by Ted and Kate Hiscock
9km (5.5miles) 2hours 45 minutes
This walk, exploring the Forêt d’Argelès, starts by leaving the D914 at junction 13 and at the roundabout following the sign for Mas Cristine, by taking the first exit up a short incline to a turning on the right, signed for Mas Cristine.
After 100 metres along this road, there is a parking bay on the right, which neatly sits on the 50m contour above sea level. The first 500m of this walk climbs steadily between opulent homes behind iron gates and expensive views over Argeles-sur-Mer and the coast to the north.
Then there is a fork in the road, where an unmetalled track falls away on the right; ignore this one and continue along the tarmac passing a cattle farm on the right. The journey now climbs quite steadily to a junction with signs for Mas Cristine ahead and an elbow to the right which is the route to follow.
All signs of tarmac are now memory and the track is one neatly described as ‘not regularly maintained’. The vegetation on either side is dense chêne liège (cork oaks) bearing the scars of regular bark stripping.
Pass the private track to Mas Rossinyol on the right and onwards and upwards.
Very soon a track veers steeply up on the left between two pillars; ignore this and again, quite quickly a fork in the road appears (226m) full of signage for ways down to the left.
Take the right incognito limb that still climbs and twists but in about 200m look out for a hint of a clearing on the right and observe the view of the coast with the ruins of Mas de Cissa Bulla immediately below.
In about a further 500m there is a sign post with a myriad of directions signifying the presence of the ‘Dolmen dels Collets de Cotliure’ [“single-chamber megalithic tomb dating from 4000-3000BC.
Pop up the 100m to this site, if it is only to remark on how insignificant it seems to be but it does seem a reasonable place for refreshments. This footpath up will ultimately lead to Tour de Massane but for the sake of our walk, drop back down to the wide track, through the sturdy metal gate opposite and down the narrow rocky path.
From this point, for a few hundred metres, the path is rugged, precipitous and needing close attention as it scrambles down through the forest. There are numerous tracks that seem to criss-cross this descent and it is best to follow the signs for ‘Dolmen de la Cova de l’Alarb’ for the 500m drop until this second dolmen is reached.
Periodically, there are glimpses through the trees permitting stunning views out over Roussillon with Chateau Valmy in the foreground rising majestically out of the forest.
As Megalithic treasures go, Dolmen de la Cova de l’Alarb, on the right of the path, is no giant mausoleum but it is more significant than the first one.
Return to the descending path until it meets a wide track once more. All signs here are directed to Chateau Valmy and Argelès-sur-Mer. Ignore these and pass the yellow cross painted on the tree for this is the way back to the car,
It is a gentle undulating but ultimately descending mountain route, that passes through dense oak forest with vividly coloured wild flowers along its edges that act as a haven for darting distracted butterflies of all types. It is very gentle at this point and soon one re-joins the tarmac road of the outward journey by turning left by the farm.