Unlike the Cevennes, where I took the route along the high plateau, today I am following the gently flowing River Tarn through the magnificent gorges that is has carved over the years. I start my journey in Ispagnac, a sleepy little village at the north east end of the gorges. It’s probably not so sleepy in the summer, but in February it is as quiet as the grave.
The route through the gorges follows the right hand side of the river as it weaves its way downstream. There’s very little traffic on the road, which is good, as I seem to spend most of it on the wrong side, avoiding the overhanging rock faces. I also have to squeeze through short, but low, rock-hewn tunnels, but the views down to the river and up to the sheer cliff faces on each side are worth it. Small villages seem to cling to the rock face and vultures soar overhead.
After 17kms I stop at the village of Sainte Enimie, named after the sister of King Dagobert, who found a cure for her leprosy in the local Burle spring and set up an abbey. There is a small hermitage dedicated to her memory set high up in the cliff face above the village and built into the rock. I follow the narrow footpath, marked by the Stations of the Cross, which climbs steeply up to the hermitage building. Then I continue on to a viewpoint overlooking the village and the valley far below, finally following the road back Sainte Enimie and the deep blue source of the spring that she discovered.
The road continues along the gorges through the Cirque de Pougnadoires and the Cirque des Baumes. When I reach the village of Les Vignes, I take a route recommended by well-informed lady at the Tourist Office in Sainte Enimie. It is a steep and winding road up to the Point Sublime but I’m assured that it is worth it. Unfortunately, by the time I arrive the clouds have descended, it’s trying to snow and the panoramic viewpoint is not as sublime as it should be.