Dormillouse, an unspoilt spot in the heart of the Écrins National Park
The hamlet of Dormillouse is nestled in the Freissinières Valley.
Dormillouse, the only inhabited hamlet in the Écrins National Park, can be reached on foot via a small footpath, in roughly an hour. There is a succession of impressive waterfalls before you reach there.
In winter, we advise you to enlist the services of a mountain leader. The hamlet is reached from the centre of the Freissinières Valley and leads across avalanche zones.
Dormillouse, in the heart of the Écrins National Park
With an eventful religious history, marked by the presence of the Vaudois (temple and former school, Félix Neff’s house, etc.) and due to its remote location, Dormillouse comprises several small houses made of wood and exposed stones.
Rare and unique animal and plant species lead to surprising encounters: alpine scabious, edelweiss, marmots, sheep (a pastoral hot spot).
In summer, starting from Dormillouse, you can get away from it all by following one of the many walks, leading to delightful discoveries such as the Faravel and Palluel lakes.
The hamlet of Dormillouse
Dormillouse is one of the hamlets in the Freissinières Valley. It is at the end of the valley, perched on a glacial cross cliff at roughly 1800 m in altitude.
Beyond Dormillouse, the Biaysse Valley continues up to the Col d’Orcières. It is framed by mountain ranges above 3000 m: the Dormillouse, ridges to the north and Le Mourinas to the south.
Features of Dormillouse:
– there is no road to reach it by vehicle.
– it the valley’s highest hamlet.
– it is the only built area in the heart of the Écrins National Park.
– It is the only place in the central area of the Écrins National Park to be inhabited all year.
When Dormillouse was ‘alive’, it was often considered as a village as it had its own school, temple (everyone was Protestant), and its own register office.
The main rigour of this place is due to the altitude (1700 m to 1850 m). Its position on the south-facing slope guarantees a minimum of 4 hours sunlight in winter, and 11 hours in summer. The village is built below the peaks and more specifically on the edge of a plateau called Les Clots (500 m higher), which protects it from avalanches. Throughout history, this position provided natural protection for its inhabitants.
The village’s buildings
The temple: it was built in 1758. It was originally intended as a Catholic church. A priest called Jauffrey was assigned to this parish. He stayed for 30 years, held mass twice a day. None of Dormillouse’s inhabitants ever went to his masses. When he left, he gave this speech: ’Stubborn dwellers of Dormillouse, listen well. When I will be at the gates of hell with my crucifix in hand, I will say: come, come, the wretched of Freissinières, there is room for you.’
The school: located next to the temple (at present a stopover gîte), was originally the priest’s dwelling. This building became the Dormillouse municipal school.
Félix Neff’s house: located to the far east of Les Roman, it housed the teacher-training school created in 1826 and was the first Protestant school in France.
The communal ovens: There were three ovens in Dormillouse in Les Enflous, Pra-Barnéou and Les Romans. Bread was cooked once a year as wood was a rare resource.
The water mill: located in Les Enflous, it was used to grind rye and was restored in 1980. A hydroelectric turbine, located close to the water mill, provided electricity for public lighting and private individuals for twenty years.
The cemetery has been in place since the beginning of the century.
The houses have always had the same exterior appearance as they do now. No cellars or vaulted stables. The roofs were slate. An entrance corridor led to the stables and the living area comprising a kitchen and two bedrooms. The upper level was used as a barn for storing hay. There has never been a fire in the village. The Freissinières land registry listed 80 dwellings in 1834 and only 18 in 1958.
Most of the roads in the village were paved.
Around the hamlet of Dormillouse, you will find restored cabins that are currently used by migrating shepherds, natural shelters (cavities in the rock), regularly restored wooden bridges, and a vaulted bridge to the west of Les Romans which was built to suit the shape of the gorge.
Several canals were created: there was an underground water supply to Romans. An irrigation canal follows the same route. Other canals irrigate the Baridons prairies and the Henrics prairies. Another canal was created around 1830 by Félix Neff to supply the Faravel prairies from the lake of the same name.
A few remnants of mining activity can be found near to the Fangeas Lake, at the bottom of the Faravel prairies and close to the Col d’Orcières.
How to get there?
Go to the end of the road (D238) and follow the marked path that leads up to the village of Dormillouse.