HighlightsScillé | Les Cinq Communes Walk| | Le Beugnon Lakes Picnic | Route de Fenioux | Faymoreau | Marais Poitevin (Green Venice) | Butchers Wood walk | Vouvant | Swimming pool | Excellent food and wine | Marvellous ambience
Description of Self guided walking holiday in France
Self-guided walking holidays commence most Sunday afternoons from May to September. Professional, easy to follow route-notes and high-lighted large-scale maps are provided together with friendly advice and information. The length of walks can be varied to suit you.
A glorious rural paradise with miles of secluded paths and lanes in unspoiled and varying countryside. In this unspoiled region there are oodles of birds, butterflies and wild flowers to see. Delightful walking and idyllic surroundings with many varied and interesting routes to choose from.
Based at a wonderful little Maison d'Hôte (guest house) in Deepest Rural France where exceptional hospitality is based on superb cuisine, plenty of excellent wine and a marvellous ambiance.
The Maison d’Hôte is alluringly off the beaten tourist track and yet easily accessible by EuroStar and TGV to Niort, by road with good links from cross channel ferry ports and by air with convenient airports at la Rochelle, Poitiers, Nantes and Paris CDG. The Maison d’Hôte is 100km inland from la Rochelle and 100km south of the Loire.
Leisurely en-famille four-course evening meals following aperitifs-at-seven are a much enjoyed feature of this holiday. Cuisine is based on wholesome local ingredients, skilfully prepared and pleasingly presented. Accommodation and amenities - in a restored 17thC millhouse - are excellent and include a heated pool.
The walking circuits are suitable for experienced and moderately experienced walkers. Introductory circuits are also available, although it is necessary to be reasonably fit to enjoy the walking on offer. Additional routes are available in the Marais Poitevin and in the region of Mervent Forest and Vouvant for guests with their own transport.
The season is May to September. April, May and June are popular walking months with glorious spring weather, verges full of wild flowers and the countryside abounding with new life. July to September is pleasantly agreeable for walking when the weather is warm and generally not too hot.
There are many other things to do and see as well as to walking. Cycling and simply relaxing holidays are also available at the Maison d'Hôte. In addition, this region - now called Nouvelle-Aquitaine - is rich in sites of historic, cultural and natural interest.
Prices include accommodation, maps and route-notes, breakfasts, packed lunches, aperitifs and leisurely four-course evening meals. All coffee, tea, wine, beer, cider and soft drinks are also included – tea and coffee are available in the rooms and a well-stocked drinks fridge is available 24/7, without charge. There are no extras to pay on this holiday – even the postcards are free.
The blend of wonderful walking, idyllic surroundings, plenty of things to do and see, exceptional hospitality, a marvellous ambiance and a reasonable price make this a very agreeable, relaxed and fulfilling holiday.
Holidays at the Maison d'Hôte at not suitable for families with young children.
Our top tip: Easy to reach by TGV train from Paris, stopping at Niort station, where your hosts can meet you. Trip type: Self-guided, centre based. Activity level: Leisurely. 14-20 kms per day. Accomm: Family-run guesthouse with pool. Included: Accommodation, all meals, all drinks, walking itineraries. Solos: Solo travellers welcome. One single room available with no surcharge per week.
|Day 1:||Sentier d’Interpretation - 6km/4miles. An afternoon walk to stretch your legs after the journey. The route is way marked and gives a chance to become orientated in the delightful countryside. Gently undulating, pretty and unspoiled. Even on a Sunday you will see few other people.|
|Day 2:||Option 1 – Les Cinq Communes Walk - 14km/9miles. Up a rocky track through woods, where orchids can be seen in spring. The route goes south through a patchwork of timeless cattle pastures, woods and ancient hedgerows. You will see medieval pantiled farmhouses and a 1619 fortified farm. At the appropriate times of year, there are swallowtail butterflies, skylarks, hoopoe and hen harriers, to name a few. There is a bar at le Beugnon, a short detour away. Option 2 – Route du Busseau - 23km/14miles. Cross the stream by the ford (or use the foot bridge if you prefer), and climb to the east through woods to the open pasture. Continue west where families of immaculate Parthenaise cattle can usually been seen peacefully grazing. Visit the 1,000-year-old churches in the villages of Scillé and le Busseau. In spring and early summer there is a profusion of wild flowers.|
|Day 3:||Option 1 – Coulonges Country Market & St Pompain - 10km/6miles. A car is needed to get to Coulonges and St Pompain. Total driving for the day is 44km (26½miles) and 25 minutes on quiet country roads. Drop in on the colourful local produce market at Coulonges-sur-l’Autize on Tuesday morning, where the locals meet and shop. See the last remaining pissoire in the whole world. Walk in the venelles of St-Pompain. Climb the abandoned viaduct, have a picnic by the Roman bridge and stroll in the cool walnut groves. Option 2 – Scillé and les Jinchères - up to 15km/9miles An intriguing labyrinth of pleasing lanes and tracks north of the accommodation. You’ll probably not see another soul. You pass through cool woods with clear streams, meadows and pastures and an ancient pixie bridge. Our map shows all the paths that are open in this delightful sector, so you can choose how far you wish to walk.|
|Day 4:||Le Beugnon Lakes Picnic. (Short route - 13km/8miles. Long route - 19km/12miles). A leafy valley leads through pastures, woods and orchards. A sylvan lane carpeted in wild garlic leads to a mouth-watering spread beside the lakes. We bring the picnic to you with chilled rosé and sunlight dappling the table cloth. You may see hoopoe, hen harrier, golden oriole, kingfisher, various woodpeckers and plenty of other birds and butterflies. If you choose the shorter option, a visit to Faymoreau is possible later in the afternoon, where an interesting exhibition of Faymoreau coal mines that operated until 1958 and the striking modern stained glass of Carmelo Zagari may be seen.|
|Day 5:||Option 1 – Route de Fenioux - 26km/16miles. Spring-flowered meadows where otters have been seen. Hazel and walnuts in the autumn hedgerows. The sleepy village of La Fazilière has a way marked detour to the restored lavoir and steeping-ponds of the ancient basket makers. See loads of birds and butterflies. Stop for a refreshing drink in the friendly bars at Fenioux. Option 2 - Marais Poitevin (Green Venice) - 9km/5miles or more. A vast patchwork of canals, pastures and woods dotted with picturesque “port” villages. Built by medieval monks to tame a vast river delta on the Atlantic. Numerous waymarked walks as wall as the renaissance abbey at Maillezais to explore. Hire a boatman and see the original fire-on-the-water. Eleanor’s Abbey at Nieul-sur-l’Autize is on the route out, between Coulonges-sur-l’Autize and Maillezais – it is particularly recommended for a visit in case of inclement weather.|
|Day 6:||Option 1 – Butchers Wood - 18km/11miles. Southwest to the drowsy village of le Beugnon, la petite suisse and magnificent deciduous forests. A (winding) Roman road! Cherries, plums, apricots, figs, apples, medlars, walnuts and hazelnuts in the hedgerows (not all at the same time of course). You will see hardly another person on this walk. There is a bar in le Beugnon. Option 2 - Mervent Forest & Lakes and Vouvant. (Short route - 5km/3miles. Medium route - 7km/4miles. Long route - 11km/7miles.) The selection of three walks can be combined if you prefer a longer distance. Majestic deciduous forest, winding paths, dappled sunlight and wonderful lake and forest vistas. Visit a lakeside bar, Mervent dam and the grotto de Père de Montford. The fortified medieval village of Vouvant is also convenient to visit on this itinerary, where a charming one hour promenade takes in the medieval ramparts, Melusine’s keep, postern gates, shaded riverside paths, etc. There are also cafés, bars and painter’s studios in Vouvant.|
|Day 7:||Departure after a leisurely breakfast|