The Cevennes is not only a territory of chaotic meteorological effects, of past religious wars and a hiking spot for depressed writers. More than that, it is an identity, a culture, an heritage of nature and humanity.
The complex history of the Cevennes
South of Central France, the heart of this hilly territory is situated between the towns of Ales, Ganges, Lodeve, Mende and Millau. When King Louis XIV revoked the freedom of religion, most Protestants fled outside France. But not in the Cevennes, where they hide and try to survive, fighting against the monarchy.
Before you discover the area, get prepared to learn these typical words that only exists in this particular region of France : ‘faïsse’ or ‘faisse’, which is a terrace made to turn a hilly terrain into flat platforms. This kind of engineering was used widely in rice culture in South East Asia and during the Inca period in Peru. ‘Drailles’ are drover’s roads for droving livestock from winter to summer places. When hiking throught the Cevennes you will probably take one of these ‘Drailles’. After your efforts, try a ‘bajanat’, which is a chestnut soup typical from the region.
A preserved environment
The native people used to make a living thanks to chestnut trees and a tradition of agriculture. Then the culture of silkworm brought additional wealth together with the coal extraction. From centuries, people managed to make a living in this environment, shaping remarkable landscapes.
This led the UNESCO to inscribe The Causses and the Cévennes, Mediterranean agro-pastoral Cultural Landscape as a cultural World Heritage site. Besides, a French National Park has been protecting the wildlife since 1970. And the UNESCO also preserves it with its biosphere Reserve.
The Cevennes has one of the lowest population density in France. That is one of the reason why this place is quite unique to enjoy nature while hiking, kayaking, riding a bike or a horse.
Highlights for outdoor activities lovers
The geography is made of a variety of landscape perfect for outdoor activities. Discover the limestone Causses, the granite massifs of Aigoual and Mont Lozère and schist mountains of the Cevennes. The Cirque of Navacelles is a 300 meter high canyon located between the villages of Saint-Maurice-de-Navacelles and Blandas. A good place to observe plants and animals with breathtaking views. The Mont Bouquet is a good spot for mountain bikers and hikers, while the Mont Aigoual hosts a weather station which can be visited.
The Stevenson’s trail is the name of the path pionered by RL Stevenson in 1878 after being brokenhearted. He spent 12 days between Monastier and Saint-Jean-du-Gard with a donkey named Modestine. Each day he wrote in his journal what will become Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, a book that led many fans on the Cevennes’ roads. He then met great success with Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. Today travellers and long-distance hikers follow the GR70 from Le Puy en Velay to Alès.
Lots of other trails are going through the Cevennes, like la Regordane, the GR66, the GR67 and GR68, etc.
“The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of life a little more early, to get down off this feather bed of civilisation, and to find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.”
A strong cultural heritage, low population density, beautiful landscapes are some of the reasons to choose the Cevennes for your next trip to Wild France.
Pictures Cevennes Tourism board