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The Tarn Aveyron, a wild land of character

Presentation, geography and History

Carte du Tarn Aveyron en France

Tarn Aveyron in france

With the Guide of Tarn Aveyron, uncover a region with an interesting history, a rich natural, scenic, gourmet and human heritage. The Tarn & Garonne, the Tarn and the Aveyron, are ideal for either relaxing or having a sporting holiday. These three departments, adjacent to one another, have not been put together haphazardly. Located to the north of the former region of the Midi-Pyrénées, newly joined to the Languedoc-Roussillon to form the great region of Occitanie, they are a melting pot of Gascony, land of causses (limestone plateaux), mountains, gorges and large plateaux of character. Enjoy a pleasant travel experience and stay through these changing, wild lands.

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the Tarn-et Garonne

 

The Tarn & Garonne is one of the smallest departments in France. Surrounded by the Lomagne region (spreading from the Gers to the Haute Garonne), the bas Quercy (the Lot) and near the Causses of the Aveyron, it is a region with very rich scenery. The Tarn & Garonne is diverse, and while crossing it, you will never see the same landscape twice.

Plains, fluvial valleys, gentle, undulating hills, beautiful gorges and limestone plateaux can all be seen. This area, in particular, has many sports grounds for those who want to play sports; there are also plenty of trails for hikers and nature lovers in general. The Tarn & Garonne is not very high in terms of altitude ; the great plateau barely reaches 500 metres (1,640 feet). It has an agricultural landscape, and its inhabitants have always used the silt of the Tarn, the Garonne, and the Aveyron, as well as the many small rivers which cross the landscape, to cultivate the land. The climate is mild (see our meteo section to check the sort of weather you can expect to have during your stay), with pleasant seasons and few frosts. The climate is perfect for orchards. From the beginning of the season you can find cherries and small fruit ripened by the sun. Moissac raisins, famous for their sweetness, are grown here.

 

Paysage de cultures de Lauzerte

Fields in Lauzerte 

The main towns of the Tarn & Garonne are Montauban in the centre, Castelsarrasin, Moissac, Caussade, Valence, Montech and Nègrepelisse among others. Montauban, however, remains the most important town (the prefecture – main administrative centre), because of its area and density of population. Castelsarrasin and Moissac are secondary towns, which developed due to their economy; the other towns are mainly towns of a smaller size, some would qualify as big villages. The Tarn & Garonne is a rural department, with a small scattered density of population. Walk around, without stress, on a well maintained good road network. In Tarn & Garonne, gastronomy holds an important place in their heritage! Here, the population eats well; there are numerous Gascony and Occitanie culinary specialities

Cockaigne land (a land of plenty in medieval myth) has truffles, wines and delicacies made from duck and geese. From castles to majestic abbeys, from lovely castelnaux to exceptional bastides, it is a diverse destination for all the family. 

 

Les briques rouges de Montauban

Montauban


the Tarn

 

The Tarn River, which gave its name to the department, flows here, obviously! Between the Massif Central and the Aquitaine Basin, the Tarn has a diverse landscape:

  • From the topography to the geology, Montagne Noire (Black Moutain) in the southeast, rises to more than 1,200 metres (3,937 feet), the Lacaune Mountains are to the east and contrast with the plateau and the flatter relief to the west.
  • From the climatic point of view, there are the mountains and inner-continental location plus an oceanic aspect to the north and the west which contribute to the conditions.
  • From the demographic point of view, there is a concentration of population in the north due to employment being more readily available because of the industrial exploitation of underground resources and the geographic opening up of the mountains.

This is what has given the Tarn its definition. 500,000 years ago traces of human occupation were discovered. The Crusade of the Albigeois, against Cathar heretics during the 13th century, have left their mark on the historic past of this department : there were battles, massacres and revolutions. After the religious wars, the Union fights changed the atmosphere with battles and political turmoil. The differences in class were evident in the Tarn and at the end of these economic and political troubles there were the two World Wars which depleted the population.

 

Le Château de Penne du XIIème siècle

Penne Castle, XII century

Equidistant from the urbanisation of Toulouse to the southeast and Montauban to the west, the Tarn is a rural department, which for a long time used farming and industry as its main economic resources. Today, tourism and the service industry are the main means of wealth production. Tourists are offered a huge range of landscapes with charismatic bastides, rich in history, which provide attractions for holidaymakers. 


The climate is pleasant, even if it is not the French Riviera, and the sun shines a lot! The summers are hot, the winters are cold, but not harsh, and tourists are welcomed all year round. Here the locals value hospitality ; the inhabitants of the Tarn have the reputation of being friendly ! The food is delicious with specialities from Gascony and Rouergue... They eat pork, pudding, charcuterie of Lacaune, plus mushroom dishes, saffron sauces, pastries and small cakes of all shapes and textures...

 


Albi et ses douceurs culinaires

Albi

The main towns of the Tarn are Albi (the Administrative Centre called “Préfecture”), CastresGaillac and Lavaur. There are also excellent tourist sites such as Cordes sur Ciel, le Sidobre with its rocks, hillside villagespaths of the Montagne Noire (Black Mountain)... The Tarn offers endless and varied experiences, landscapes full of sun which can be hidden in the morning, in the middle of the clouds... 

Cordes-sur-Ciel, village magnifique  Cordes-sur-Ciel

the Aveyron

 

Here, everything is beautiful ! There is a succession of mountains, rocky plateaux, deep valley... the Aveyron, which is just about in the territory of the former province of Rouergue, is positioned right in the heart of the southern half of France. The Aveyron is famous for its traditions and authenticity. Rural and land-locked, it remains an important tourist location with its beautiful towns. Rodez is the Administrative Centre (Prefecture), with Millau (and its very famous viaduct), and Villefranche-de-Rouergue is a sub-prefecture. The density of population is thin here.

 

Even, in the middle of the summer, with the population expanding, you will always have the feeling you are alone in the world, alone with the beauty of the scenery, the aridity of the causses (limestone plateau), the majestic character of the gorges, the harshness of the cliffs where villages are perched, (you wonder who built them there ?). In Aveyron, you go from marvel to marvel, it is a large department, with a varied altitude. You can climb up to 1,400 metres (4,593 feet) in the mountains of the Aubrac. Here, you need a cardigan, even in summer. 


On the plateau, it can be warm, but generally the temperatures do not exceed 20 degrees Centigrade. This is a good thing as the Aveyron is one huge sports ground. Here the inhabitants run, walk, slide, sail and enjoy all white water sports. With some trainers, a paddle, rackets, wetsuit, bike or climbing harness, nothing can stop you from enjoying yourself.

Millau, capitale des sports natures Millau

 

They are many natural regions in Aveyron, you can combine many trips into one, but be careful, the roads are narrow and winding. You need to carefully plan your itinerary to avoid being late, because the gorges, the altitude and the topography can be confusing on a flat map !

 

  • In Aubrac, in this volcanic, rich land, you will see cows grazing and endless greenery.
  • The Lot Valley, its lakes, its dams and its magical villages will amaze you.
  • Bas-Quercy and its bastides, touching the Tarn & Garonne, is on the Causse (limestone plateau).
  • The Rougiers of Marcillac with its flora and fauna and the unusual red soil, have a surprising microclimate !
  • The Ségala and the Lévézou comprise valleys, lakes and natural landscapes. Here you can relax !

 

Everything is diverse in the Aveyron, and the food is good. Enjoy aligot (a dish made from melted cheese and blended with mashed potato) and the specialities which offer juicy, savoury meat. Fresh, creamy, characterful cheeses are avialable. Luckily the area is hilly, with plenty of sporting activities so you can burn off the calories consumed at mealtimes !

Le Roquefort à Roquefort-sur-Soulzon

 Le Roquefort de Roquefort-sur-Soulzon

discover the Tarn Aveyron

 

To see these beautiful regions, we have divided the territories into several sections. To highlight the particular landscapes, cultural specifics and sites not to be missed, check the map below and the corresponding sections.

Carte du Tarn Aveyron

 Map of Tarn Aveyron

the territories of Tarn-et-Garonne

 

To unearth the treasures of the Tarn & Garonne, wander around as the fancy takes you in the following five regions :

 

  • The Coteaux de Gascogne : is a beautiful natural region which includes the Lomagne. This rural area grows vegetables, vines and orchards. Being near the Gers and the Haute-Garonne, this is an ideal place to explore these surrounding departments. Discover Beaumont-de-Lomagne, the Bastide of the mathematician Pierre Fremat (1607-1665 - French mathematician who is often called the founder of the modern theory of numbers).

 

  • The Great Fluvial Valleys : Montauban, the Canal des Deux-Mers... This is the kingdom of pink bricks ; you are not far from Toulouse either! There are beautiful landscapes, wander around Auvillar (one of the mot beautiful villages in France), Saint-Nicolas-de-la-Grave and see Lamothe-Cadillac - these will keep you busy. Visit the second town of the department, Castelssarasin, where you will find lakes. Nègrepelisse and its castle, amongst other places, can be visited.

 

  • L'Entre Deux Rivières : Between the Aveyron and the Tarn, there are lovely small villages, such as the medieval village of Montricoux, the medieval bastide of Montclar-de-Quercy, Vaïssac with its little Paris...

 

  • The Causses of Quercy Garonne : There is a concentration of beautiful bastides, which, during summer, are busy. The gorges of the Aveyron offer breathtaking panoramas and beautiful surprises ; like Bruniquel (two castles), Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (Artisans' Village), Caylus and Laguépie.

 

  • The Bas Quercy : here, other charming villages are situated near the Lot. Explore Caussade and find a hat to suit you ; Lafrançaise with its beautiful belvedere ; Moissac with its sweet grapes ; Lauzerte with its delicous Quercy melons.

 

Carte du Tarn-et-Garonne

 Map of Tarn-et-Garonne

 Arches en briques à Auvillar

Auvillar

the territories of the Tarn

 

Let’s go to the Tarn, its mountains and its plains, its sun and its culinary specialities! Here,  here are four different regions. From the north to the south, from the mountains to  agnificent Albi, the Tarn offers :

 

  • The Albigeois : in the heart of the Tarn, is Albi, a sublime town, an episcopal city of pink bricks. All those who come to visit can feel the atmosphere... Lagrave is at the heart of the vineyards of Gaillac, the bastide of Réalmont and Lisle-sur-Tarn are a few steps away from wine making castles...
  • The Three Valleys : hillside villages of character, bastides with reputations like Cordes sur ciel will certainly amaze you (and tire you, take your trainers !). Closeby is Penne. A bit further on is Carmaux which has prosperous industries, the medieval city of Monestié, Pampelonne in the Ségala.
  • The Corne d'Abondance of the Tarn : this is where food lovers meet! Le Pays de Cocagne (a land of plenty in medieval myth) is a giant basket of fruit and local delicacies. The villages are perched on hillsides ! Puycelsi in the Vère Valley, Gaillac and its vines, Rabastens with its hiking paths, Giroussens with its potteries and finally Lavaur for its local delicacies.
  • The Granite Mountains : It's “chaos” here! Well, of the rocky variety ! In Dourgne, you can climb; Labruguière ; Mazamet and its speciality of removing the sheep's wool from the hide and keeping both in tact. Castres, a big town of the region has colourful beach houses. Burlats and the Chaos of the Rouquette, Lacaune les bains for relaxing, Montredon, St-Pierre-de-Trivisy, the fortress Gauloise d'Ambialet... So many wonderful places to explore !

 

Carte du Tarn

 Map of Tarn

Castres et ses habitations multicolores Castres


The territories of the Aveyron

 

The Aveyron is vast and grandiose; and it is difficult to class the unclassifiable, but at some stage we need to do so! We suggest three regions to tour in this vast department, while following a theme to guide you. Follow us:

 

  • Between the gorges and the valleys of the Aveyron: cheese, cows and picturesque villages...beautiful! Go via Rodez, the capital, Belcastel and its charming houses, the elegant bastide of Villefranche-de-Rouergue, Najac where the Templars were, Decazeville and its coal mines, Conques and its Abbey church, Laguiole famous for its knives, its cheese, Estaing, Espalion and the museums, Bozouls and its hole! Sévérac-le-Château and its medieval centre...
  • Coeur d'Aveyron: This is the Ségala, there are water sports on the many lakes, agriculture, good living and beautiful walks. Lévézou Plateau towards Pont-de-Salars, Salles Curan and its lakes, Sauveterre de Rouergue, one of the most beautiful villages in France and Naucelle with its two villages, Requista and its sheep...
  • Causses, hilltop villages and Templars: This is the Larzac! The geology competes with the gastronomy and sports. Here, everything is appealing: Rivière-sur-Tarn on its rocky promontory, Millau and its viaduct, but also a very attractive and busy town! Nant and its surrounding villages nested in the heart of the countryside. La Cavalerie with its stone houses, Roquefort-sur-Soulzon and its worldwide renowned cheese, Saint-Affrique in the Parc des Grands Causses, Camarès with its rougiers (red soils), La Couvertoirade which is breathtaking with its traditional stones. 

 

Carte de l'Aveyron

Map of Aveyron

 La Couvertoirade et ses maisons en pierre

La Couvertoirade

To fully enjoy your stay in Tarn Aveyron, do not forget to check the weather forecast in

your region. Try to match your stay with an event or a fair. There are events all year and it is lovely to enjoy a festive atmosphere during your holiday...mingling with the local population, learning things, talking, eating well... Check how to get there with our section on travelling and the main roads and public transport.

 

There are many small villages with beautiful weekly markets, we have them all (hopefully!) listed by department. Check market days in Tarn & Garonne, market days in the Tarn and those in the Aveyron. Do not forget to get some information about local products, the gastronomy and recipes of this region! Be well informed and make a list of all the wonders you want to find here! Finally, wine enthusiasts will be happy to learn more about vineyards, the producers, the AOP and other alcoholic beverages in general, for each department.

 

Aligot Saucisse en Aveyron

 Hummm les délices régionaux, ici l'Aligot de l'Aveyron

 

We wish you a very happy holiday in the Tarn & Garonne, the Tarn and the Aveyron. Consult Facebook and join our Facebook page for more information and to contact us !