Parc des BaugesCreated in 1995, the Parc des Bauges (www.parcdesbauges.com) encompasses a vast and largely unspoilt area of rolling green hills, mountains, forests, open grasslands and valleys, sparsely dotted with tiny villages, and stretching from Chambéry in the west to Albertville in the east and Lac d'Annecy in the north. It makes for pleasant and, for the most part, undemanding walking country, though otherwise you'll need your own transport to get about.
France > Alps > Bauges
The Maison du Parc (tel 04.79.54.86.40) is located in the otherwise unremarkable village of Le Châtelard, just below Mt Julioz (1675m) in the centre of the Bauges Massif take the D912 north from Chambéry to Lescheraines, then follow the D911 to the southeast. They can advise on walking and cycling routes, and also help arrange accommodation in the local area. Just beyond Le Châtelard is the tiny, peaceful village of École, with the Maison Faune-Flore (July to mid-Sept daily 10am7pm; mid-Sept to June Sat & Sun 1.307pm & by reservation; tel 04.79.52.22.56; €2), which has a small display on the local wildlife, mainly aimed at children, and a good stock of books and brochures. Heading further south, you come to St-Pierre-d'Albigny, which, with around 3000 inhabitants, is one of the larger villages in the park. The main attraction here is the imposing Château de Miolans (April Sat & Sun 1.307pm; MaySept MonSat 10amnoon &1.307pm, Sun 1.307pm; €5.50), a grim eleventh-century fortress which looms over the village on the hill above. It was used as a notorious prison in the eighteenth-century, briefly welcoming the Marquis de Sade as an inmate, and the damp and dingy dungeons are a stark contrast to the breathtaking views over the lush vineyards in the valley below. If you want to stay, there's a small hotel in the village, the Central (tel 04.79.28.50.05; €4055). Other accommodation options in the area include the Hôtel Beauséjour in Mercury, towards Albertville (tel 04.79.32.30.01; €4055), and the George in Montmélian, (tel 04.79.84.05.87; €4055), a charming medieval village southeast of Chambéry.