(Various guides for the French routes are available from our online shop)
The Paris route runs via Orléans, Tours, Poitiers, St Jean-d’Angély, Bordeaux and Dax. It has largely disappeared under tarmac, and is not really recommended for people setting out on the pilgrimage for the first time, although a Confraternity guide has been published on a walkers’ route that includes the main towns and places of interest mentioned in the Pilgrim’s Guide. More…
The route from Vézelay runs via Bourges or Nevers to St Léonard-de-Noblat, then to Limoges and Périgueux before crossing the Dordogne river at Ste Foy-la-Grande. Thereafter it goes via la Réole, Bazas, Mont-de-Marsan and Orthez to St Jean-Pied-de-Port. More…
It is not very difficult for the walker, and there is more and more accommodation for the pilgrim, because local associations of Amis de Saint-Jacques have been working hard in recent years to put it in place.
The le Puy route, which passes through Conques, Figeac, Cahors and Moissac before reaching St Jean-Pied-de-Port in the foothills of the Pyrenees, is quite the best developed. It coincides with the GR65 long-distance footpath (for which an excellent series of Topoguides are published), and there are gites d’étape at comfortable intervals all along it. In its early stages, it is quite rugged. A number of places offering a Christian welcome to pilgrims have also opened quite recently. They are listed in the spiritual guide published by the Abbey at Conques and the Hospitalité St Jacques at Estaing – click here for details. Especially in its first half, the GR65 passes through some very beautiful countryside. (More …)
Quite recently, the Association Rhône-Alpes des Amis de Saint-Jacques has extended this route back to Geneva (More…) making the link to the route from Nürnberg to Konstanz (More…) and across Switzerland (More…).
The Arles route runs directly westward from Arles parallel with the Pyrenees, linking Montpellier, Lodève, Castres, Toulouse and Auch: here it turns south-west to Oloron Sainte-Marie, and then south up the Gave d’Aspe to cross the Pyrenees by the Somport pass. The route, mainly following the GR653, is flat as it crosses the Camargue as far as Montpellier, and fairly rugged thereafter. Basic facilities for walkers and cyclists exist all along the route, but will not become pilgrim-focused until the route is better frequented. For a brief view of the route, click here.
The 165km Voie Littorale or Voie de Soulac, or sometime “Voie des Anglais” (from the pilgrims from Britain who disembarked at Soulac, at the mouth of the Garonne, to continue from there on foot), now fully waymarked, runs down the Atlantic coast from the Gironde to the Spanish border. It has a cycle route all the way. More …
There is growing interest among the departmental associations in France in identifying and waymarking the routes which cross their territory. Peter Robins covers these in detail.
The Amis du Chemin de St Jacques des Pyrénées Atlantiques have very good descriptions of the routes in their area on their website.
The Association bretonne des amis de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle has details of various way-marked routes through Brittany.
Click here for the website of the FFRP, whose Topoguides descriptions of the GR footpaths are invaluable.