French mountains in Stevenson twinning bid

Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
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WITH a maze of deep valleys, winding rivers and hill slopes blanketed in forests of sweet chestnut and mulberry, the Cévennes mountain range remains an idyllic getaway for the intrepid explorer.

Villages along the breathtaking route in southern France – famously documented by writer Robert Louis Stevenson – have approached Lothian towns about establishing a twinning link to celebrate a joint connection to Edinburgh’s literary great.

Stevenson’s 1878 work, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, chronicled a ­120-mile solo hike through the sparsely populated valleys to become a pioneering classic.

A series of sporting exchanges between regions has emerged following the book’s centenary celebrations in 1978. Now officials in Valleraugue, a town with just 1100 residents, are hoping to take the arrangement one step further by becoming twinned with a small Lothian town such as Penicuik or Bonnyrigg.

Retired musician Walter Allan, 63, played in the first ever Stevenson Cup – a football competition hosted in Valleraugue – and has promoted the event to Scots teams ever since.

He is now leading the charge on behalf of the French literary buffs to arrange a twinning link with a Capital town.

“It all started because Stevenson is greatly celebrated there, as he is in Edinburgh,” he said.

“The [sporting] exchange became a regular thing, every second year we’d go to France and in the alternate years a French group would come to Edinburgh. It’s been ongoing since then and the hospitality is always unbelievable so it would be a great place to be twinned with.”

The medieval town of Valleraugue boasts an association called the Committee for the Reception of the Scots, which has regular meetings to arrange exchanges.

He added: “They now – with the full agreement of the town council – wish to take things further and enter into a twinning arrangement with a community near Edinburgh of a comparable size, like Bonnyrigg, Dalkeith or Penicuik.”

Midlothian council has links to six French towns and villages. A council spokeswoman urged Valleraugue officials to consider Stevenson’s “direct links” with Midlothian towns.

She said: “Mr Allan might want to think of Robert Louis Stevenson’s direct links to existing small communities in parts of Midlothian, Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills as a way of achieving some sort of linkage.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com