If we say “a French Riviera walk”. You could be forgiven for immediately thinking of Cannes‘ famous Croisette or Nice‘s Promenade des Anglais. Both are picture perfect coastal walkways which have attracted Sunday wanderers for centuries. They were, in fact, first created back in the Belle Époque era when promenading on the sea front first caught on. To this day they’re wonderful places to people watch, jog, dog walk, bike ride or sea gaze.
However, this region also offers a whole host of opportunities to enjoy an equally scenic but far more natural and peaceful walk. It took me a few years living on the French Riviera to realise that, so here are are a few of my favourites to give you a head start.
The French believe that the seafront should stay public and accessible to all, so in 1976 a law was introduced to guarantee a 3 metre deep strip of land remains accessible to the general public along the whole length of the French coastline. This coastal pathway was named “Sentier du Littoral”.
To access the footpath, head to La Reserve Restaurant on bd Franck Pilatte, at the foot of which you will find steps leading off the main road, down towards the sea.
The walk is easy and takes just over an hour to reach the pretty fishing port of Villefranche sur mer. Although popular with walkers & joggers, it’s remains peaceful and breathtakingly beautiful. (See photo above taken in Nov 2013)
These islands are certainly one of the French Riviera’s best kept secrets. I always feel a little pang of guilt when spreading the word, because they’re one of the only places locals can escape to in high season to avoid the crowded beaches.
However, even during the winter months this is the ideal place for a walk and picnic with friends or your ‘chéri’.
Ile St Marguerite is the larger of the two islands, boasting long tree lined pathways, picnic tables under beautiful parasol pine trees and isolated beaches with crystal clear waters.
Ile St Honorat has been inhabited by monks since the 5th Century, but they’re happy to welcome visitors. Wandering the pathways of this tiny island, you will come across vineyards, olive groves, chapels and a monastery.
This village may be a little tricky to get to but I’ve been thanked every single time I’ve taken people here. At 800m altitude, it is the highest perched village in the region and the view certainly proves that!
Several great pathways can be explored, but the most famous and challenging is the “Chemin du Paradis” or Pathway to Heaven, a VERY steep path zigzagging from the village all the way down into the valley. It was used by the people of Gourdon to carry fresh food and water up to the village on donkey back before they had running water or cars.
If, like me, you’re more into views, fresh air and a nice post-walk lunch than breaking a sweat, the Plateau de Cavillore may be your cup of tea.
Start this walk from the road opposite the entrance to Gourdon village. It’s well signposted from there.
Although the pathway climbs steadily you won’t have to huff & puff through any very steep uphill bits. Once you reach the plateau the views over Gourdon village and the Mediterranean sea beyond are just spectacular. (See background photo taken in Feb 2014)
En route we came across a little chapel, large fossils, holes used by speleologists to access hidden caves and lots of wild flowers.
After your walk, there are several places to grab a bite to eat. For the best views, walk into the village to find La Taverne Provencale. Or for no frills, tasty local food, try the Auberge de Gourdon.
To discover what the hinterland of Nice has to offer, catch the little rickety Train des Pignes and head to Entrevaux just an hour and a half away.
The train journey is an experience in itself because it winds through stunning countryside into the hills and towards the Southern Alps. In winter the last leg of your journey will more often than not be through snowy fields and villages.
Once you arrive in Entrevaux, explore the medieval village (don’t miss the beautiful church) before climbing up to the castle ruins for the view.
It’s quite a hike up, but my husband and I felt like big kids as we explored the abandoned ruins, hopping between rooms, hidden passages and peeking through secret windows.
Before heading home, we found a little restaurant called Le Pont Levis, just opposite the bridge at the entrance to the village. This place is wonderfully old fashioned, with traditional, perfectly cooked food and a big open fireplace. A refreshing change from the trendy, modern beach restaurants along the coast.
To book one of our drivers to take you to the starting point or pick you up after any of these walks, just Contact Us…