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The puy Mary
A pyramid in the landscape

 

Listed as a Grand Site de France, Le Puy Mary draws some 600,000 visitors every year. From the top of this amazing volcanic pyramid you can enjoy one of Auvergne’s finest views.

Le Puy Mary is not the highest of Cantal’s peaks, of which there are many, including Le Puy du Rocher (1,813 metres), Le Peyre Arse (1,806 metres), Le Puy Brunet (1,806 metres) and Le Puy Griou (1,690 metres), as well as Le Plomb du Cantal which, from its 1,855 metre summit, looks out over Europe’s largest group of stratovolcanoes, with an area of 2,700 square kilometres.

 

Le Puy Mary, meanwhile, is a “mere” 1,783 metres high, but its pyramid shape confers on it alone the ability to symbolise the power and majesty of the mountains of Haute Auvergne. As a genuinely iconic presence, Le Puy Mary draws around 600,000 visitors every year; visitors who are happy to climb the 200 metres or so that separate it from the Pas de Peyrol, which is where all the cars, buses and camper vans gather. This has made it such a success that the integrity of the volcano and its summit ridge was at one point threatened, having been considerably worn by pedestrians.

 

A pyramid in the Cantal landscape
A pyramid in the Cantal landscape
Now listed as a Grand Site de France, Le Puy Mary has a paved and marked route that takes you to a viewpoint indicator, from which you can enjoy one of the most panoramic views in the whole of France. When the weather is fine during the autumn, you can see over the volcano as far as Mont Blanc, but the more immediate surroundings are of still more appeal, especially Le Puy Griou and Le Plomb du Cantal, and the seven grass-covered valleys radiating out in a star shape from the summit: La Santoire, La Petite Rhue, Le Mars, La Maronne, L’Aspre, La Bertrande and La Jordanne, all of which are separated by narrow promontories that diverge and create a unique landscape.

Built up by the accumulation of thick lava flows, Le Puy Mary owes its particular “horn-like” shape to glacial erosion. As for its name (“puech Maria” in Provençal French), this derives from Marius, who was a follower of Saint Austremonius and the first evangelist in Haute Auvergne, where Marius lived during the third or fourth century AD, and whose remains are now in the basilica of Mauriac.

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Auvergne, nouveau monde

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