Causses and Cévennes UNESCO Site
The Midi is blessed with such a diverse and rich heritage that it boasts several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Perhaps the Pont du Gard, the Cité de Carcassonne, the Roman remains of Nimes and Arles are better known but an equally important site is to be found in and around the mountains of the Haut Languedoc. The full title of this UNESCO site is ‘The Causses and the Cévennes, Mediterranean Agro-Pastoral Cultural Landscape’. Unlike the other sites in the Languedoc, this one is entirely natural not man-made, apart from the impact domestic flocks may have had on the landscape over the centuries. The Cévennes Mountains form the south-eastern tip of the Massif Central and offer dramatic limestone cliffs and scenery over a huge area. It has been chosen as a UNESCO site because the rugged terrain has always encouraged pastoralism and deterred the expansion of large towns so the way of life has remained essentially unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Mont Lozère, the highest point in the region, is one of the few places where transhumance (the practice of moving flocks to summer pastures) still takes place on an annual basis.
You cannot hope to visit the entire area but a good place to start would be the town of Alès, often considered to be the gateway to the Cévennes. Alès was built on coal-mining and the production of silk an industry promoted by the Huguenot families living here, and there are a couple of museums in the town to commemorate these once important industries.
From Alès, you might go to Anduze and catch the little steam train to St Jean du Gard. This is a lovely scenic route that chugs through tunnels and over viaducts and will give you a flavour of the beautiful Cévennes Mountains.