with Tim and Chris Parker
A 3hrs – 3hrs.30 circular walk up the hills with 450 metres of ascent, which is all in the first half of the walk. Well signed route with yellow waymarks.
Access: map IGN 1:25000 Banyuls, Col de Perthus, Cote Vermeille 2549OT
START OF WALK
Cross the narrow main street and continue straight on past le Cafe des Artistes. Turn right into Rue du chateau and walk below town ramparts.
At rear of ramparts descend to a bridge across river and walk through allotments (Chemin de la Florentine) to emerge beside house at Place Sebastian.
Turn left and follow the road, continuing straight on after the end of the housing estate. There is now just the occasional house and road quality deteriorates.
Pass the ruins of Chapelle de Roca Vella.
After 30-40 minutes the broad track narrows to the right and rises to the wide bend of sandy piste. Ignore the signs for Walk 1 and continue up the piste to a hairpin bend.
On this bend take a path on the right leading up a rocky gulley.
After a short steep climb of 5 minutes reach a piste and cross directly opposite to continue the ascent. Emerge on second more grassy piste.
Turn left and very quickly take path on right to climb to high point of the walk. (If you have had enough of climbing you can make the left turn and continue along this piste all the way to the head of the valley at the fountain mentioned below). This is the longest stretch of ascent and the views of the coastal plain are lovely as Laroque becomes a dot on the landscape below. Pass steep cliffs; path continues beside then behind them.
Emerge at cross road of paths and turn left. (The path straight on is a route to Pic d’Oreilla [499m]. The path to the right descends to Font dels Simiots)
This path contours through the woods and eventually descends past a picnic bench to meet the piste which was crossed earlier (alternative route).
Turn right along the piste; pass Font de la Vernosa and reach the head of the valley, where the river Roca de Vella forms a pretty pool. (1h 40-50mins to this point)
Continue to follow the piste ignoring all paths until after approx. 10 minutes you reach a path going down on left signed Laroque.
Soon find sign to the very large ice well on the right. This is only a few yards off the path. It was built end 16th/beginning 17th century to hold packed snow for use as ice during summer.
Contour round the hillsides, gradually descending and crossing tributaries to the main river below. These are easily passable but one may be tricky after heavy rain so route is not recommended at such times. Great viewpoints open up as you continue along the hillside.
Further down, ignore steep path going down into the valley and signed for Laroque.
Continue on the same gradient and direction to emerge very soon beside a renovated Mas. Pass the gates of the Mas and continue straight down piste ignoring one to right.
Soon reach a left bend in piste: 2 options available –
a) Left turn brings you to the small reservoir on the “common trunk” for several Laroque walks: turn right at the reservoir and immediately left down path with canalisation at the side to reach le Moulin de Pave and Laroque centre
b) Continue straight, through summer gardens to flight of steps down into the village
Pass through the narrow streets to return to car park. Explore the castle within the old fortified village if you have time. Enjoy refreshments at one of the many cafes, bars and restaurants.