Departure point Autun 223 km
Suitability for duo
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© Michelin - extract from '90 motorbike tours in France 2011'
With its vast forests, steep rocky slopes and fast-running rivers, the southern (or Upper) Morvan has all the characteristics of a mountainous region, including harsh winters. And yet its highest peak is only just over 900m. Far from major roads, this area is bound to delight those who prefer the great outdoors to be a little wild.
Autun > Autun
The route starts in the Arroux valley dominated by the spire of Autun cathedral. Founded in the 1st century BC, under the name Augustodunum, Autun was an important Gallo-Roman stronghold, of which many relics remain. The town became a major religious centre in the Middle Ages which saw the construction of important buildings, such as the collegiate church of Notre-Dame and cathedral of St-Lazare, as well as many townhouses. Suffice to say that Autun is ideal for culture and history enthusiasts! You can also go to prison (now disused) if you want! In fact it's an interesting building, a fine example of a panopticon (circular shape having cells built round and fully exposed towards a central 'well' for observation). Definitely worth a visit!
Autun > Les Settons
Head out of Autun to the north, on the D980 towards Avallon, through rolling hedge-trimmed farmland and forests. The land rises sharply after Lucenay-l'Évêque but the road runs through the Ternin valley. Gourmets will want to stop in Saulieu, famous for its top class restaurants. There are two annual events which may determine when you tour this area: the Charolais beef festival in August and the 'Journées gourmandes' (food festival) around Ascension day.
Head south out of Saulieu towards Alligny-en-Morvan. Once past Moux-en-Morvan, turn left onto the D193 to Les Settons. You ride around one side of Les Settons lake in its superb setting before arriving in the village. There is a long-distance footpath (GR) around the lake and the hike takes about 4 hours. Nature lovers will enjoy walking past pine and larch trees, observing the birds and plant life native to these wetlands. In summer there are often large numbers of visitors.
Les Settons > Château-Chinon
Leave Les Settons on the D520, towards Château-Chinon – look out for gravel – then take the D37. After the hamlet of Planchot, there is a series of tight bends all the way to Château-Chinon, capital of the Morvan. A real treat! This hilltop town overlooks the lovely, undulating region through which you have just travelled. You can get good views on the Circuit du Calvaire track – on foot. Château-Chinon began as a Gallo-Roman settlement (oppidum), continued as a medieval fortress and, centuries later, became the stronghold of a famous mayor and future French President. Official gifts received by François Mitterrand are displayed in the Septennat Museum, housed in an 18th century convent of the order of Saint Clare. If you prefer to stay outdoors, there is a hillside walk around the old castle or you can stroll up and down the narrow medieval streets of the old town.
Château-Chinon > Autun
Return to Autun via the D978 then D27. After 3 km turn left onto the D157 to St-Léger-de-Fougeret where you can swap your bike for a donkey! It takes a little getting used to, as donkeys don't have sophisticated shock absorbers like modern motorbikes. But at least they don't skid on the many gravel patches in the area!
Continue on the D157 as far as Onlay then turn left onto the D18 towards St-Léger-sous-Beuvray. A few kilometres before this village, turn left on a little road which climbs up the Mont Beuvray (alt. 821m), a kind of plateau standing apart from the Upper Morvan massif. In the second century BC the Aedui, a powerful Gallic tribe, chose this site for their capital, Bibracte. Today there is a vast archaeological site with all sorts of remains and a Museum of Celtic civilisation. There are panoramic views of Autun, Uchon and the Mont-St-Vincent from an esplanade in the old settlement (oppidum) of Bibracte.
After your tour of this ancient Gallic town, return to the D18 road as far as St-Léger-sous-Beuvray then turn off for St-Honoré-les-Bains on the D179 road which runs past the forest of Glenne. You can then drive along the forest road (RF) towards Le Grand Mizieux and the D978 to Autun.