Starting point: Hotel Manechenea, St Etienne.
The walk starts with a strenuous ascent first through woodland then through open grazing land to the Harietta Pass on the border with Spain, where you are rewarded with superb views of the Pyrenean chain, and possibly the sighting of a griffon vulture. You then follow the ridge, descending gradually through more pastureland to Bidarray and the Hotel Noblia. (14.5km, 5.5hrs)
You ascend towards the Spanish border once more and on to the summit of Mount Artzamendi (926 metres), from where, on a clear day, you have views of the High Pyrenees behind you and the Atlantic ahead of you. You then descend through grazing land and expanses of bracken to the River Nive, which you follow to Itxassou, passing the Pas de Roland, a hole in the rock which, according to legend, was cut by Roland to let the Charlemagne army pass through. Your hotel is the Hotel du Fronton. (16.5km, 6.5hrs)
The route leads uphill through pasture land, passing under the Pic de Mondarrain (749 metres). There are good views as you descend of the whitewashed villages on the plain below, with the Atlantic beyond. Your destination is the Hotel Argi Eder in Ainhoa, arguably the prettiest of Basque villages. (13km, 5hrs)
This is a gentler walk, with fewer ascents and descents than previous days. You follow tracks and country lanes alongside a series of streams, ascending gently to a low ridge which you follow along the Franco-Spanish border, passing a couple of tiny hamlets, before descending into Sare, where you find your next hotel, the Hotel Arraya. (14km, 3hrs)
You walk to the station and from here take the cog railway (pay locally) to the summit of La Rhune (900 metres), which affords views of the Bay of Biscay, the forests of Les Landes, and the Pyrenean chain. From the summit, you walk into Spain, crossing the Ibardin Pass back into France for a series of ascents and descents as you walk from pass to pass and on to Biriatou, just a couple of miles from the coast. Here, your hotel is Les Jardins de Bakea. (17km, 6hrs)
On your last day, you are taken by taxi across the border to the Spanish port of Hondarribia; or you can choose to be dropped off on a panoramic path overlooking the coast, from where you can enjoy a short stroll (or opt for a longer walk) to reach your final night’s accommodation, the Hotel Obispo. (7km, 2.5hrs or 15km, 6hrs)
Your arrival at the sea brings a real sense of achievement and to make this extra special, we recommend upgrading to a more spacious superior room, with views across the bay. Charming Hondarribia sits on the mouth of the River Bidasoa, its modern waterfront hiding the atmospheric Old Town. Wander along the streets of the Barrio de la Marina district to find traditional, wood-beamed Basque houses with flower-bedecked balconies alternating with bars that offer excellent seafood and tasty pintxos (like tapas). Add an extra night here and you also have time to visit the elegant resort of San Sebastián.
To extend your holiday, why not add on a couple of nights at one of our two hotels in Bordeaux if you are flying via this important wine city?