Voie Littorale

 La Voie Littorale/La Voie de Soulac/La Voie des Anglais runs from the mouth of the Gironde down the coast to Hendaye and the Spanish border.

The Route.  The Voie Littorale runs from the mouth of the Gironde, where pilgrims coming from further north would have crossed the estuary from Royan, to Hendaye/Irún on the Spanish border. (Those who wish can therefore continue on from there to Santiago via one of the Caminos del Norte or go via the Tunnel Route to join the Camino Francés.)  The footpath starts at the Pointe de Grave (the tip of the Médoc peninsula) and runs south, passing directly through the towns of Soulac, Montalivet-les-Bains, Hourtin Plage, Lacanau Océan, Arès, Biganos, Sanguinet, Parentis-en-Born, Mimizan, Moliets-et-Maa, Vieux Boucau, Hossegor, Bayonne, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and finally, Hendaye.  The overall distance is approximately 375kms.  The natural continuation is along the north coast of Spain, but from Bayonne there are also connections to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Voie de la Nive) and Pamplona (Voie du Baztan)

Waymarking.  In the Gironde this is in the form of posts bearing a yellow stylized scallop pointing the direction of travel, while further south small scallop markers are fastened to trees, walls, etc.  This signing is excellent throughout the entire length of the footpath, with the exception of a short unmarked section between Tarnos and Bayonne.

Terrain. For the most part the path is in forest, although there are some wonderfully attractive sections along lake shores in the départements of both the Gironde and the Landes.  Almost all the resorts along the Atlantic coast are visited, and the stretch around the Bassin d’Arcachon is particularly beautiful. North of Bayonne this is all fairly flat walking (the highest dune is 39m), but paths can be very sandy underfoot.  The Basque country between Bayonne and Hendaye is pleasantly undulating and much more populated.

When to go. Anytime, although many hotels and campsites are closed in winter.  Also beware of July and August when all the accommodation is at a premium because of the holiday season.

Accommodation. Plenty of good campsites, an increasing number of which offer pilgrims the use of a tent or mobile home for the night.  There are small hotels and chambres d’hôtes in most villages but pre-booking is advisable.  The first dedicated pilgrim hostel should open in 2010 in Saint-Paul-en-Born.  Details of all accommodation and appropriate websites are given in the route guide.

What to see. The Basilica at Soulac and the Cathedral of Sainte Marie at Bayonne both bear witness to long years of pilgrimage.  The 12-13th century Clocher-Porche at Mimizan houses the oldest sculpture of St James as a pilgrim in France.  Just off the present route (and perhaps more accessible to cyclists) are many splendid churches with other ancient statues of St James.  Both Charlemagne and Eleanor of Aquitaine have associations with this area.  This is wonderful countryside bordering the Atlantic, with lakes, canals, and beautifully shaded forests of pine and oak.  Wildlife is here in plenty, including deer, wild boar, and red squirrels.

Maps and guides.

Cyclists. Certain parts of the walkers’ route are accessible to cyclists but in other places alternatives need to be taken, as detailed in the Confraternity guide.

Thanks to Judy Smith, January 2010. Maps & Guides Updated November 2017