La Grand Randonnée – GR51

To bring you all up to date, yes I can hear you murmuring, about time! OK I have been away in Western Australia for 3 months, and am now back and ready to start the season again here on the fabulous Cote d ‘Azur.

Already guests have arrived and are enjoying the beautiful Spring weather, the walkers are out on the mountains enjoying the wild flowers and stunning scenery.

The big news is that I am attempting to publicise the little known and less walked GR 51/52. For those who don’t know the GR (Grande Randonnee) are long distance marked (in most cases!) walking routes. I have chosen the GR 51/52 as it passes right through the village of Ste Agnes and continues for 306.2 Miles, in France you might need to know that in Kilometres 492.7 .

This lovely route is known as the Balcony of the Mediterranean. It passes between the mountains and the sea, starting on the GR 52 in Menton, branching off onto the start of the GR 51 finally ending in Marseilles. The route passes through three departments all having their own very different scenery, the Alps Maritimes, the Var and the Bouches de Rhone. As you may have guessed the views are outstanding.

I am walking the whole route and plan to update you as I finish each section.
I’ll take photos, give you the mileage, the type of path/road and details of accommodation along the way.

If you care to join me for any part you only have to send me an email, the address is on the contact page of this website.

The Early Morning Start
Looking towards Ste Agnes
Signpost showing the red/white markers of a GR route
The Italian Border
Sometimes it is a stretch!
The effort is worth the view
At the top looking west along the Riviera coastline
At last some flat ground!
The parting of the 2 GRs 52/51
Descending towards Castellar Village
Rooms with views
Every which way
Castellar Village
A beautiful woodland contour path
Good signing
Time to go!
Interesting History in Castellar
Crossing the stream on the way to Monti
Looking towards the Pointe de la Penna
A sunny courtyard in Monti

As a taste of what one can expect here are some photos of the first section, starting out on the GR52 right outside the lovely old station of Menton Garavan and ending for that day in Ste Agnes.

The start, after turning left underneath the railway line,  immediately one sees what is ahead….flights of steps going up up up. One has a beautiful view looking back onto the lovely old town of Menton as it gradually slips away below. The route is well marked right up to the Plan de Lion at 716 meters where the division between the two GRs occurs.
One has a ‘breather’ walking across a flat area but you know that ‘what goes up, must come down’ right? and that is just what happens as one descends down towards the village of Castellar. In front and to the right lie the mountains marking the border between Italy and France. At this point we are walking into the interior. Wild flowers like Cistus abound on the now disused terraces, along with the wonderful aromas of Rosemary, Thyme, and the Pine trees.
The path is rocky in places on the ascent, grassy along the level top and passes down past a large rock fall on the way down to Castellar. After the village it is a lovely woodland path meandering along the contour to the hamlet of Monti.

The marking is not good around here, one needs to look for home made signs and they may be behind you! Head downwards towards the stream, through lemon and olive groves, passing between old houses to cross the stream , uphill towards the large church, across the main road D2566, and then steeply up on the last stretch towards Ste Agnes. It is a panoramic view at this juncture, one can see just how high one has climbed. Passing above the Borrigo Waterfall it is not long before one can glimpse the outline of Ste Agnes village way above on the ridge in front.

The last hill is in sight and what a sense of achievement when one walks up the old cobbled road into the village, having completed the first leg of this journey., all of 8.2 miles (13.19 Kms)  Is that all, I hear you exclaim!

Looking down onto the Riviera Coast
Above the Borrigo Waterfall
Where the GR 51 joins the local path above the Waterfall
The GR 51 runs along terrace edges
Steps that Mule Trains used in times gone by
Along the old terraces of the abandoned ruins of Virette village
The Last Hill!
Ste Agnes’ Church Steeple Beckons
The Old Road into Ste Agnes

One comment on “La Grand Randonnée – GR51

  1. Hello there, Anita! What fabulous pics and how fit and brave you are to attempt such a gruelling walk.
    I’m planning an extensive European holiday,…with as much walking as possible, no 5star hotels… be grateful for some tips, and, of course it would be super to visit your idyllic retreat.
    There’s an obstacle…two knees that need replacing!! When they’re fixed, I’ll be off!!!
    Love to keep up with your blog.
    Best wishes.
    Cheers! Petah B.

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