Scala di Santa Regina

Corsica: Northern Highlands, France

William Mackesy’s account of this walk

This is the first day of our Perfect Corsican Walking Week.

We start with a walk up this wild, dramatic gorge on a section of an ancient trade and transhumance route. The trail climbs, generally gently, from the road at the Scala di Santa Regina spring, up an embanked and paved mule as it gains height to avoid the once-impassable lower river gorge.

The maquis here is particularly varied and beautiful, in riotous flower when we hit this trail in mid May: white and pink rock roses, vivid yellow broom and gorse, unusual lavenders and peculiar white lily-like things. A volcano of dog roses was about to erupt. Higher up, whole fields were taken over by the fall, not-wholly-lovely white-flowering asphodel.

Waterfalls tumble from the high granite walls. High across the gorge is an area of weird little spires, apparent cousins of the famous Calanche of the west coast.

 We crossed an old pack bridge and climbed a superb series of switchbacks (scala) to a higher hillside, with ever-bigger views. Round a bend, we got our first view of the high central ridge of the island, which was blanketed in fresh snow when we were there. Stunning.

After a couple of very special hours, you get to the spread-out village of Corscia, which was completely silent when we were there. The trail then climbs through pretty fields. While this is relatively easy land here, with cattle and sheep grazing in rocky little meadows, there are still almost no crops growing. 

The path turns into a deep side-valley with the snowy ridge of 2,706m Monte Cintro, Corsica’s highest, looming majestically at its head. The trail drops to a marvellous mediaeval Genoese bridge over a deep pool. After a long climb up a series of zig-zags between parallel walls in a sad but starkly beautiful stand of dead or dying chestnuts (Asian boring beetle (=Yoko Ono?) at least partly to blame), you walk beside carefully tilled (and presumably now threatened) chestnut groves, then down into the village of Acquale and on down to pleasing Calacuccia above a pretty reservoir lake.

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