Alpes-Maritimes (06470) Population: 533 Altitude: 792 m
Guillaumes is a mountain village located in the Haute Vallée du Var at the top of the Gorge de Daluis, close to the Parc de Mercantour. The village is at the junction where the Tuébi river joins the south-flowing Var, and is surrounded by steep, forested mountains. Market day --.
Guillaumes is at a crossroads of routes into the mountains. Coming up from the Gorge de Daluis, the road continues north past Entraunes and the Col de la Cayolle (2326 m) to Barcelonnette. East from Guillaumes, the road goes past Valberg, Beuil (at the top of the Gorges du Cians), Roubion and Roure to St Sauveur-sur-Tinée. photo-2, 3 and 4 show different aspects of the Var valley by the village.
The village has all the commerce necessary for the traveller, including a couple of hotels, cafés, restaurants, bakeries, and such. Guillaumes is also a sort of mountain market-town, with a monthly foire, and an annual sheep market (Foire aux Tardons).The shops are mainly along the main road through the center, and the buildings lining the road are decorated with scores of wrought-iron balconies. The crisp mountain air makes a cool relief from the coastal summer heat, and the reinforced eves of the houses adds to the mountain-village atmosphere. Photo-5 shows one of the terrace café-restaurants, with a lunchtime clientele including the motorcyclists drawn by the scenery and the great mountain roads.
On a pinnacle high above the village are the picturesque ruins of the Chateau Reine Jeanne [photo-6]. The Reine Jeanne (Queen Jane) has a colorful history in the Beyond region of France. We have a Pont de la Reine Jeanne at the southern end of the Gorges de Daluis, and another at Salignac near Sisteron.
The village doesn't have a touristy feeling, but there are some nice aids for the visitor. A set of informative historical plaques (in French) provide a numbered route through the old village. The village has an interesting history, and there's a large collection of photos and other information at the lavoir in the old town.
Foire aux Tardons
This combination market and festival is for the lambs born in the Spring, and raised exclusively on mother's milk and mountain pastures. The Guillaumes Foire aux Tardons has become one of the biggest in Southeastern France, and visitors come mainly from all the departments of PACA (Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur).
The Sept 2001 festival had a couple of hundred merchants with market stalls, and about a dozen local flocks. Prices were good this year, partly because of public perception of problems with beef. There were some complaints by the sheperds about problems of wolves, introduced in the nearby Mercantour.
The village church is the 13th-century église St-Etienne, with a Provençal-Romanesque clock steeple [photo-8].
One km south of the village is the Notre Dame de Buyei sancturary, an ancient fortified church, which has a 1770 tableau representing the 1682 fire that destroyed Guillaumes. The annual fête de l'Assomption includes a pilgrimage to here, with the participation of the costumed Sapeurs de l'Empire. This pilgrimage honors a promise by the inhabitants of Guillaumes if they returned alive after enrolling in Napoléon's army.
The abandoned village of Barels, 6 km north, has a pretty little chapel with a double-bell tower; hiking access only.
The abandoned village of Amen, 5 km south, is also accessible to hikers. Amen was an active copper-mining village in the 19th century. The copper ore was transported by mule to the factory at Léouvé, south across the Col de Roua.
History of Guillaumes
First record, 13th century Castrum de Guillermo
Guillaumes was founded in the 10th century by Guillaume II, Count of Provence.
Prehistoric: Remains of Neolithic habitation were discovered in a grotto in the Vallon de Cantet, 3 km southwest. There are other various signs of Gallo-Roman and barbarian occupation.
In 1388, when the Haute Var became part of the Comté de Nice under the House of Savoie, Guillaumes was the only town that stayed in the Comté de Provence (see Provence History).
In the middle of the 15th century, Guillaume's castle was destroyed by La Reine Jeanne, and the Good King René built a fortress on the pinacle overlooking the village. The castle was later restaured and fortified by Vauban (1700-1706).
In 1760, Guillaumes was ceded to the Piedmont-Sardaigne kingdom by Louis XV, with the condition that the castle be dismantled. A hundred years later, in 1860, Guillaumes was returned to France along with the Comté de Nice. The current boundaries of Guillaumes are as they were established in 1200.
Market day: --. There's no weekly market, but there is a monthly foire. The foire is the beginning of the month, but not a fixed day, so you'll need to phone ahead.
Feb - Fete de la Sainte Agathe
Mar - Foire de Printemts - Spring Fair
June - Fete de La Transhumance
Aug (Mid) - Fête patronale de l'Assomption; procession to Notre Dame de Buyei with costumed Sapeurs de l'Empire.
Aug (End) - Grande Foire d'Ete - Summer Fair
Sep (mid) - Foire au Tardons - annual Sheep fair, market; Mercantour National Parc animations
• GPS: 44.088821, 6.853593
IGN (1/25,000) #3540 ET "Haute Vallée du Var, Gorges de Daluis, Mercantour"
IGN (1/25,000) #3640 OT "Haut Cians, Valberg"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #9 "Mercantour"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #1 "Alpes de Provence"
This is really great hiking country. The hills are fairly steep, but there are numerous hiking trails going out in all directions from Guillaumes, and there are several loop possibilites of various distances. The IGN map 3540 ET shows the trails, and the numbered markers to help with navigation.
The maze of mountian hiking trails extends far enough, in most directions, that you can spend days or weeks hiking here without repeating.
Drive up the little road past the Chateau Reine Jeanne to the hamlet of Bouchanières, and hike from there to the abandoned village of Barels (1h30). Only the beginning of the trail is shaded, so avoid a mid-day hike.
Another nice hike goes to the abandoned village of Amen, south of Guillaumes. The trail (actually the ancient mule trail) starts from the Pont de Roberts, about 1.5 km down the D2202. The round-trip hike is 5-6 hours, with a dénivelé of 550 m, but the view of the Gorges de Daluis and the Var valley is worth it.
The GR52A (Grande Randonnée) passes through Bouchanières, 4 km to the north. The GR52A comes up from Valberg and Péone to the east, crosses west past Bouchanières and goes north along the edge of the Parc de Mercantour.
With two hotel-restaurants and four café-restaurants, we found a pretty fair choice, even for a Sunday in September. There was a café-restaurant with a 70F plat du jour, and the hotel-restaurant Le Chaudron had a 120F full meal. We splurged for the 4-course meal at Le Chaudron, and were not disappointed. They even managed to have the trout, served whole in its skin, de-boned. An after-lunch walk up to the chateau ruins helped rationalize the cheese course.
(Our thanks to the Bienvenue a Guillaumes web for these items.)
Tourte salée aux courges et aux noix - Prepared on the farm on bread-baking day.
Les capons de Guillaumes et du val d'Entraunes - Based on blettes (white beets)
La morue frite - The Christmas-eve dish.
Les boudins à l'ancienne
La fricassée de porc - Typical of this region, made the day the hog is butchered.
Les Crouis - Pasta in the form of an ear, served with a sauce of tomato, walnuts or green sauce.
Raviolis de Courge - This traditional mountain-village dish is squash ravioli with walnut sauce.
River-water sports, including canoeing-kayaking, canyoning and rafting in the Gorges de Daluis and the Clues de Guillaumes.
Bungee jumping, at the Pont de Mariée in the Gorges de Daluis.
Skiing and winter sports at Valberg, 13 km east, in the commune of Guillaumes.
Hiking, by foot, horse or donkey.
Swimming: municipal swimming pool (piscine)
It's about 1h30 drive here from Nice, up the N202 along the Var river, following it west past Villars, Touet, Puget-Théniers and Entrevaux. Six km past Entrevaux, turn north up through the gorgeous Gorges de Daluis.
From Digne-les-Bains (95 km) you go southeast to Barreme, then east to St-André-les-Alpes and Annot. Seven km east of Annot, it's again north up the Gorges de Daluis.
From Barcelonnette in the north, you come over the Col de Cayolle (2326 m) and down past Entraunes; 66 km of mountian road, beautiful but about 2 hours.
Guillaumes was linked to the south until well into the 19th century by a mule trail that passed from Puget-Théniers via Amen and the Col de Roua. In 1873, the departmental road D2 was completed, opening the canton to the rest of the world. In 1923, a tramway was completed, and some of the route, with ancient viaducts and tunnels, can still be seen along the far side of the valley. The tramway lasted only until 1939, when it was superceded by private transport along better roads.
Bus Line 770 Nice - Beuil
- Bus line 770, Nice -Beuil, departs from the Nice Gare Routier, stops at the Gare SNCF (railway station), Nice airport terminal-1 and several village along the way. The full trip takes 3-1/2 hours and costs 1 euro.
Stops include Colomars gare, Plan-du-Var, Villars-sur-Var, Touët-sur-Var, Puget-Théniers, Entrevaux, Guillaumes, Valberg station, Beuil Les-Launes, Beuil syndicate-d'initiative.
An official list of Alpes-Maritimes bus lines, with links to the schedules for each line (PDF), is available on the following link:
- Web: www.cg06.fr/fr/servir-les-habitants/deplacements/transport-collectifs/lignes-et-horaires/lignes-et-horaires/