|Ardèche is home to lots and lots of really wonderful monuments, but this is rocky, mountainous area, so don't underestimate the time it'll take you to get from one to another, no matter how close they look on the map. The roads are narrow and twisty and have lots of slow traffic on: Belgian drivers and Dutch caravanners were especially frustrating!
We started our Ardeche dolmen hunting halfway up the fabulous Ardeche gorge:
... at a little village called Bidon.
Near Bidon, to the north of the Ardèche gorge, is the dolmen de Champ Vermeil, a vast and beautiful dolmen of just five huge slabs lurking in the woods, the capstone gently sloping at an angle of 15 degrees towards the back entrance. The capstone is massive and quite flat and a single slab makes up one side. Very impressive!
Approximate coordinates only
The first dolmen you come to is not far after you pass under crackling powerlines.
This is a small dolmen, following the usual pattern from dolmens round these parts. It has lost its capstone, but the shape of the little box which remains is still worth a view and it has plenty of original rubble. A nice even pair of portal stones still stand to mark the entrance. It's right by the side of the track so you won't miss it.
Approximate coordinates only
Continuing up the track, which began to get steeper, we eventually found dolmen 5.
It has a very good chamber still embedded deeply into the rubble cairn and a superb really flat capstone sloping hard at 20 degrees towards the back. Very nice!
Just a few metres away is dolmen 6.
Approximate coordinates onlyThere are other dolmens in the woods here, but we couldn't find any of them so decided to get back to our air-conditioned car and continue to find:
Dolmen 6 is weird thing!
Originally it was a pretty ordinary dolmen for round here, but it's drystone lined and slightly corbelled and curved at one end, and has two capstones – or was it one at one time?
But curiously somebody has built a tower practically on top if it, of drystone rubble in a square section, perhaps 12 feet tall with a staircase running up the middle of it to a lookout at the top. I scrambled up to get a view. We reckoned it was probably quite modern and perhaps a shepherd's lookout.
Next we went to find the dolmen de Pradinas, a very small, rather haphazardly restored dolmen standing near a dusty crossroads behind some trees. It's good that someone took the trouble to cement it back together again, but it lacks any atmosphere…
This one's tucked away in the car park of a 'dinosaur zoo'. The sweet little dolmen sits behind a little wooden fence, presumably to prevent kids climbing on it, as it seems quite dinkily precarious. It was great to have an 'easy win' and park right next to it. A charming monument, if a little bizarre to hear the roars of tyrannosaurus rex from the nearby attraction!
As the sun set we made our way to the Pont d'Arc, a natural rock bridge over the river Ardeche...
and watched some fearless young men hurling themselves into the cool river:
Mon Dieu! J'*couer* la France!