After your visit to Calais, explore the Pays d’Opale and its diverse landscapes!
This ancient pilgrimage route, initiated in 990 by Sigeric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is now a leisure hiking trail for exploring and discovering our region.
Today revived as a hiking, leisure, and discovery route through our region, this trail dates back to 58 BC when Julius Caesar opened a ‘Road to Rome’ through France. Initially known as the ‘Via Francigena’ or ‘Iter Francorum’ from 725 AD, it was once called the ‘Lombard Road.’
This was a major pilgrimage route from Northern Europe to Rome. The journey was initiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric, who walked to Rome in 990 to meet Pope John XV and receive the pallium and investiture cloak.
The historical Via Francigena includes well-known stops like Guînes, Thérouanne, Bruay, Arras in Pas-de-Calais, followed by Cambrai, Reims, Besançon, Pontarlier, Lausanne, Aosta, Pavia, Siena, and Bolsena, finally reaching Rome. These 80 essential stops are documented in the travel journal of the Saxon Archbishop.
Recognized by the Council of Europe in 1994 as part of the ‘Caminos de Europa,’ the Via Francigena, much like the Camino de Santiago, is a project that connects the history, religion, art, and economy of Europe like a guiding thread.
After the journey through Kent from Canterbury to Dover, we present stages of approximately 20 kilometers, focusing on recognized trails known for their quality and promoting the discovery of landscapes and heritage.
From Calais, the hiker will connect to Wissant along the coastal GR. Then, the stage goes from Wissant to Guînes in the last foothills of the Boulonnais. From Guînes, it’s a route into the heart of the Pays d’Opale that will lead you in the footsteps of the monks of Licques Abbey.
During your journey, you will cross the Guînes Forest. Here, you will discover the Blanchard Column, a monument commemorating the first crossing between England and France by gas balloon. Nearby, you will find picnic tables, allowing you to take a well-deserved break. You have the option to get your credential stamped at the Community of Communes of the Pays d’Opale. As you exit the forest, turn right towards Hermelinghen. At the Mât, you will find a picnic table, providing a stop before continuing your journey. Continue this adventure by crossing the village of Alembon and the Licquois valleys. Take the time to marvel at these splendid landscapes. When passing through Licques, the majesty of the former abbey will surprise you. It was founded by the Premonstratensian order in 1075. From there, you gradually leave the Pays d’Opale and enter the Audomarois by crossing the villages of Audenfort and Yeuse.
Exploring the paths of the Via Francigena across the Pays d’Opale region…
“Exploring the paths of this famous pilgrimage through the trails of the Pays d’Opale is a beautiful cultural, heritage, and even spiritual journey! With a backpack and map in hand, I wander through the paths that traverse this beautiful territory with incredibly rich landscapes! Surrounding me are colorful fields that intoxicate me with a scent that awakens my senses. The golden yellow of the rapeseed reflects with the sun, the fields of greenish barley in full growth sway to the rhythm of the wind, the desire to touch them is stronger than me, hmm, that sensation of softness… Poppies mingle with wheat where rabbits, pheasants, and other species coexist in harmony. It’s time for me to discover the forest, this separate world where an atmosphere both mysterious and magical reigns, and where the sun’s rays play hide-and-seek with the leaves of beech, ash, and majestic fir trees. The songs of birds resonate in the distance, wildflowers proudly stand on either side of the forest, suddenly I cross the path of a deer, time is as if suspended… I take it all in, I know she will quickly disappear, 1…2…3… this magical moment flies away in a fraction of a second, and I set off full of energy! I see in the distance a source of light getting brighter and brighter, my beautiful adventure in the heart of the forest is coming to an end, my magnificent experience continues through rolling landscapes, there will be some climbing, I love that! My legs are starting to tire, but the exceptional view that this journey in the heights offers is breathtaking, I could almost touch the clouds! The time has come to descend this ascent to rejoin ‘civilization’, I see in the distance a beautiful abbey that stands out in the village, indicating the end of this day rich in emotions. It is now time to rest and reflect on these beautiful images that fill my mind.”
Pays d’Opale Hiking Guide