After writing about the air flights to the Pyrenees I thought I should really look again at the rail options. For the High Pyrenees the Pau connection remind the best unless you are looking to start one of the long distance routes at Hendaye. A Eurostar connection to the French TGV system makes a lot of sense especially if you live in and around London. Return ticket costs vary as you would imagine but at the moment you can get a return ticket for between £100 and £250 which is pretty competitive with the airlines when you add in all of the extras.
An early morning train leaves St.Pancras at 5.40 and gets into Pau at 16.04. This allows for train transfer to Oloron and then bus to the Valée d’Asp where you would arrive at Bedous at about 18.30. Note this is the same time that you would arrive if you had taken the plane in one day. A train connection to Lourdes and then bus to Cauterest would see you getting into the mountains at the same time as would the air link.
Trains also leave St Pancreas at 9:17 getting into Pau at 20.00, 10.25 arriving at 21.54 and 11.31 which also gets in at 21.54.
You can calculate more variations and different destinations at Rail Europe.
You might have a preference for train or maybe just looking for convenience.
I’m based in Birmingham. I can fly direct to Toulouse with a long transfer at the other end. Alternatively, I can fly from London City Airport to Pau which would mean a night in London in a hotel or staying with relatives. In past years I have taken a night time bus from Birmingham to Stanstead which is certainly not my favourite way to travel.
If I was going this year I would be tempted to take the train and maybe spend an evening in Pau before heading up to the mountains next day. I would be in the mountains early day would have the afternoon to find provisions in order to head off early next day. Choose your train carefully and you could have time for a decent lunch in Paris.
These are long journeys, between 9 and 11 hours, but they could be far more pleasurable than the endless queuing and hanging around at airports. Even in France there is a lot of hanging about and I have often fond myself eating a rather bad late lunch at the Gare in Pau.
Eurostar runs into Paris Gar du Nord and the TGV leaves from Montparnasse. Transfer between the two is easily done by the Metro or by taxi. You’ll certainly have a better meal than you would at Stanstead! The French TGV trains are pretty comfortable beasts.
So, don’t forget the train. Include it in you planning. It might make a lot of sense especially if you don’t live too far north.
You can also take the train direct to Hendaye if you are wanting to walk the GR10,11 or HRP. Train times are about the same as they are to Pau or an our earlier. The early train will get you in at 16.00 and an 8.00 am train getting it at 20.00. Costs are within a similar range to the Pau trains.