An easy amble into the heart of the Pyrenees: the Cirque de la Plagne

I've lost count of the number of people who come and stay with us who think that walking (and driving!) in the mountains would be just too scary. To those - and to you, if you're one of them - we recommend this walk. It's short, it's ridiculously easy, it's nobbut a gentle climb ... but as the photos will show, you'll feel as though you're right in the heart of the high Pyrenees. And actually, you are, although you've done very little work to get there.

Here, you're in the Biros valley, these days one of the least-known and least-peopled in the Ariège - though it was once a hive of activity, with iron, lead, silver and zinc mines . You'll start the walk literally at the end of the road, butted up almost against the Spanish border and below the peak of Maubermé, higher than Mont Valier though not so well known. If you were a crow and could fly right over the mountain tops, you'd be in the Aran valley in Spain in just a few minutes (we sometimes drive there for the day: it takes us an hour and a half!).

Drive to the end of the tarmac road then continue on to Bocard d'Eylie, where you'll leave your car. There's nothing here now but a gîte d'étape, the Lez river, and some disused buildings that once housed 30 to 40 women, whose job it was to wash and process the minerals coming down from the mine workings. There were two high altitude mines where nearly 700 miners lived and worked: the highest, at 2750 metres altitude, was nicknamed Macchu Picchu! The mines were exploited for 100 years, between 1850 and 1950, and in this peaceful, remote spot it's almost impossible to imagine what life must have been like here back then.

To start the walk, cross the bridge over the river then follow the piste to the Port d'Urets (marked).