This is where I tell you all the boring bits about how to arrange a similar trip to the one Alasdair and I did.
Because time has moved on I will attempt to give an up to date gloss.
The best place to get maps is Stanfords. In Bristol we are lucky as there is a branch in town at 29 Corn Street, BRISTOL, BS1 1HT Phone: 0117 929 9966. The maps you will use most are the IGN 1:25,000 series – the ones with blue covers. These can be ordered from Stanfords over the internet through this link. The maps you use are:
|2531 ET||Chaine des Puys|
|2432 ET||Massif du Sancy|
|2534 OT||Monts du Cezallier|
|2434 OT||Riom-es-Montagnes Bort-les-Orgues|
|2435 OT||Monts du Cantal|
|2535 O||Murat Neussargues-Moissac|
This map series has been updated since we used them. THIS WEB PAGE gives you an idea of the changes. I think the main change is the price.
The Riom-es-Montagnes, Bort-les-Orgues sheet, 2434 OT, is not really necessary as you are on it for about 10 minutes only. You could easily get by without it. We of course did not use the Murat and St-Flour sheets.
Also from Stanfords I got sheet 49 in the Serie Verte 1:100,000 map (Clermont-Ferrand – Aurillac). This covers virtually the whole walk, just missing the first few miles of the first sector.
I do not see this map on the Stanfords’s site but the modern equivalent is available from the IGN site HERE. And it covers all the route we walked and hoped to walk.
The best site for getting details of train times etc, especially when cross border travel is concerned is the German Railways web site! Find it here. You can’t buy tickets on it but at least you will find which trains exist. This is not always easy on the French and (especially) the British sites.
To order tickets for your UK trains The Trainline is pretty good. Just make sure you do not restrict yourselves too much in the effort to reduce costs – like I did!
To order tickets from London to Clermont Ferrand the SNCF web site is pretty good. However it can be difficult to understand the various types of special deals. So if you want anything complicated it may be worth while phoning RAIL EUROPE TRAVEL CENTER on 08705 848 848. When phoning this number go for option 2, Trains in France, and you will get through quickly. The Eurostar option entails a long wait. In fact I never got through to anyone on that option. The address of RAIL EUROPE TRAVEL CENTER is 179 Piccadilly, LONDON W1V 0BA
When booking tickets which entail crossing Paris, remember to leave enough time. Although the RER lines are very fast.
Local trains in France are best booked on the spot.
We tried to arrange accommodation in Paris with the French Youth Hostels, but to little avail. They would not take internet reservations. What they will do is, if the hostel is full (and it will be!), redirect you to, and reserve a room for you, at a nearby hotel, for a modest fee (10F each). Nowadays I see that they say they will take bookings by Fax.
The Youth Hostel in Le Mont Dore proved to be very satisfactory.
Otherwise we stayed in small hotels and generally there were plenty of them. All of them were at least satisfactory. None disappointed. We were disappointed in Lugarde where the hotel had recently closed. I hope the hotel in Saulvet-le-Froid is still open, but I can see no mention of it on the internet.
There are several Gites d’Etape on the route and we stayed in the one in Lugarde. But I know very little about them. We looked for the gite in Egliseneuve but could not find it! There is a site here which lets you know where the gites are – but it comes with a plethora of pop-ups. You have been warned!
Accommodation availability changes so fast that any advice I give would soon be wrong – so you are on your own!
The organisation which looks after the GR system is the FFRP. They produce walking guides on which Alan Castle’s guide is based, and their catalogue can be viewed online, in French. I have not tried to, but it can also be ordered from the site. Many of the guides are available from Stanfords.
THIS is the site for the Grande Randonnee nowadays.
Expenditure on our walk in the Auvergne
The figures are in French Francs
Accommodation costs are recorded for the day arrived at the Hotel.
£253 – London to Clermont Ferrand
£38.85 – Bristol to London
£45 – London to Bristol