WILD SWIMMING FRANCE – Second edition
The best-selling Wild Swimming series returns to France for a hugely expanded and updated guide to the best places to cool off this summer, including 450 revised entries, 550 brand new places and 21 detailed new maps. Enjoy more detailed coverage in the existing regions and new regions in the North and Centre: Normandy, Paris, Champagne, Burgundy, Morvan, Creuse, Vienne, Charente, Limousin, Périgord, Corrèze, Millevache and Auvergne.
Wild Swimming France takes you on an aquatic voyage into the wild heart of one of Europe’s most beautiful countries. In vast areas of unspoilt French countryside there is so much to discover, from the tranquil river beaches of the Ardèche and the secret canyons of the Languedoc, to the shimmering aquamarine pools of Corsica and the Alps.
This beautiful guide provides all the practical information you’ll need, from overview maps and directions, to grid references and parking locations. There are also hundreds of ideas for the best waterside campsites, riverside bistros and canoe rentals, plus tips on points of local interest, spots for families, places for campervans and even the most secret places for skinny dipping.
Swim beneath the great châteaux of the Loire and plunge into the azure-blue pools of Provence. Relax in the secret hot springs of the Pyrenees and discover the unspoilt crater lakes of the Mont-Dore. France has one of the most diverse and magnificent landscapes in Europe, with a cuisine and culture to match. Its rivers, lakes and waterfalls are sparkling clean and its summers are reliably hot – and it’s all just a train ride away.
This dazzling travel guide, now its second edition, combines engaging travel writing with spectacular photography to lure you off the beaten track to over 1,000 magical swimming locations, from classic destinations to local secrets you won’t find listed elsewhere.
Daniel Start is an award-winning writer and photographer, author of Wild Swimming, Hidden Beaches and the Wild Guide series. He has spent the last ten years camping and swimming around France. Married with a young daughter, he lives at the confluence of two rivers in rural Somerset. Wild Things Publishing was founded in 2011 and voted Britain’s best small publisher in 2019.
Table of Contents
1 Normandy & around Paris 18
2 Val de Loire 34
3 Morvan & Burgundy 48
4 Creuse & Vienne 60
5 Charente & Limousin 74
6 Millevaches & Auvergne 88
7 Périgord Vert & Blanc 100
8 Corrèze & Auvergne 114
9 Dordogne 130
10 Lot, Célé & Aveyron 144
11 Pyrénées Atlantiques 162
12 Corbières & Roussillon 176
13 Languedoc & Gard 190
14 Cévennes & Tarn 204
15 Ardèche 220
16 Jura & Haute Savoie 234
17 Drôme & Central Alps 248
18 Vaucluse & Provence 262
19 Var & Verdon 276
20 Alpes-Maritimes 298
21 Corsica 314
Introduction from the book
Wild swimming is the traditional art of bathing in natural pools, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, and France, which has them in abundance, is the wild swimmer’s paradise. France’s rivers are cleaner than at any time in living memory and the benefits of wild swimming are increasingly well documented. Medical studies now show the huge benefits to immune function, well-being and mental health. In rural France, much of it far from the coast, people have always swum in rivers and lakes and there are over 1,300 ‘official’ natural beaches that are regularly monitored.
This book documents some of the most beautiful traditional swimming locations in France, from well-known classics to secret local spots. It focuses on the most spectacular parts of the French landscape. We begin our journey in central Normandy and northern France – perfect for weekend escapes from Paris. The great valley of the Loire, with its fairytale castles and woodland lakes, is a surprisingly wild river – wide, empty, undeveloped and magnificent, as are the hills and rivers of the Morvan in Burgundy. Heading south, the great regions of Charente, Limousin, Auvergne and Périgord offer unspoilt landscapes with abundant history, water and space. Further south, the valleys of the Aveyron, Lot and Dordogne and their many beautiful tributaries, offer stunning cliff-side villages to swim beneath and plenty of places to stop and enjoy long lunches.
The Pyrenees are famous for their hot springs – of which only a few remain undeveloped – and for tranquil mountain tarns with rocky ledges for diving and islets to swim out to. The Languedoc and Corbières are hot, dry, wine-making regions that are well watered by the Hérault and Vis. These rivers gush out of great cave openings into enchanted fern-hung grottoes that conjure up scenes from legend and folklore. The Cévennes, where Robert Louis Stevenson travelled with his donkey and wolves still roam, is one of the wildest regions. Both the gorges of the Ardèche, which boasts the Pont d’Arc, and the river Gard with its Roman aqueduct, are justly famous for canoeing and swimming. Yet few venture into their upper reaches and tributaries, where volcanic activity has produced a landscape of extraordinary arches and basalt columns.
Crossing the Rhône east to the Jura region, we are in waterfall country, following the Drôme and visiting the great lakes and canyons of the lower Alpine regional parks. Heading south into Vaucluse and Provence proper, the Verdon is the largest canyon in Europe and its lakes are perhaps the deepest shade of blue in the whole of France, while the waterfalls bring to mind the kind of tropical oases you might expect to find in Costa Rica rather than Europe. Towards Avignon, the land becomes more arid, but magical blue pools fed by underground springs still remain, if you know where to look. In the wild hills around Nice – the land of clues – we discover white limestone canyons with giant jade-green plunge pools and tumbling waterfalls, and while some require canyoning equipment many of the best can be reached on foot. From here, rugged Corsica is just a short hop on the boat and, with plunge pools and soaring mountain spires every bit as beautiful as its legendary beaches, this must count as one of the most beautiful wild swimming locations in France, if not on earth.
Also available for ebook, kindle and as apps for iOS and Android.