Hautes-Alpes (05600) Altitude: 1840 m
The tiny hamlets of Le Villard and Les Chalmettes are located a few km east of Ceillac, out the Cristillan valley. Each is a very tiny place: just a few houses clustered on the mountainside.
To access the hamlets, you take a road northeast from the center of Ceillac. The road is narrow, but well surfaced and it's only about a 10-minute drive. Again, the road goes up a beautiful valley with rushing mountain river. At one point, the road passes through a very narrow gap (clue) in the rocks, while the river passes beside through a hole in the rock.
Once near the hamlets, we parked and did one hike to visit both hamlets. For less time walking, you could drive to each hamlet, on little dirt roads, or hike to one (15 minutes one-way), then drive up the road closer to the next and do a 10-minute hike there. Our hike was 15 minutes to Le Villard, a 15-minute visit, and about an hour's hike up the side of the valley, plus time for a waylaid visit and a picnic lunch, and on to Les Chalmettes.
Le Villard is one step on the better side of being abandonded. There are two houses, two chalets and a little chapel. Both houses are being restored, although one was deserted while we were there. In fact, the only sign of life in Le Villard was a workman at the other house.
The double sundials here are located on the corner of the lowest house at the southwest end. We had to circle through the fieland both looking very nice.
The hike from Le Villard to Les Chalmettes took us longer than an hour because we were invited for refreshments at a sub-hamlet (one small house and one very tiny chapel). About half way along towards Les Chalmettes, Monsieur Clement and his grandsons offered us cold drinks and warm conversation. More than just offered actually: they shouted and waved at us as we passed by on a trail well below the house, the encouraged us, total strangers, as we hiked up the mountainside in the mid-day August sun. The map shows only a ruin there, and it turned out that our hosts had converted their house and chapel from ruins, rebuilding slowly and well since 1975. A group of friends had combinded as an association to buy the place, and restore it on their individual visits there. It's the only hamlet in the area that doesn't have road access, and all building material was backpacked up the hillside from the road below.
Les Chalmettes is a large hamlet compared to Le Villard, with about six houses, plus the three house of La Rua de Chalmettes 200 metres away. And here there was activity, with families, kids, and large family lunches on shady terraces.
Like Le Villard, the double sundials here are also on the lowest house in the hamlet, but here on a corner where two buildings seem to have been joined together. Un-dated, but obviously early 18th-century, at the latest.
While asking about the local sundials, we met Mr. and Mrs. Bonnet at La Rua de Chalmettes, and it turned out he had a portable sundial to show us. A really beautiful little work of art, he had built himself, and it included adjustments for longitude and latitude. Two rows of roman numerals for the hours (one for winter time and one for summer time) were etched into the main brass curve, and each hour had marker holes for the month vairants. He said he broke a lot of drill bits getting those holes in. [photo-11].
An easy half-hour hike back to the car (all downhill), and then a one-hour leisurly drive down through Ceillac and up the Combe de Queyras to Molines-en-Queyras.
• GPS: 44.674724, 6.794213
IGN (1/25,000) #3537 ET "Guillestre, Vars, Risoul"
IGN (1/25,000) #3637 OT "Mont Viso, St-Veran, Aiguilles"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #10 "Queyras Pays du Viso"
The general hiking information is the same as for Ceillac. The GR5/GR58 northeast out of Ceillac passes through Le Villard.
Other trails here offer good hiking without severe climbing. The trail we followed, along the hillside north of the river, continues up the valley for a few km beyond Les Chalmettes. The paved road also continues up the valley, to a parking area a couple of km past Les Chalmettes (about 7 km from Ceillac).
Near the head of the valley by the parking area, the kiking trails continue up into the mountains, requiring a bit more effort that just a Sunday stroll.
Another trail goes southeast into the mountains from a point on the road very near Les Chalmettes.
All in all, this is a georgous place for waling and hiking.
Transportation Ceillac Villard
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).