A Walk through History – Olette, Evol, Oreilla
with Tim and Chris Parker
A gem of a walk! Good walking surfaces, stunning views, lots of history. This circular walk of 31/4 hrs includes time to enjoy the scenery and visit the Chateau d’Evol. It is suitable for all walkers with a reasonable level of fitness. Walking boots recommended.
7 kms with 460 metres of ascent. Yellow and white waymarking
Access: map IGN 1:25000 Font Romeu Capcir 2249ET
The walk: Way-marking starts at the station car park. Climb the steps to St Andre church, cross road to the Place. Take steep street rising from left of the Place – la rue de la Liberation. After 150 metres turn right up another steep street, and after 50 metres, take the left fork under an old bridge.
These signs will be evident during the whole of the walk. The Parcours Botanique is the route to Evol and you will find plants identified with names and drawings.
⇒ The bridge was apparently an old aqueduct but the water course is now at a higher level and you will see it to the left and soon pass over it as you climb to turn right into a valley. Great views of the Canigou (left) and other high mountains opposite. In the valley notice the ruins of La Tour d’Oreilla and in the distance Oreilla, perched on the opposite side of the valley.
Contour above valley to D4a; turn right and enter Evol – classed among the most beautiful French villages. (1 hour to this point)
⇒ After the old Lavoir turn right up the cobbled Carrer del Reganer. Turn left where indicated and cross la Place del Guiner into le Carrer del Barbeblanc. Next to the tiny Mairie is the Musée Ludovic Massé. He was a celebrated Catalan writer and was born in the village.
⇒ Continue 100 metres to church of St Andre, open every day from June to September, but just 2-6pm at weekends from October to May . The church dates from the 11th century and was extended in the 18th century. It has a number of very old Retables (Reredos or altar pieces) including the oldest Retable de Rosaire in Roussillon dating from 1578-80, a Gothic one from 15th century and 2 from the 18th century.
⇒ Drop back to the entrance and follow the edge of the cemetery wall back onto D4a. Follow the road 80 yards to where it bends left. Just over the bridge take footpath on right to Chapelle St Etienne and le Chateau d’Evol. (15 mins each way)
The 13th century chapel was constructed at the same time as the Chateau in 1260 and is named after St Etienne, protector of the Viscounts of Evol. The Chateau kept a military presence, while the Viscounts lived in the Olette valley, to gather taxes on goods being carried along the main valley route!
The chateau is being renovated by dedicated local volunteers. They work here every Thursday, weather permitting, and are happy to tell you about the history of the castle and area. Apparently Evol was very self sufficient and farmed arable crops on terraces to be seen on the opposite side of the valley and also quarried slate. Local slate was used at the Palace of Versailles as well as on the roof of the church of St Andre locally.
⇒ Follow your route back down to D4a, near bridge.
⇒ Continue along the road round a bend and after 70 metres arrive at sign for Thuir Evol. Turn left and cross a bridge. (To visit the village, walk straight on, rather then turning left; follow the river over a bridge and then turn left to arrive back at the bridge mentioned above. This adds approx 1km to the route).
⇒ Turn left after bridge and find 2 renovated Gites de France on your left. Opposite the second gite take path signed “Oreilla” to right of a fence. The path climbs then contours along the valley side offering great views of the route so far and across to the Massif de Canigou.
⇒ Arrive after approx 40 minutes at a double track. Turn left and follow it for approx 220metres, then turn right on a grassy way-marked path. Follow this into Oreilla. Turn right onto main street to a small Placette. Turn left down steps (W.C available!) to find the Roman church of St Marie
⇒ Follow path to right of church to continue through woodland to Olette – a sign says 15 mins by horse and 45 mins on foot!
Path eventually crosses a road to continue opposite in a series of zig zags.
⇒ Just before you reach the D4 a path goes off to right 100 metres to ruins of the tour d’Oreilla.
⇒ At D4 turn right and after 450 metres arrive at the N116. Turn left to find the entrance to the station car park on your right next to the old Fina service station.
If you are in need of refreshments, continue along the N116 to find a little cafe opposite the Place with seating indoors and out. Two large cafes au lait cost us just 3.40 euros!
From the cafe it is just a few yards to the steps beside the church to return to the station car park.
To complete your day out you may wish to call in at Villefranche de Conflent before leaving the area. Even if not, you will have had a day soaked in history and with scenery you will not forget if you have chosen a clear day for your walk.