The Grand Tour - Vive la Différence!

The Grand Tour - Vive la Différence!

France is blessed with high-speed routes, but here is a tour with a difference, taking the traditional route to the Massif Central. Our triangular tour takes in Clermont Ferrand, Nimes and Béziers, with vibrant viaducts, vineyards and valley scenery on the Cévenol Railway and the Ligne des Causses, plus a plethora of heritage railways on another unique Railtrail tour. Vive la différence!

12 Days From £2,095



Saturday 21 July 2018



  • Arrive in handsome Clermont Ferrand on the Ligne Bourbonnais

  • Visit Mont Dore in the Massif Central

  • Soar up the Funiculaire du Capucin

  • Explore Auvergne on the Gentiane Express tourist train

  • Heritage diesel on Agrivap and the Chemin de Fer du Haut Forez

  • Take the stunning Cévenol Line to Nimes

  • Tour historic Roman Nimes

  • Steam between Anduze and St Jean du Gard on the Train Vapeur des Cevennes

  • Stay in central Béziers

  • Visit the Canal du Midi and enjoy a local winetasting

  • Experience the Train Rouge from Rivesaltes to Axat in the Pyrenees foothills

  • Marvel at medieval Carcassonne

  • Return to Clermont Ferrand on the scenic Ligne des Causses

Also included in your Tour Fare:

  • Dinner every evening

  • Services of experienced Railtrail Tour Manager

  • Hotel Porterage


We depart London by Eurostar to Paris. Crossing the French capital to Bercy, we join the Ligne Bourbonnais route through central France towards the Massif Central. Our hotel for four nights in Clermont Ferrand is the Mercure.



Heading westwards by coach into the Massif Central, we arrive in Mont Dore, a spa town with thermal waters in abundance. Our visit includes a journey on the Funiculaire du Capucin, France's oldest funicular railway, dating from 1898 and also a ride on the Téléphérique du Sancy cable car up the Puy du Sancy, the Massif Central's highest peak.

B, D


After some free time in Clermont Ferrand we transfer again into the High Auvergne region to a line closed in 1991 but preserved as a heritage line since 1993. Once part of a route linking Paris to the south with wagons lits, the Gentiane Express now covers the 90-minute journey from Riom es Montagne to Lugarde Marchastel.

B, D


After more free time in Clermont we transfer eastwards to Estivareilles, where we join the heritage diesel Chemin de Fer du Haut Forez on its route to La Chaisse Dieu, literally 'the House of God' in Occitan French with its impressive cathedral. From La Chaisse Dieu we depart on the Agrivap heritage diesel train to Ambert.

B, D


Today we explore the scenic Cévenol Railway between Clermont Ferrand and Nimes. Faced with the threat of closure several times due to High Speed Lines, there are thankfully still three trains a day through this region of outstanding beauty of wild river gorges and viaducts. In Nimes we spend three nights at the Novotel.

B, D


A morning guided tour of Nimes uncovers this impressive city's Roman heritage, not least the stunning amphitheatre. Your afternoon is then free to explore independently.

B, D


A coach transports us through the Cevennes to Anduze to join a scenic steam excursion on a return trip to St Jean du Gard with the Train Vapeur des Cevennes. Returning to Nimes by coach, we make a photo stop at the incredible Pont du Gard aqueduct, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

B, D


Our train whisks us from Nimes through Montpelier and skirts the Mediterranean en route to Béziers, a cathedral city on the River Orb. Béziers was the home of Paul Riquet, the engineer responsible for the Canal du Midi, an extraordinary piece of engineering that links the Atlantic with the Mediterranean. On arrival we visit a staircase of nine locks, before sampling local wine, Béziers' other claim to fame, and checking into the Mercure Hotel for three nights.

B, D


Travelling south by train, today's excursion arrives at Rivesaltes to join the Train du Pays Cathare et des Fenouilledes. Better known as the Red Train, this tourist service climbs from Rivesaltes to Axat in the foothills of the Pyrenees, twisting and turning through the terrain. There is free time in Axat before we make our return journey to Rivesaltes and Béziers.

B, D

DAY 10

Another rail excursion travels due west across Languedoc to Carcassonne, one of the world's most incredible medieval fortified towns. Carcassonne's citadel is entirely encircled by an impenetrable wall, all turrets, towers and battlements. Explore the quaint alleys of this UNESCO World Heritage site before we return to Béziers.

B, D

DAY 11

Completing our triangular tour, we depart Béziers on another of France's forgotten, yet beautiful lines, the Ligne des Causses, which climbs through the Massif Central using tunnels and viaducts to master the difficult terrain to arrive back in Clermont Ferrand for a final night at the Mercure Hotel.

B, D

DAY 12

After breakfast we retrace our tracks to Bercy, crossing Paris to join the Eurostar to London St Pancras, arriving early evening.


B=Breakfast, D=Dinner


Mercure Hotel, Clermont Ferrand

A new 4 star hotel right at the centre of Clermont Ferrand, with good transport connections, panoramic bar area and fitness centre.


Novotel Nimes

Discover ‘French Rome’ from this central 4 star hotel with well-equipped modern rooms, restaurant and bar.


Mercure Béziers

Situated just a short walk from the main Allée Paul Riquet avenue and cathedral of St Nazaire, the 4 star Mercure is a welcoming, modern hotel right at the heart of Béziers.



From London St Pancras International:

Standard Class rail travel

to / from France, including

Standard Eurostar


First Class rail travel

to / from Clermont Ferrand, including

Standard Premier Eurostar


Single Traveller Supplement



11 nights bed, breakfast & evening meal

Rail travel to & from Clermont Ferrand in the class of your choice (internal journeys all Standard Class)

All transfers, excursions & admissions as detailed

Services of experienced Railtrail Tour Manager

Hotel Porterage



Below is a list of pick-up points available on this tour.

Below is a list of pick-up points available on this tour.

Name Address Contact Details
London St Pancras Int London St Pancras Int (LNE)

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