Gorges du Tarn To The Cevennes
It’s early August 2022 and our travel diaries series leaves Saint Enimie and Malène behind, but the drive through The Gorges du Tarn continues. Soon we’ll be changing region to The Cevennes, where another epic, yet low-key landscape awaits.
Ispagnac and Quezac – Gorges du Tarn to The Cevennes
Ispagnac and Quezac are our last stops in The Gorges du Tarn region here in Southern France. Both are worthy of a visit en-route to the larger town of Florac and the Parc National des Cevennes.
At first, we don’t think we can park at Ispagnac. Despite trying the main car park, which also has a rather tight Aire, all the spaces are full. After driving round in the hot morning sun, eventually we try beyond the town itself.
Luckily, it’s here that we find a lay-by right next to the main road. Then, without hesitation, we park up whilst the going’s good.
Beyond us lies the river and a path leading to a bridge. It’s here that we notice a walking sign, with directions to the medieval town centre.
A Riverside Walk and Absent Wild Camping
Before we know it, we’re on the bridge crossing the river, heading towards gorgeous countryside in the fresh morning air.
Somehow exploring on foot seems better in the early morning. Maybe it’s the clarity of the light or the reflections here on the water. Whatever the reason, this day is a beautiful one.
It’s worth mentioning there’s few locations for wild camping in the Gorges du Tarn. Here is no exception, with rope chains blocking access to potential parking places, which once would excitedly be shared on Park4Night.
We’re sure, a few years ago, wild camping here would have been phenomenal. For now, this region is one resigned to the “used to be” box.
On the upside, the river is crystal clear with fish swimming through the shallows and serene views surrounding our route. This is idyllic, fairly remote and definitely unspoiled.
Rustic Crumbling Facades
After crossing a second bridge, the path arrives in the centre of Ispagnac, a small town from another era. It’s funny how different parts of Europe compare to the UK, in terms of habitation standards.
Here, crumbling facades from another age, bring character which would probably be written off back home. However, the rotten wood and broken plaster has a rustic appeal, making it almost homely.
We keep walking through the town, where a pleasant square and locals sipping on espresso at pavement cafe’s await. There’s some shade from the leafy trees, which is becoming more welome as the sun gets stronger. This town seems to be a bit of a maize, with one long, medieval looking narrow high street and little alleyways darting off in various directions.
There’s a few small shops, mostly selling essentials, whilst the emphasis here is on doing as little as possible. Yes, it’s a sleepy kind of place, where the river and walking routes provide the enjoyment.
Quezac Village and a special Bridge
Walking further on beyond Ispagnac, we follow more walking signs towards the village of Quezac. To be honest, we don’t really know what’s here, but it’s exercise and getting about on foot always brings the best way of seeing what’s around.
Soon, we’re walking passed a large campsite, towards a lane. Then a small car park with a height barrier, where we actually come across people camping in cars, brushing their teeth over the grass and boiling water on a stove. What did I just say about wild camping?
Leaving the sleepy looking occupants behind, the path arrives at a rather beautiful bridge. This historic stone structure crosses into the hamlet of Quezac and it’s a perfect example of time stood still.
Now, this bridge is simple yet beautiful but the most remarkable fact is that it took an incredible 55 years to build. Below are fish swimming, mingling with humans in swimwear and canoes.
Quezac turn out to be fairly cute, with narrow streets and more walking routes for those hanging round these parts for longer.
For us, it’s the turning point, where we re-trace our steps backs to the campervan, this time walking along the main road back to the lay-by.
Florac and that water – Gorges du Tarn to The Cevennes
Our drive now takes us towards the town of Florac. I’d describe this as an essentials kind of town, a place to stock up before reaching the emptiness of the Cevennes mountains.
At first we just can’t find anywhere to park. There’s supposed to be an Aire, but the circus is in town and it’s parked right over the location for motorhome parking.
Eventually, we head across a bridge spanning the river, where we manage to park on a street. This gives just enough time for a spot of lunch before wondering into Florac town centre.
Soon, we find Florac has a hidden gem, in the form of the clearest, crystal clear blue spring water, which keeps our gaze for some time. These waters are simply enticing, filling a large pond before falling into a lower level which is equally as clear and blue. If only these pools were for swimming, I think we’d be straight in without any hesitation.
By the way, Florac turns out to be really quite nice, not only does it have a sort of hippy feel, but there’s plenty of nice little shops and restaurants too.
A land of mountains and drama
Next we’re driving into the arid landscapes of The Cevennes region, where the grass is scorched but vistas of great panorama’s lie in wait.
There’s rocky outcrops appearing from limestone towers, the roads are winding and hilly and the views fabulous. Incredibly, there’s enough greenery scattered across the hills, from mature trees, bringing colour to the otherwise desert-like terrain.
It’s dry, hot and humid and we need shade.
The Roman’s first built a road over these mountains and now as we sit eating bread, cold meats and cheese, we watch Vultures fly overhead. In other words, these parts are raw with history and wildlife and miles and miles of isolation. It’s no wonder this region is now a UNESCO protected site.
Emerging into a lower valley
As we emerge into the lower valley, a tempting swim hole in a river draws us in. Here we swim for some time, taking advantage of the plunge pool type setting and the warmer water than that of the Tarn.
Now we need to find a place for the night, but so far it’s not been easy to just park up. Our stays have been limited to mainly campsites, with “no overnight” parking allowed in most parts. It seems France is changing, and still we’re finding chains blocking dirt tracks and open spaces. At the end of the day, pulling over and spending the night just isn’t as easy as you’d think.
By now, it’s not just an overnight place to park that we need, it’s water and emptying too. Luckily at St.Jean du Gard we find both an Aire and a dump. Here, we put our 1Euro into the Euro relais machine to get our supply of water and empty the loo.
As it’s not the best looking town, we choose to move on. Instead, preferring to leave the large mixed parking area next to a railway station.
Thankfully, our night stop is found at a more remote location, all be it an Aire. Located at the Grotto des Demoiselles, this Via Ferrata and climbing area is situated up a winding road, close to the town of Laroque.
We’re not alone on the large Aire, there’s a few of us sharing the vast parking area on this hot summer night.
The landscapes are undoubtedly Mediterranean now and the heat even more intense. We’re not too far from the coastal resorts of Palavos and Montpellier too. Of course, wiser folk would head for the beaches of these popular resorts.
Sitting out until late, with a couple of climbing types at the far end of the gravel parking, we watch the sun go down before retreating for the night.
Our campervan wheels move on the next morning to Laroque. We weren’t going to stop here, but a weir on the town river and canoes galore, looks interesting enough to pull over.
There’s a parking spot in the town car park, so we park up and head off into town on foot. It’s a small, historic village, with and old centre and lovely riverside setting. The best bit is the activities on the water, where those on canoe paddle the shallows before navigating a rather steep weir which resembles a very wide slide.
We watch for some time, as couples try their best to edge the canoe down the watery slope, it’s the best entertainment we’ve seen in a long while.
Next to the river are some waterside restaurants, bringing an added appeal to Laroque. After all, in the heat of Summer, there’s nowhere better than a cold beer overlooking the water.
Incredible landscapes of The Cevennes
For us, it’s time to continue in the campervan. Now, a scenic route leads us across the vast areas of arid landscapes of The Cevennes. This region is phenomenal, it’s completely raw, dramatic and historic.
There’s a few quaint hamlets that we pass through and at Mondardier we park in a picnic area for lunch, before realising there’s an Aire right in the village. In fact, the Aire is lovely, located next to a small municipal campsite, it would be a perfect place for the night if we were ready.
Now though, we’re driving on to the one big, natural attraction that’s brought us this way.
In the meantime, thank you for reading our blog “The Gorges du Tarn to The Cevennes. Don’t forget to subscribe for latest posts and the next part of our travel diaries, where we’ll be walking the incredible Cirque de Navacelles.