Hautes-Alpes (05600) Population: 289 Altitude: 1640 m
The village of Ceillac is in a high plateau-valley, backed by a ridge of mountains along the north rising to around 3000 meters, with mountains to the south up to 3385 m. At ten in the morning, the sky was already full of colorful paragliders launched from the side of the mountain.
The road to Ceillac begins in the Combe de Queyras, 5 km northeast of Guillestre. From the Combe de Queyras, the D60 road goes 8 km up the narrow valley, very twisty and with some true hairpins. It's wide and well-surfaced, though, and the valley with the mountain river along side, rushing down over the rocks, is beautiful. It's only about 20 minutes from Guillestre, and well under an hour from Molines-en-Quyeras or Chateau-Queyras.
The village center is fairly large, with a mixture of old houses and farms, and many different shops and stores for the visitors. The village is large enough for a good touristic walk-around, and there are many interesting sights. Signs of a true farming village were trails of hay and farm smells from wide doors in many of the village buildings. Shops range from some serious wood sculpturing to hiking outfitters, with cafés and restaurants included. In the tourist office we found an extensive lending library with many nature books available.
Across the fields north of the village center is an area of mountain-style villas and vacation chalets. The neighboring hamlet of Sainte Cécile, with the picturesque high-steepled Sainte-Cécile church visible from the edge of the village.
Fires and floods have been problems in the past for Ceillac. Fires in 1888 and 1889 destroyed the village. Most recently, floods in 1957 caused major damage in the village. The hamlet of St Cécile north of the village was pretty much abandonded (until very recently) because of the lack of water to fight fires.
The église Sainte-Cécile, sitting in the middle of the fields near the hamlet of La Clapière to the northwest, dates from the 14th century. Sainte Cécile sits with its cemetery, ancient and still used, and has a fine, tall bell tower.
Saint Sébastien Church
The late-15th-century église Saint Sébastien, beautifully restored (1994-95), sits in the middle of the village. Joining the church and the Chapelle des Pénitents is an ancient and rather unique bell tower, housing six bells of various sizes (5 with their own openings) beneath a widely-overhangng wooden roof. On the front edge of the bell tower is an ornate clock, somewhat in the style of a sundial, and dated 1872.
On the front of the church is a 1739 sundial. It had been covered over by a "modern" sundial, dated 1829, but was restored back to the original in 1994.
The octagonal pink-marble fountain in front of Saint Sébastien's was made in 1790.
The "Maison Chabrand" is a classical Ceillac (ceillaquine) farmhouse, and the only one of its kind left [photo-8]. It's being carefully rebuilt to match the style of the original, and will become an ecomuseum.
Some interesting natural sites are located 3 to 5 km southeast of the village, accessable by hiking out the GR5 grande randonée trail, or driving out towards the Cime du Mélezet and then hiking up shorter trails.
The Cascade de la Pisse is a 280m high waterfall.
There are three lovely mountain lakes in that area. Lac Miroir (2214 m) is about a km south of the waterfall, and Lac des Rouites (2383 m) is another km beyond. There are said to be some interesting trees on the way to the Lac des Rouites. Further south is the Lac Sainte-Anne (2415 m) and the chapelle Ste-Anne.
Small glaciers in the rocky sides of the Pics de la Font Sancte, on the slopes against the Italian border, south of Lac Ste-Anne and west of the Col Giradin.
Not to forget the Combe du Queyras, the fabulous deep gorge at the start of the road up to Ceillac, northeast of Guillestre. When we visited here in Aug 2003, the Tour de France cycling race had just passed down through the Combe du Queyras.
There are six very nice sundials in Ceillac. The 1732 sundial on the church, restored from beneath a covering one in 1994. On the wall of the mairie is a trompe d'oeil style sundial with a birds motif, made in 1994 by Rémi Potey, a famous regional sundial maker. On one of the village houses is an ancient wooden sundial, dated 1797.
A more recent wooden sundial on the Chalet les Avers, in the residential area just north of the village center, was made by the owner, M. Fournier; he used three different kinds of woods to obtain the light and dark coloring of the design. Another wooden sundial is on a nearby house in the same row.
There are more sundials at the miniscule hamles of Le Villard and Les Chalmettes, out the Cristillan valley east of the village.
History of Ceillac
First record, 8th century Salliaris
Medieval: In the 12th century the village was the property of the Abbaye de Saint-André de Villeneuve, and they had a church here as early as 1118.
• GPS: 44.667563, 6.77818
IGN (1/25,000) #3637 OT "Mont Viso, St-Veran, Aiguilles"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #10 "Queyras Pays du Viso"
There's great hiking from Ceillac, with many (relatively) short and long loop hikes available.
The GR58 Tour du Queyras passes through the village. North it goes over the Col de Bramousse (2251 m) and northwest past the village of Bramousse and across the Combe du Queyras.
To the northeast, the GR58 and GR5 trails go together up the Cristillan valley and past the tiny hamlet of Le Villard, then north over the Col Fromage, "cheese pass", (2301 m).
To the southeast, the GR5 and other petites randonées trails take various routes through the forests and hills past the mountain lakes, waterfall and mini glaciers.
Department 05, Haute-Alpes Buses
- See Beyond's Haute-Alpes (05) Bus Schedules for downloading Haute-Alpes bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).