To launch a new hiking route, you need several ingredients: a beautiful history, pleasant paths, varied landscapes, a remarkable heritage. Then, logistics must follow quickly: marking, accommodation, website, topoguide. All these elements were brought together for the launch of the Amadour path, which was officially inaugurated at the end of last March. But this creation was not made in a day!
The genesis of the path
Like all major projects, this path was built step by step. “With the Association of Friends of Saint-Jacques in Limousin-Périgord,” explains Philippe Debet, coordinator in the tourism department of the Dordogne Departmental Council, “we had created a 180 km path, from Bergerac to Rocamadour, passing through the abbeys of Saint-Avit-Senieur and Cadouin (Dordogne), which had a great pilgrim tradition. One morning, I heard on the radio the rector of Rocamadour telling the story of Amadour and Véronique. That was the trigger ! And this is how we considered extending this path: it would start from Soulac-sur-Mer, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and lead to Rocamadour, in the Quercy causses.”
A nice story
Go back twenty centuries. “It all begins,” explains Jean François Gareyte, mediator at the Dordogne Périgord Cultural Agency, “when Amadour and his beloved wife, Véronique, landed on the Médoc beaches of Gironde, not far from today’s Soulac-sur-Mer. The couple then set out to evangelize the Medullian peninsula as far as Bordeaux. However, the death of Véronique would shatter their shared epic. The tomb of the deceased is today in the crypt of the Saint-Seurin basilica in Bordeaux. Amadour , now a widower, leaves Soulac-sur-Mer to cross Gironde, Lot-et-Garonne and Dordogne, in order to find refuge in the life of a hermit on the site which would later become Rocamadour, in the Lot.”
Let us specify that this story, linked to the first centuries of Christianity, mixes history with legend, and it is up to historians to distinguish real facts from legendary stories. But if this story has crossed the ages to reach us, it is undoubtedly because it has something to tell us…
“Put your steps in the legend!” »
Inspired by this beautiful story, the slogan of this path was obvious: “From the Atlantic Ocean to the Causses du Quercy, put your steps in the legend!” Since this summer, pilgrims and walkers can walk the 500 kilometers that connect these emblematic places. Along the way, they discover some of the most beautiful landscapes of the South-West: the Gironde estuary, Entre-deux-Mers, the Dropt valley, the vineyards of Bordeaux and Bergerac-Duras, the Dordogne valley, the Causses du Quercy. “I loved this path,” says a walker who crossed the Gironde. “It’s very beautiful to walk along the estuary and pass by squares, churches, through the forests… I really liked being there calm!” A walker, who walked the Dordogne and the Lot, adds: “The variety of landscapes surprised me: we go from the very green Dordogne to the aridity of the Causses, where there is even a place nicknamed the desert! And what can we say about the little comments (from the topoguide, Editor’s note) which more than once kept us in suspense, bringing back before our eyes the terrifying stories of the Hundred Years’ and Religious Wars…”
On this route, the built heritage is not left out: historic city centers (Bordeaux, Bergerac, Sarlat), wine castles, bastides, castles of the Dordogne valley, medieval towns, etc. “Without forgetting, specifies Sébastien Pénari, of the French Agency for the Roads of Compostela, the ten sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, under the paths of Saint-Jacques: Notre-Dame-de-la- Fin-des-Terres, in Soulac-sur-Mer (Gironde); the Saint-André cathedral, the Saint-Michel basilica and the Saint-Seurin basilica in Bordeaux (Gironde); the Sauve-Majeure abbey and the church of Saint-Pierre in La Sauve (Gironde); the church of Saint-Avit-Sénieur (Dordogne); the abbey of Cadouin in Le Buisson-de-Cadouin (Dordogne); finally, the basilica of Saint- Sauveur and the Saint-Amadour crypt in Rocamadour (Lot).”
It is with great emotion that the residents of this path see these places regain their original vocation. “For example, comments Philippe Debet, in Saint-Avit-Sénieur, walkers are welcomed in the old town hall which was formerly… a lodge for pilgrims! We also know, through travel reports, that the Blue Penitents of Périgueux walked to Rocamadour. Finally, Cadouin Abbey was a major place of pilgrimage because it held a shroud brought back by the Crusaders, which was long considered an exceptional relic. A supposition that history has unfortunately denied! “
Logistics on point
Thanks to the investment of the French Hiking Federation and the four departments crossed (Gironde, Lot-et-Garonne, Dordogne and Lot), the path benefits from specific marking in the form of a sportelle (oval medal reproducing the seal of the priory of Rocamadour). “It will soon be approved under the name GR®81,” specifies Philippe Debet.
As on the paths of Saint-Jacques, walkers can obtain, upon arrival, the Rocastella diploma; and the promoters of this path are currently working on a pilgrim’s notebook. A guide, Amadour’s path (Editions Sud-Ouest), describes the 21 stages, as well as the heritage to discover. Finally, GPX tracks can be downloaded from the dedicated website, where the route is also indicated on a Googlemaps map. This site also lists accommodation, listed by stage.
With these numerous assets, the Amadour path should become an essential destination for pilgrims and walkers in search of meaning, and specialized agencies already offer it in their catalog (as a self-guided or accompanied hike). Will you also set out to go back in time, on this path where history mixes with legend?