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Hautes Pyrénées,
département 65


Map of France, highlighting the Department of Hautes-Pyrenees

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new! Cathedrale Saint-Gatien at Tours  Cathedrale Saint-Gatien at Tours

Romanesque churches and cathedrals in south-west France updated: Romanesque churches and cathedrals in south-west France

 the perpendicular or English style of cathedral  Manchester cathedral

the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
cathedral giants - Amiens and Beauvais

Stone tracery in church and cathedral construction illustrated
stone in church and cathedral construction

stained glass and cathedrals in Normandy illustrated graph

fortified churches, mostly in Les Landes

cathedral labyrinths and mazes in France
using metal in gothic cathedral construction

Germans in France
cathedral destruction during the French revolution, subsidiary page to Germans in France

Click for an introduction to cathedrals and stained glass in France.

on first arriving in France - driving
France is not England
paying at the péage (toll station)

Click for motorways and motorway aires in France.

Transbordeur bridges in France and the world 2: focus on Portugalete, Chicago, Rochefort-Martrou
Gustave Eiffel’s first work: the Eiffel passerelle, Bordeaux
a fifth bridge coming to Bordeaux: pont Chaban-Delmas, a new vertical lift bridge

France’s western isles: Ile de Ré
France’s western iles: Ile d’Oleron

Ile de France, Paris: in the context of Abelard and of French cathedrals
short biography of Pierre (Peter) Abelard

Marianne - a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps

la Belle Epoque
Grand Palais, Paris

Click to go to pages about Art Deco at abelard.org

Click to go to 'the highest, longest: the viaduct de Millau'

Pic du Midi - observing stars clearly, A64
Carcassonne, A61: world heritage fortified city

Space City, Toulouse

the French umbrella & Aurillac

50 years old: Citroën DS
the Citroën 2CV: a French motoring icon

the forest as seen by Francois Mauriac, and today
Les Landes, places and playtime
roundabout art of Les Landes

Hermès scarves

Hèrmes logo

bastide towns
mardi gras! carnival in Basque country
country life in France: the poultry fair

what a hair cut! m & french pop/rock

Tour de France 2023s

Le Tour de France: cycling tactics illustrated

the department of hautes pyrénées
the pic du jer funicular railway
the pic du midi de bigorre
the A64 autoroute/motorway
end notes

other related documents for the Hautes Pyrénées

the department of hautes pyrénées

The Département of Hautes-Pyrénées is a relatively small department, both in surface area (4,388 km²/1,694 mi²) and population (121,419). This department has has several geographical areas. To the south are the central Pyrénées mountains, which border Spain. The Pyrenees range has over twenty peaks higher than 3,000 metres, few rising above 10,000 feet. The Observatory at the Pic du Midi offers astounding panoramic views across the Pyrenees range. Older than the Alps, the sediments in the Pyrenees were first deposited during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. This mountain area is a regular and popular part of the annual Tour de France, providing gruelling cycling with amazing scenery.

Near the Breche  de Roland, Gavarnie - the remaining glaciers
Near the Brèche de Roland, Gavarnie - the remaining glaciers
click on photo for larger version

Going north into France are high pastures, then rolling foot hills with verdant chestnut and oak forests. Here, sheep, cattle, goats and horses roam freely. The landscape changes again to the north of the Department, with flat, agricultural plains stretching to its border with Gers.

High pastures, with a large flock of sheep
High pastures, with a large flock of sheep
click on photo for larger version

Tourism is a major revenue source for this department, winter sports and summer hiking being important activities. There are many ski resorts [stations de ski] for all abilities, while the Pyrenees National Park, extending over 45,000 hectares, is a natural wonderland of Alpine flowers in the Pyreneesalpine flowers, animals and birds. The National Park is protected from construction and touristic over-use, with a peripheral area extending into the foothills. With well-marked footpaths and overnight shelters (rather like youth hostels), there are many opportunities for hiking and observing nature. To make sure of seeing wild animals, you can visit the animal park at Argéles-Gazost, where there is also a Natural History Museum.

EaglesSome of the large birds that you may well see soaring in the mountains are vultures or golden eagles. Brown bears have been re-introduced, and wolves also live in secluded mountainous areas. The lower woods are also home to wild boar, deer and red squirrels, that often look close to black.

Orchids in Hautes-Pyrenees
Orchids in Hautes-Pyrenees


Pau, capital of the département of Hautes-Pyrénées, is birthplace of Henry IV of France [1553 - 1610]. His mother was Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre, whose family titles included Navarre and Béarn as well as the countdom of Foix, and whose vast territories included much of Les Landes and extended around Agen, to Périgord and to the viscomtdom of Limoges. Jeanne converted to Huguenot Protestantism in 1560, seven years after the birth of Henry. Henry of Navarre became the first Protestant to become king of France, after converting to Catholicism, supposedly with the comment, “Paris vaut bien une messe” - “Paris is well worth a mass”.

English travellers came to Pau from the late 18th century, to enjoy its climate and healthy air, encouraged by Wellington, who had left a garrison at Pau on his way into Spain during the Peninsular War against Napoleon I. Holidaying British, who came even before the railroad was built, made their mark with the scenic Boulevard des Pyrénées, the first full 18-hole golf course in Europe (laid out in between 1856 to 1860, and still existing), and a real tennis court.

Napoleon III refurbished the château, and there are streets of Belle Époque architecture, built before Biarritz become the fashionable resort. Pau is a major winter sports centre, and equestrian events such as a famous steeplechase are held there.

Pau’s prosperity is now based on helicopter manufacturer Turbomeca, as well as tourism and agriculture. The French fossil fuel company, Elf Aquitaine, is based at Pau.


The most prominent feature used to be the fortified castle which rises up from the centre of the town on a rocky escarpment. However, with the burgeoning Christian fervour and attraction of this town, there are now many religious edifices to compete for attention.

View across Bartres,  a typical Pyrenean village, where Bernardette stayed at times  during her childhood, to the Pyrenees mountain range.
View across Bartres, a typical Pyrenean village, where
Bernardette stayed at times during her childhood,
to the Pyrenees mountain range.
click on photo for larger version

Lourdes has the second greatest number of hotels in France after Paris with about 270 establishments. After alleged apparitions of “Our Lady of Lourdes” to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, Lourdes has developed into a major place of Christian pilgrimage. 2008 was the 150th anniversary of her ‘visions’.

Gift shop at Bartres, in a house where Bernadette stayed at times  during her childhood
Gift shop at Bartres, in a house where Bernadette
stayed at times during her childhood
click on photo for larger version

New translation, the Magna Carta

the Pic du Jer funicular railway

Entering Lourdes on the D821, the road from Cauterets, then the N21, you can see on the right the straight line of the impressive funicular railway that rises 480 metres, over 1,000 feet to the summit with its panoramic view over the town of Lourdes.

Lourdes fuicular railway, with  cars passing.

Operating since 1900, the funicular has a single line with a passing place about half way up (left). On the right, one car has almost reached the top, while the other emerges from the tunnel before approaching the lower station.

At the summit are grottos, an observatory and a restaurant.
[Note: the top station is at 880 metres, with the restaurant is nearby. There is an uphill, mostly gentle, walk on a hairpin path, the ‘bend’ being at 911 metres. The grottos are at 932 and 933 metres, there are ruins at 928 metres, the viewing point is at 934 metres, while the summit cross is at 948 metres. There are also subterranean paths.]

Lourdes funicular railway station, with Petit train.
Lourdes funicular railway station, with the Petit train touristique

le petit train of the Rhune funicular railway.


Old postcard showing the Breach of RolandGavarnie is a base for walking in high mountains, admiring the spectacular scenery, the jewel- like flowers, the soaring eagles. You might even see a marmoset guarding its burrow. The Cirque de Gavarnie is a two-hour walk from the village, or you can ride up on a mule. For more experienced walkers, the High Pyrenean Walking Route follows the heights, with refuges for overnight stops.

Cirque de Gavarnie is a famous example of a cirque in the central Pyrenees, in the Pyrenees National Park. The cirque is 800m wide (on the deepest point) and about 3000m wide at the top. It incorporates seventeen peaks that are over 3,000 metres, with the highest waterfall in Europe at 423 metres - the Gavarnie Falls.

A major feature of the cirque is La Brèche de Roland (Roland’s Breach, also called the Roncevaux Pass), supposedly created by Roland, a nephew of Charlemagne. According to legend, Roland owned a sword reputed to be indestructible, that had previously belonged to Hector of Troy. To prevent the sword falling into the hands of the Sarasens, Roland attempted to destroy it by hacking at the rocks. He managed to cut a gap 40 metres wide and 100 metres high.

On the road between Gavarnie and the high mountains
On the road between Gavarnie and the high mountains
click on photo for larger version

Advertising poster for winter sports at Cauterets


Like Gavarnie, Cauterets is walking territory during the warmer months, but during the colder parts of the year, Cauterets is a major skiing resort, for both cross-country and downhill skiing, with cable-cars up to the pistes running all through the day, and visible from town centre hotels.

As well as being a ski resort, like many mountain towns, Cauterets is also a spa town. Thermal springs welling up from the ground provide mineral-rich waters, containing calcium sulphates, iron, sulphur and sodium. These are used to treat respiratory and skin diseases, as well as rheumatism and other complaints.

Looking down the Cauterets valley
Looking down the Cauterets valley
click on photo for larger version

A local speciality are the flavoured boiled sweets, berlingots [the name refers to the shape of the sweet]. These are made in several sweet shops in the town, and you can watch the stages in making striped boiled sweets - a quite extraordinary process. As well as being able to buy bags and boxes of mixtures that you’ve chosen, from at least one shop it is possible to order and have sweets sent to your home.

Berlingot boiled sweets being made in a Cauterets boutique
Berlingot boiled sweets being made in a Cauterets boutique

Jars of different flavoured berlingots, Cauterets
Jars of different flavoured berlingots, Cauterets

the Pic du Midi de Bigorre

The Pic du Midi cable-car.In 1873, a weather station was set up on the Col de Sencours, below the Pic de Midi. The foundation stone for the Observatory was laid five years later. This Observatory, now listed natural site, has been opened to the public since 2000. Thus, it is visitable, providing you do not mind riding in “a bucket on a string” [a cable car]. The trip starts at 1 800 metres. Fifteen minutes later, you reach the Observatory at an altitude of 2,877 metres for a two-hour visit.

Here are the most spectacular views across the snow-topped Pyrenees to the plains southern France and north to the Massif Central foothills. There is a museum and discovery area where you can understand the astronomical research being done with the three telescopes, including a solar telescope. There is also a restaurant, a snack bar and a gift shop. Visitors should take both warm clothing and sun glasses, and take account of being almost 1.8 miles higher than sea level.

See also Pic du Midi - observing space clearly for much more detail and many illustrations.

the A64 autoroute/motorway

The A64 motorway, La Pyrénéenne, runs through the northern plains of the department of Hautes Pyrenees, on its route parallel to the Pyrenees mountain range. Amongst its many aires de repose and aires de service are two that provide more than just a peaceful stop for picnicking and ‘escaping’ the confines of a car.

end notes

  1. Département
    the above is the French way of spelling the word that Anglo-Saxons spell as department. Here at abelard.org, we use both spellings when describing the French administrative department, which is fairly equivalent to an American state or British county.

  2. For a map of the modern départements of France, see the map at the abelard.org France Zone.

  3. The French and the English spell compound words and phrases, such as Pyrenees Atlantiques and Pays Basque differently from us Anglo-Saxons. Also note that the French also often pronounce words somewhat differently: dropping final consonants in many instances, being more meticulous to pronounce each vowel with a clearly different sound, and usually pronouncing every syllable.
    At abelard.org, we tend to ring the changes between French and English spellings, and even sometimes use a mixture, as in Basqueland!

    But why is the French version of Pyrenees Atlantiques spelt Pyrénées-atlantiques, and why does Pays Basque not have an ‘s’ at the end of the second word?
    Pyrénées-atlantiques: In French, with a double-barrelled word, the second word matches the first word on whether it is singular or plural. In French, the Pyrenees is a plural word - the collective noun for that range of mountains, so the accompanying adjective (describing word: Atlantique) also ends in ‘s’. In French, the second word in a hyphenated compound noun is written in lower case. This is why ‘atlantiques’ is in lower case.
    Pays Basque: In French, the word for country, le pays, is singular. Thus the accompanying adjective, Basque, is also given as the singular, that is without an ‘s’ at the end.

on first arriving in France - driving motorway aires, introduction
travelling by rail to and within France Les Pyrénées, A64 Poey de Lascar, A64
aires on the A75 autoroute from clermont-ferrand to béziers Pic du Midi, A64 Dunes, A62
aires on the A89 autoroute from bordeaux to clermont-ferrand and beyond Hastingues, A64 Mas d’Agenais, A62
aires on the busy A7 autoroute from lyons to marseille Pech Loubat, A61 Garonne, A62
aires on the motorway to Spain - the A9 autoroute Port-Lauragais, A61 Catalan village, A9
three aires on the canal du midi, A61 Ayguesvives, A61 Tavel, A9
aires on the autoroute of two seas - the A62 Renneville, A61 Les Bréguières, A8
aires on the other autoroute of two seas - A64 and A61 Carcassonne, A61 Lozay, A10
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