Mourre Negre with sunset view

Luberon. Running up that hill.

Growing up in the Luberon area was a joyful time for me. Here in France, most schools haven’t got classes on Wednesdays. I remember like it was yesterday, being off school that day each week and spending long afternoons in the heart of the Luberon countryside. From a very young age, I would go out for long walks with my grandfather and our dog, exploring all the trails between Saignon, Auribeau and Buoux – all villages within a few miles of my grandparents’ home. This area of the Luberon mountain range is called the Le Grand Luberon, and it’s where you’ll find the range’s peak, Le Moure Nègre, reaching almost 1200m.

Fast forward a few years, I’d be out there on my mountain bike, on the look-out for the steepest downhills with my mates. When mushrooms were in season – morels in the spring or girolles in the autumn – I’d go out with my grandfather or my uncles, foraging the forests with my little Opinel knife and my basket. When I was older still, I started to appreciate the simple joy of running all around the mountain. To this day, I’ll often go out for a run with the dog whenever I’m back at the family home in Apt.
It’s only when you leave somewhere like the Luberon that you realise just how beautiful and special this place is. The changing seasons are dramatic here and the mountain never looks the same. It is Regal in spring with the bright deep blue sky in the background, Joyful in the summer with the lavender fields dotted around the mountain, Moody and Warm in the autumn with shades of yellows, reds and oranges, or even Harsh and Menacing in the winter when the snow clouds gather around the top of the mountain.

30 years have gone by since I was that little boy who would hop in his grandfather’s Citroën C15 with the dog to walk around the Luberon, and it’s grounding and comforting to see that the mountain and its villages have hardly changed. Yes, it does get busier in the summer as it has become a more popular destination for British and American tourists. But the trails I once rode my bike on, the villages where I’d stop at the local fountain to cool down, are still the same as they were. Unlike many other parts of Provence – luckily – the Luberon hasn’t fallen victim to any of the devastating summer wildfires in recent years. The fire prevention crews are on alert all summer here, and access to the mountain is restricted on the hottest days. Accessing trails with cars and motorbikes is also restricted to preserve the flora and fauna – only authorised hunters can drive around in their 4x4s.

I won’t reveal all my favourite trails as I want to preserve them! However, I would recommend heading to Buoux and finding the path following the Aigue Brun river. It’s one of the very few rivers around here, making it all the more special. By the river, it’s fairly cool even on a very hot summer’s day, and the hike from Buoux is technical but not difficult. It’s stunning as it’s nestled at the base of tall sandstone cliffs, some reaching over 300 feet. You may see brave rock climbers taking them on when you visit! From Buoux, follow the river past the beautiful Auberge des Seguins and walk all the way up to Sivergues, the next village up on the mountain. I remember the days when I used to come here to fish the river for trout; that was once I’d slowed down a bit from mountain biking!

Another walk I love – which is no secret to anyone – is the trail to Le Mourre Nègre from Auribeau. It’s a steep 5-mile walk - or run depending on your fitness! – all the way to the top of the mountain. I love this trail. Even though I live in the UK, I walked or ran it about 30 times last year, with my own dog this time. Sadly, my grandfather passed away last year. Going on that walk is almost a pilgrimage for me. It is a tribute to him and it brings back all the good memories I have with him – and it keeps me fit! Take on the challenge to conquer Le Mourre Nègre on your next visit in the Luberon. Wear some walking or trail shoes and comfortable clothes, check the weather, pack some water and a picnic, head to Auribeau, park there and go! At a slow walking pace, it takes a couple of hours to reach the summit. The feeling of reaching the top of this majestic mountain is exhilarating and the views are incredible. On a bright clear day, you can see the whole southern Alps to the north of you, and if you look south, you may be able to see the Mediterranean. My uncle told me he once saw Corsica from here – I don’t think it’s possible but I believed him for a long time!

There are some many good reasons to visit the Luberon and to explore its mountain range. Talking about it makes me emotional, nostalgic about my childhood but very excited about my next adventure on its trails.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m biased about how incredible this area is, one that’s inextricably linked to my home, my family, and my childhood… Then I get told by visiting friends that they think it’s just as special as I do, and that I should never take it for granted! I know I’ll cherish it all my life. I often get asked when the best time to visit is; I’d simply say there isn’t one and it’s best to come several times, all year round, to experience the true magic of this place.

Auribeau with lavender fields in the summer

Mourre Negre in winter covered in snow

Sivergues village in the Luberon

Mourre Negre in the Spring

Buoux and its cliffs

Aiguebrun river

Poppies field in the Luberon

Saignon village in the Luberon

Robert Jacquel our grandfather

See all articles in Le Blog