by Madeleine McMullin
This is the next in the series of walks with lunch except that this time it is dinner, as we stayed the night at the Refuge de Batère and ate there. However if you are fit and start very early, you may be able to do it in time for lunch. It is a 10.5 km hike with a 1150m climb, so not for the faint hearted especially not in summer. If that is too much for you, then there is a much easier 5km, nearly flat stroll to the Tour de Batère very near to the Refuge which warrants a visit for the views and the excellent food and where the restaurant is open to all at lunchtime.
The walk starts from behind the swimming pool in Arles sur Tech. You can park in the swimming pool car park which is reached by turning right just before the bridge over the Riuferrer river a couple of hundred metres after you exit the one way system in Arles to head up the valley towards Prats de Mollo.
Walk back along the road from the car park to the first bend where signs point up the hill towards the refuge.
The whole of the walk is part of the GR10 and well-marked in white and red as well as occasional yellow signs.
The first part is steep in places, punctuated by flatter parts, mainly in the forest, but emerging for gorgeous views over the surrounding countryside and down to Arles.
After a couple of hours, the path comes down to cross the Riuferrer and then you start to climb in earnest and the second half of the walk is seriously steep. It takes you up through the woods, through a commune of people living in yurts and out into the open up a rocky stretch, before going back into the woods and then emerging into a beautiful flower strewn meadow (at least in June when we went) with a very welcome cold mountain stream.
The final stretch is about 200m on the road, before you get to the refuge which is housed in an old miners’ barracks. The building itself is not at all beautiful and half of it is abandoned, but the welcome is warm, the views are stunning and the cold beer was wonderful after the walk up in 34o.
We got there about 3.30pm and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the shade, strolling round the immediate area, and chatting to the people that manage the gite and the other walkers that were staying.
Dinner was served about 7pm and is a set meal which is mainly for those staying the night, but others can join in, if they book in advance. You get 3 courses for €18, all made on the premises, not haute cuisine, but delicious hearty food for hungry walkers.
The starter was a salad with couscouilles (a sort of wild angelica that grows in the Pyrenees and is eaten in the spring) accompanied by a beautiful goats cheese tart.
This was followed by a pork joint that had been braised with onions, and a butternut squash gratin. Dessert was a yummy apricot tart. It was all washed down with the house red at €5 for a half litre carafe.
After dinner we went for another stroll to try to walk off the excess before falling into bed. Breakfast was simple but nice with home made apricot jam and fresh bread.
The walk back down is the same way that you came up, but an awful lot quicker. However we’d cheated and driven up the day before and left a car at the top to allow us to walk above the refuge on the Sunday and avoid having to carry too much up the hill.
The Tour de Batère and Lunch
If you prefer to walk less and go for lunch, you need to go to Corsavy from Arles, and continue on up the mountain following the signs for Batère. The track to the tower is on the right opposite a small area where you can park which has a barrier that can be put across the road when it is closed due to snow in winter.
The walk is signposted and you can see the tower so can’t mistake where to go. Once you get there, there are views to the coast over the plain and across to the Corbières. The way back is the same as the way there, and then up the hill to the refuge, or drive to the refuge first and walk back down.
For lunch there is a choice of either a set meal or an à la carte menu both of which I’m sure will be good, although I can’t comment personally not having tried them myself.