Day 4: Santenay to Nolay

Walking in France: On the way to the top of the Mountain of the Three Crosses

On the way to the top of the Mountain of the Three Crosses

Thursday, 27 May 2004
Distance 15 km
Duration 3 hours 30 minutes
Ascent 364 m, descent 272 m
Map 3025 OT in the TOP 25 series (Beaune-Chagny)

The two halves of the party met at Santenay-le-Haut at 7:15 for the assault on the summit of the Mountain of the Three Crosses, which is part of the same high ground that the windmill stands on. This crest was much harder to get to, however.

It took almost an hour of strenuous climbing up a road, a track, and finally a steep meadow, and we were then confronted with three horrid oversized concrete crosses. We hoped they were only a temporary replacement for something less Stalinist, which had perhaps been struck by lightning.

The view was ample in all directions and we rested there for a while, then scrambled down through light woodland on the other side.

Walking in France: Dolmen - a Neolithic burial site

Dolmen - a Neolithic burial site


There was a noticeboard informing us of the Neolithic remains in the area, and also of the botanical importance of the mountain, which has several rare species of orchids.

Shortly afterwards we came to a dolmen, a prehistoric burial chamber roofed with a heavy stone slab.

Emerging from the woods at the foot of the mountain, the path traversed fields of green wheat and golden canola, bordered by a profusion of flowers.

Walking in France: Striding to Nolay

Striding to Nolay


At length we saw the village of Nolay reclining comfortably in a fold of the hills and our track merged into the main road as we entered it. Max and Sue were both hobbling by this time so our arrival was none too soon.

Walking in France: Approaching Nolay

Approaching Nolay


We bought a large bag of pâtisserie and the shopkeeper directed us to the bar in the church square.

Walking in France: The Place de la Halle, Nolay

The Place de la Halle, Nolay

The dominant feature of the square was a grand old covered market (halle), roofed with stacked slabs of limestone, staggeringly heavy, supported by great chestnut posts.

We settled down in the sunshine outside the bar and ate the pastries with our coffee.

Walking in France: Coffee and pastries near the halle

Coffee and pastries near the halle


Max and Sue got a room in the pretty hotel overlooking the square and we all had lunch there, then Keith and I walked the short distance to the camping ground and set up our tent close to the stream.

There was no sign of staff in the place, then or ever, just a lot of German kids running about while their parents sat and drank.

Walking in France: Camping at Nolay

Camping at Nolay

At 7 pm we rejoined our companions at the bar. Their walking days were definitely over and they would catch the lunch-time bus to Beaune the next day, leaving us to walk. After a glass of the local white wine called aligoté, we moved across the square to the Pizzeria des Halle. We ate indoors because the square outside was being dug up to install a pavement fountain.

For our first course we had elaborate salads, something we had been rather deprived of lately, and followed them with pizzas, including the wonderful “Nolaytoise” with an egg perched on top. A litre of red wine helped all this down and we walked home in the dark.

Our tiny home was now dwarfed by a German campervan a few feet away and we felt lucky that it had not been accidentally crushed while the van was parking.

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