this was the land of the ever-memorable Beast, the Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves. What a career was his! He lived ten months at free quarters in Gévaudan and Vivarais; he ate women and children and “shepherdesses celebrated for their beauty”; he pursued armed horsemen (…)”
From Langogne to la Bastide-Puylaurent (35 kilometers) the GR70 first takes the hiker South-West before following the Allier valley.
- Leaving the GR70 for the GR700 South of Langogne is a shortcut. It connects Langogne to Luc without passing by Cheylard-L’Eveque
- In Rogleton, instead of following the GR70 along the Allier river, head East (no markings) in the forest. Then connect with the GR7 (to the South the West) and you will be able to find the abbey Trappe de Notre-Dame-des Neiges. Stevenson stopped there in 1878.
I’ve spent my life looking for a pure and exhilarating adventure like the travellers of old used to go on. This morning I found myself in a strange, wooded part of Gévaudan…I was disoriented and felt like the first man to set foot here.
From La Bastide-Puylaurent to Le Pont-Montvert (47 kilometers), the path goes through the Mont Lozere. 5 kilometers after le Bleymard, the trail reaches the Mont Lozere ski resort, gate of the Cevennes National Park. The summit of Finiels (1699 MASL) is the highest point of the trek.
The heart of the Cevennes
Slightly after Le Pont-de-Montvert, the path enters the Cevennes National Park again, heading towards Florac. The hiker is now at the heart of the Cevennes, Stevenson’s dream territory. From Florac to Alès (77 kilometers), the hiking trail heads South-East among chestnut trees. It passes by St-Jean-du-Gard, where Stevenson finished his hiking trip.
Highlights of the GR70
The GR70 is a beautiful trip but do not expect challenging ascents or extreme adventure. You will however meet France from the inside and its heritage, fellow hikers seeking serenity in beautiful and quiet scenery.
In the heart of an ancient volcanic area, Le Puy is of medieval atmosphere. One of France’s top lace city, Le Puy is also famous for its cathedral and Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe, a chapel built in 969 on a volcanic plug 80 meters high. Do not miss the local green lentil before you go.
The GR70 passes by several noticeable castles. For exemple, the ruined chateau (castle) de Beaufort (XIIIth century) is located along the upper reaches of the Loire river near the village of Goudet. In Luc, the castle built in the XIIth century is now ruined but was one of the major castle of the area. At Saint-Germain-de-Calberte, the Chateau de Saint-Pierre (XIth century) is entirely restored. Close to Florac, the castle at Saint-Julien-d’Arpaon (XIIIth century) now falls into ruin. However it is still one of the best preserved in Gevaudan.
In this pleasant humour I came down the hill to where Goudet stands in a green end of a valley, with Château Beaufort opposite upon a rocky steep, and the stream, as clear as crystal, lying in a deep pool between them.
…[the hill] came to a point in the ruins of the castle of Luc, which pricked up impudently from below my feet, carrying on a pinnacle a tall white statue of Our Lady, which, I heard with interest, weighed fifty quintals, and was to be dedicated on the 6th of October…
In addition, Florac also has its castle. Now it hosts the Cevennes National Park office. This little town now called Florac-Trois-Rivieres is very nice, typical and picturesque. It is quite busy in summer.
Access to the GR70
Access by train
Le Puy-en-Velay is connected with Saint-Etienne and Lyon from the East and with Clermont-Ferrand from the West.
A North-South line from Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes crosses the itinerary at Langogne, Luc, la Bastide Puylaurent and Alès.
To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.
Pictures Michel Verdier @ Association Stevenson. The association can help you organize your trip and provide a list of associated accommodation.