Walking the coast path: Le Racou to Port Vendres

This gorgeous walk along the Côte Vermeille really is a walk for all seasons - we've done it on a cloudless blue day in January, on a golden October afternoon and, best of all, in spring, when the cliff tops are full of flowers and the Thekla larks are singing. (Just don't do it if the local wind - the Tramontane - is blowing strongly, or you might suddenly find yourself taking an unscheduled dip ...). It's well-marked and easy to follow so you don't need a map - and each time we've done it, the route has been a little bit different as bits of the path have been closed for restoration work or because of cliff erosion, so although the way is marked on the local IGN walking map, that's not necessarily exactly where you'll walk! Unless you have no sense of direction at all, with the sea on one side you simply can't get lost.

In terms of walking time, this is a relatively short walk that could be done in 3 to 4 hours (there and back) at the most. However ... as you'll see, it's charms mean that like us, you'll almost certainly want to make a long day of it, even if you've done it before!

Start the walk at Le Racou ( racou means 'corner' or 'nook' in Catalan), a small beach hamlet to the south of Argelès sur Mer and one of everybody's favourite summer hangouts. It's a charming and quirky kind of place - lots of little houses built in the 30s just behind the beach, with the roads between them just sandy tracks. In 1957, the inhabitants declared independence and created the 'Racou free commune'; it's never had legal standing, but is still very much its own place, quite unlike anywhere else. It makes me think of a Mediterranean Walberswick.

The walk starts right at the southern end of Le Racou, where you'll immediately climb up above the coastline, and takes you across the cliffs, past several little coves, and across two beaches before making the climb up to Collioure. It's hard to know where to gaze - over the flowery garrigue on the cliff top, or back inland, over vineyards to the Albères.

It's worth sitting quietly to get a glimpse of the Thekla lark - this is its only French habitat.

Collioure is one of those iconic places that once visited is never forgotten, and as soon as you've arrived you know you'll always dream about coming back. It's a bit like walking into a fairy tale, with brightly coloured houses set against the astonishing blue of the sea, and the light - that same light that has inspired generations of painters - is like nowhere else. To enjoy Collioure at its best, come outside the main season, as its charms have - how can I put it? - not gone unnoticed!

You might just fall under its spell and decide to spend the rest of the day here, but if you decide to continue on to Port Vendres, walk to the little beach at the southern end of town where you'll pick up the yellow waymarks; you'll join the road for a while then the path will take you along the coast, amongst holiday homes, before depositing you at the northern end of the fishing port.

We love Port Vendres. It's a very 'real' place, without the slightly unworldly feel of Collioure: a proper working harbour with excellent fish restaurants all around. The painter Charles Rennie Mackintosh loved it too: he spent two years here close to the end of his life, and described them as the happiest years he had known: "We think it is one of the most wonderful places we have ever seen …This lovely rose-coloured land", he wrote. His final wish was that his ashes be scattered in the harbour. A special trail has been set up that takes you around the town via his paintings, with empty metal frames through which you can view the real life version of each one.

If you want to loiter all day, you can turn this into a one-way walk simply by hopping on a bus to take you back to Le Racou: it'll cost you just one euro. Otherwise, retrace your steps and go back the way you came.

Whichever option you choose, we guarantee you'll be back!

No comments:

Post a comment