Chestnut trees and beeches in wooded valleys running with streams and rivulets (or their dry watercourses in the heart of summer), laboriously constructed terracing on steep hillsides, heather and broom higher up, and hamlets or isolated dwellings with their typical slate roofs -  all these characteristics combine to tell you that you are in the Cevennes. Its hardy independent-spirited inhabitants were early adopters of the Protestant faith, and clung to it so tenaciously in the face of persecution that it took royal armies years to suppress their so-called Camisard revolt of 1702.

When Robert Louis Stevenson came here on his celebrated Travels with a Donkey in 1878, it was partly to see how this divisive history still marked the Cevenne region. His epic walk was also undertaken, however, in search for a way to heal his own youthful broken heart - the none-too-well-hidden theme that underlies this first "travel memoir" and not a few of its later successors.