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Gorges de l'Ardèche - Drop-dead gorges

Gorges de l'Ardèche - Drop-dead gorges

06 Aug 2013 BY Tim Wells

The Gorges of the Ardèche are among France’s most glorious natural sites, and their popularity on current evidence goes back some 32,000 years. The Ardèche River has carved its sinuous course into the great Vivarais limestone plateau on the southeastern edge of the Massif Central, dividing it into the Gras plateau to the north and the Orgnac to the south. The canyons it has formed stretch some 35km between Vallon-Pont-d’Arc and St-Martin-d’Ardèche; they were declared a French National Heritage Site in 1993. A paradise for geologists, the Gorges are riddled with caverns and cave complexes that have sheltered man since the Paleolithic. In 1994, the earliest known cave paintings were discovered in the Grotte de Chauvet, as it came to be named, and they are brought vividly to life in Werner Herzog’s brilliant film, “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams”. Nearby is the Pont d’Arc, a 54-metre high natural bridge carved out the limestone by the river, which as one of few crossing points between the uplands, was hotly contested during the Wars of Religion, like everything else. Nowadays a daring road runs along the northern rim of the canyon: along the Haute Corniche it offers some truly spectacular views, especially from the Belvedere de la Madeleine above 300-metre cliffs, the highest in the Gorges.

View our manor house in the Ardèche  >>