The Massif Central is France’s largest massif and reaches up to the hinterland of Montpellier. The south part is called the Causse du Larzac, starting with the Nature 2000 site ‘Les Contreforts du Larzac’. From Saint-Saturnin-de-Lucian, you can reach the Roc des Deux Vierges (the Two Virgins rock), which is the highest point of the Larzac plateau. Of course, this landmark in the Hérault Valley includes a stunning view of the region. But there’s also a legend and some history…
What to do with two teenagers bored of their minds? I decided to take them on a hike to get them out of the house. To sell the idea, I told the twins we would look for the Devil’s Canyon (Canyon du Diable). I’ve been looking for this extraordinary canyon near the Lac du Salagou for ages after seeing pictures of it. With its red earth, it’s also known as the ‘Colorado Languedocien’. Apparently, there is no marked trail to the canyon. But the oenorando (wine walk) Roc des Deux Vierges trail starting at Saint-Saturnin-de-Lucian comes close. Therefore, Chéri, the twins and I drove to the tiny winegrower village to start the 11 km hike. The first part overlaps with the Sentier du Vin des Poètes. The Cave Coopérative created this poetry trail to discover the terroir and vineyards in a fun way.
Canyon du Diable
Leaving the village behind us, we soon enough found ourselves in the middle of vineyards and garrigue. A little bit of zigzagging brought us to a wide, gravelled path winding over the ridge, with the Roc des Deux Vierges rising above in the distance. And there, on the left, I noticed some red earth, called ‘ruffe’ in French and typical for the Lac du Salagou area. Taking a closer look, I finally found the Canyon du Diable! It was right there, at the foot of the Roc des Deux Vierges, which also had a base of red earth now I looked at it. The top is crowned with Dolomitic rocks, making the site even more special. I desperately wanted to descend into the gorge, but the twins didn’t quite agree. They had to revise their exams and were already very kind to go on this 11 km hike with me.
It was clear that it wasn’t possible- this time- for me to make the trail longer with a little detour… Fair enough, I’ll go back another time then. We continued our path in the direction of the Roc des Deux Vierges. The climb to its summit was a slight detour, which I didn’t tell the kids. We just went up to enjoy the panoramas and a well-earned picnic. There are tables just before climbing to the top, however, we preferred to have lunch-with-a-view. And what a view we had! We could see as far as the Pic Saint-Loup and even a part of the Lac du Salagou. The ‘Two Virgins’ rock itself stands before the climb to the summit, and with some imagination you can spot two faces in it. However, I didn’t realise until reading the information sign that the Roc des Deux Vierges is more than a rock.
Roc des Deux Vierges
The name of the Two Virgins also refers to an ancient female monastic tradition, mentioned in the year 1004. Legend goes that two sisters of Saint-Fulcran- the later bishop of Lodève- had chosen the top of the plateau as a place to live. It was the perfect secluded spot to retire in spirituality after living on the hill on which Montpellier was eventually founded. Later in history, at the end of the 10th century, one of the first Lodevois castles arose on this very spot. Its strategic location served perfectly to observe the widespread Larzac communication and trade routes from above. The lords in charge of these routes named themselves after the Roc des Deux Vierges, and so the two sisters lived on in history. Nowadays, only ruins remain of the old fortress. The only survivor of these days gone by is the chapel of Saint-Fulcran.