Follow me from Salles-Courbatiès to Najac for two days of hiking between bastide towns and the Aveyron gorges. A little over 36 kilometers to cover on the GR 62b and the GR 36 towards Santiago de Compostela.
Departure by train from Najac
It is with a superb low angle view of the dungeon of the Najac Royal Fortress (200 meters above the Aveyron) that I patiently await the arrival of my train. He's there ; I settle in one of the 2 cars. That's it, the journey begins...
Short 15-minute journey to Salles-Courbatiers but first discovery: the gorges of the Aveyron seen from the train between Najac and Monteils. 11 bridges, 9 tunnels, this is the technical prowess that was achieved between 1853 and 1858 to build the 6 km of railway line linking these 2 villages.
Green, forested, landlocked and lush are the words that come to mind when I look out the window.
First stop: Salles Courbaties – Villeneuve d'Aveyron
After a first stop of the train in Villefranche de Rouergue, the train leaves to cross the causse and arrive at the station of Salles-Courbaties where is waiting for me on the platform of the very small station: Stéphanie. Indeed, what luck! She will carry my luggage to my stage this evening and I am leaving light for 7.5 km of hiking.
Here I am on the Causse de Villeneuve! I was told you'll see the Causse, it's a vast limestone plateau, arid and dry with little vegetation and lots of pebbles... Well what a surprise: reed bed, large fluke, bittern, common snipe, reed bunting, St. Martin's harrier, water rail…. Yes, a wetland on limestone soil is very rare! I cross the marsh of Montaris which gives rise to the river La Diège. If like me, you have the chance to meet a local, ask him to tell you the legend of the giant Gargantua to the source !
The Causse de Villeneuve
These beautiful white paths make me want to come back to cycle in the area.
My first step is complete; I arrive and discover the charming village of Villeneuve d'Aveyron where I find Stéphanie, my host this evening at the village stopover.
After premiere this night in the heart of the medieval city, I visit 2 steps from my accommodation Holy Sepulcher Church adorned with murals representing the legend of the hanged/dependent, a legend linked to the way to Santiago de Compostela precisely!
Second stage: Villeneuve – Villefranche de Rouergue
I'm leaving today for a 14 km hike to discover the causes flat relief, soft and easy, enough to lose me in my meditations. I sink into the oak undergrowth and hear the songs of birds, but which ones?
Cazelle or gariotte?
These dry stone constructions no longer hold any secrets for me.
À Villefranche-de-Rouergue I find the Aveyron river. My arrival in the afternoon gives me time to visit the Chapel of Saint Jacques, the Chapel of the Black Penitents et Chartreuse Saint Sauveur.
After this busy day, I take advantage of this comfortable and original room: a round bed in the Hotel Les Fleurines. Romain, the owner advised me a good table for this evening a few steps away: Style. Fresh products cooked with taste and inventiveness, I enjoy it!
Now is the time to go to sleep. I say good night to the chapel of the Black Penitents that I can see from my window before sinking into a deep sleep.
Last stop: Villefranche de Rouergue – Najac
After 3 days, while progressing, I had time to warm up! Today is my last day of walking: 22.5 km.
To start my day, again a landscape of Causse… and around La rouquette along the low walls and at the foot of the oaks, I had the chance to see orchids: the purple orchid, the male orchid but also the fly orchid and the bee orchid. Indeed, the Moor of La Borie and its classified dry lawns Sensitive Natural Area et Natura 2000 site contain rare and protected species. May was the ideal month for me to observe them.
Arrive at Monteils, I take advantage of the bakery and the grocery store in this quiet and peaceful little village to take my relaxing picnic break, lying in the freshly mown green grass by the side of the stream and the small wooden bridge.
After a coffee on the terrace at the village bar, I leave for the remaining 8.5 km.
Approaching Najac, the ground is no longer the same, the terrain is more rugged. I come across heather, broom and chestnut trees, those that have fed people and livestock for centuries.
A great reward awaits me at the end of my day: the superb medieval town of Najac ! The circle is complete
Tonight I sleep at the Oustal del Barry ! A comfortable room awaits me in the heart of the village of Najac. I am going to spend two nights there to be able to take full advantage of this exceptional medieval site.
Take advantage of the Aurillac – Toulouse train line on which you have stops in Salles-Courbatiès, Villefranche de Rouergue and Najac. Real comfort for roaming travel!