Dune du Pyla

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Having stayed at La Giraudiere previously for a working holiday I decided, 7 years later, to return as a paying guest. For your information, La Giraudiere is, or was, an old Charente property which is currently being renovated and converted into a hamlet or tourist complex. During my second visit I came across an old discarded tourist leaflet describing a natural phenomenon – “Dune du Pyla” which also goes by the name of “Dune du Pilat”.

Dune de Pyla South West France

Totally absorbed by the description of this natural phenomenon, it’s natural beauty and yet horrific size, I felt compelled to set off the next morning to see if it existed for myself. After breakfast I set off early from La Giraudiere, map in hand, on my quest. From Brossac I headed north along the D731 in the direction of Barbezieux which is 18 km north of Brossac, at Barbezieux I picked up the N10 or route national 10 direction Bordeaux.

Dune du Pilat

At Bordeaux I followed the signs for Archachon which lies 8km north of my Goal – the dune. Sixty minutes or so and some 100 kilometres into my journey I entered the tall pine forest where French Kings once hunted and found myself totally surrounded by pine trees to the left, the right and as far as the eye could see. The sun was just commencing to pierce the morning mist and upon opening my window I was overwhelmed by the pungent aroma of the pine forest. The sun was beginning to win its battle against the morning mist which was dispersing with all haste as I advanced nearer and nearer to my goal. At the same time the landscape began to change with the pine trees appearing to lean in awe of something greater and then, suddenly, there it was towering above the tall pines and standing defiantly in front of me. I trying not to lose sight of this magnificent phenomenon whilst keeping one eye on the road. I followed until I saw a sun burnt and wind blasted statue standing some 105 meters high and over 2500 meters wide – yet it was always moving, rising and advancing inland as though retreating from the blue ocean – yes, this natural golden phenomenon was truly awe-inspiring. I had arrived at the Dune du Pilat – the largest sand dune in Europe. After parking my car I embarked on the climb to the peak of the Dune and with each rising step the views of the land and sea were unbelievable and on reaching the top – “Oh what a reward! – the sheer magnificence of the colours of the blue Atlantic pushing the golden sand dune ever inland into the retreating green pine forest – a sight which will remain vividly in my memory for ever.
The Pilat dune on the Coastline south west France is a national heritage site and is listed as the highest sand dune in Europe although its height and length is constantly changing with the westerly winds. The dune receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and is a favourite among para gliders and sand boarders. The nearest towns are Pyla sur mer, La Test De Buch and Arcachon. Take my word for it – this is a visit that should not be missed.

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