The wild Loire and its gorges
From the south of the Massif central, the Loire lives its first hours in the majestic environment of wild gorges. This is the time taken for the longest water course in France to acquire its status as a large river. Up until here, it had only been a small river.
The Loire appears to us all as an immense river crossing half of France. But before becoming the river we know, it was a stream and then a small water course.
A stream born at the foot of the famous Gerbier de Jonc (article Gerbier de Jonc), in Ardèche. A few km further on, the small water course formed from its 3 springs reaches its gorges. The stream has become a river, the Loire. Through the ages, its route among volcanic mountains has carved out towering basalt cliffs to form the gorges of the Loire.
The first murmurs of the Loire invite you on a journey. Villages dip down towards the water, nature reveals itself and the first châteaux de la Loire rise up as sentries … The village of Arlempdes, built on the summit of a volcanic peak surrounded by a meander of the Loire, proudly exhibits the remains of its castle. Arlempdes, one of “The most beautiful villages of France”, provides a charming picture for visitors. But the river only passes through and continues its way on to Goudet, beside the Loire. Here, towering above the valley, the castle of Beaufort overlooks the water and the village and heralds itself as the second castle of the Loire.
Today, the gorges of the Loire remain wild. No water sports, only a marvellous pretext for walking or riding on horseback to reach the hidden beaches where you can bathe or admire unexpected views or a spring of bubbling water.
Loop walking trails of several hours plunge down into the gorges, go along the cliffs, brush along the water course. For the keenest hikers, the GR3, long distance walking path, follows the Loire from its sources in Ardèche, crosses through the gorges before reaching Le Puy-en-Velay and then continues its route through many departements in France before flowing into the Atlantic on the border of Brittanny.
The Loire here is still a young child. Go and explore all its hidden treasures.
« I came down the hill to where Goudet stands in a green end of a valley, with Château Beaufort opposite on a rocky steep, and the stream, as clear as crystal, lying in a deep pool between them. Above and below, you may hear it wimpling over the stones, an amiable stripling of river … » v