Tarn Map, The Granite Mountains
A mixture of mysterious rocks, a breathtaking natural park, an abundance of hiking paths - this is the experience waiting for you in the land of granite mountains. The region also has an interesting industrial past, many museums and local specialities such as salting, good meat and wine... What more can you ask ? Have a great holiday in the Granite Mountains !
Sorèze is an interesting town. It has a lot to offer travellers : a geographical location with beautiful scenery, places of cultural interest and plenty for the tourist to do.
The town is located at the crossroads of the Tarn, Aude and Haute Garonne. It is situated in the foothills of the Massif Central. Sorèze is close to the plain of Lauragais, and very close to Montagne Noire. In Sorèze itself visit the beautiful Abbaye-Ecole. This is a magical place full of charm. It is a historic monument, built in 1754, which housed a royal military school under the auspices of Louis XVI. Wander through the rooms of this living museum, which takes you back to the lifestyle of the residents at that time. Visit the beautiful Tapestry Museum, the Musée Dom Robert, (1,500 m2 - 16,145 ft2) to learn everything about the making of tapestries by the Aubusson weavers. During the 20th century, Dom Robert was a monk upholsterer who created fascinating work.
The narrow, paved streets, dotted with stalls manned by local artisans, complement Saint-Martin church which has a beautiful facade. From Sorèze, visit the Regional Natural Park of Haut-Languedoc. Close to the town, you can see the site of St Jammes of Arfons, which has a majestic beech tree and the remains of a small chapel. Theoppidum de Berniquaut has been occupied since prehistoric times. Not far from the town, the Plateau du Causse hosts the Jean Antoine Clos underground complex ; an archaeological site with many excavated galleries in the limestone plateau. Go to the view point at Roc de la Fendeille, to see dictatic panels, an orientation table and a pleasant picnic area.
This is a small town at the foot of the Montagne Noire. Here, travellers come for peace and quiet, far from the turmoil of most tourist trails. Put on your hiking shoes and explore this natural heritage at your own pace. There are hidden dovecots in the countryside, little crosses at the roadside, fountains and old wash houses... Also beautiful panoramas !
In Dourgne, for those looking for spiritual healing, go to Saint-Benoît d'En Calcat Abbey. The building cannot be entered but people come here to unwind. A community of 60 monks live there all year, for religious meditation. There is another abbey in the commune : the Benedictine Abbey of Sainte Scholastique, home to Benedictine sisters. They offer workshops, tours, a shop and also accommodation for those looking for a spiritual retreat or a peaceful moment from the daily round.
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Seven kilometres south of Castres, the town of Labruguière is situated on the banks of the Thoré river. It was built in 10th century. It is a dynamic town full of flowers ! Located in Pays d'Autan, (which has the same name as the wind - the Autan wind is a high wind coming in from the sea which brings pleasant warmth during the summer) this area has a diversity of landscapes ; the town is on one side with the Montagne Noire, on the other side is the Causse de Caucalières-Labruguière and in front there is the Castrais Plain. In terms of heritage, the round shaped medieval town centre of Labruguière houses a covered market dating from the 13th century, the church of Saint-Thyrs, the remains of the fortified gates at the entrance to the town (only three remain) and Château Cardaillac which dates from the 17th century. Photography enthusiasts can visit the Arthur Batut Photographic Centre. He was the inventor of the aerial photograph, so popular nowadays with the development of aerial photography using drones ! It is interesting to learn how this inhabitant of Labruguière, imagined and then took photographs from a kite, in 1888!!
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Mazamet hides a surprising expertise which dates from the last century. Until 1980, a unique industrial process made the reputation of the town : fellmongering (removing wool from a sheepskin). The "wool city" developed a technique to separate the wool and the leather from the skins of the sheep, without damaging the leather. About fifty factories were dedicated to this industry and were trading worldwide. This process used the white waters of the Arnette river. Then came the "tanning", a second industry well established in Mazamet, as well as in other surrounding towns, dealing with the making of the skins into useful objects or for clothing. Visit The Fellmongering Museum, to learn everything you need to know about the industrial past of Mazamet and this unique technique.
Mazamet is a really good place for a family holiday ; there are plenty of things to do and see ! Visit the Maison des Mémoires de Mazamet with its small Cathar Museum. Explore one, or all the churches of the town (there are 7), as well as the three Protestant Temples.
Close to the town is the medieval city of Hautpoul with the ruins of the castle still remaining. The first inhabitants and founders of Mazamet came from Hautpoul, escaping the crusade of the Albigeois and the killing of the inhabitants by the troops of Simon de Montfort.
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Labastide-Rouairoux is located in the Haute Vallée du Thoré, in the heart of the Natural Regional Park of the Haut Languedoc. Inhabited since the dawn of time, visit the Dolmen de la Gante and the Menhir of “Prat de la Bolo”.
In the village, visit the Musée du département du textile (Textile Museum) to learn everything about the speciality of the region. If in Mazamet expertise was geared to leather, in Labastide, textiles are at the centre stage. The town had up to 30 factories, as well as being the place to start using people who worked from home using modern technology ; teleworkers. Today, these activities are only seen in the museum, but the town is developing tourism and sustainable energy.
Many hiking trails are available in the region.
Jean-Jaurès was born here. This Massif Central town, crossed by the Agout River from one side to the other, has a dry, warm Mediterranean climate, thanks to its geographical position and the strong presence of the Autan wind. Castres is populated by a little more than 40,000 people and is a lively city, which was, at the beginning of the 20th century, the first town of Tarn thanks to its industry. Today, enjoy a pleasant stroll to see the town's many appealing sites. Nestled along the river, the old artisans' houses are built at the foot of the Agout River. Built in the Middle-Ages, each had a cave for leather working and for other materials with a wash house directly onto the river. These colourful houses have their feet in the water, like a "small Venice", their halftimbered balconies are beautiful. Enjoy a lovely view from the Pont Vieux.
Stroll along the Place Jean-Jaurès. It is fully pedestrianised and houses the market and open air events all year. Visit Francisco Goya Museum, to discover masterpieces by Goya and other Spanish artists. The National Centre is a museum concentrating on the life of Jean Jaurès, a native of Castres. It is a museum full of information about the political thinking of the time. The ingenious museography makes it very interesting for all ages. Pass in front of the 17th century Saint-Benoit Cathedral and not far from there are the Jardins de l'évêché, designed by Le Nôtres, architect of the gardens at Versailles. The 17th century episcopal Palace houses the Town Hall. There is also the Tour Saint-Benoit and many mansions to see.
There are other pleasant green spaces in Castres : the Jardin du Mail, the Jardin Frascaty, the Parc Briguiboul, the Parc de Gourjade... and if you are looking for even more green areas and nature, go directly to the site of Sidobre, an unusual and mystical granite corry... with huge rocks, cascades...
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Close to Castres, Burlats is located in the heart of a natural landscape and close to many interesting places : the granite site of Sidobre, Parc Naturel Régional du Haut Languedoc, as well as Agout Valley.
What is there to do in Burlats ? There are hiking trails, by horse or by bike, good meals in the local restaurants and a variety of tours. Have a stroll and discover the Pavillon d’Adélaïde, a 12th century priory with four surprisingly huge bay windows, the Maison d'Adam, Saint-Pierre Collegiate Church and the Porte de la Bistoure which is all that remains of the ancient fortifications of the village.
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Brassac is located on the banks of the Agout River. There is a lovely two-arched medieval bridge, a castle on the righthand riverbank, which houses the Town Hall and another castle on the lefthand riverbank. There is an historic trail through the village, so you can learn everything you need to know about the place.
Not far from here, there is the Protestantism Museum of Ferrières which reveals the great mystery - why there are two castles in Brassac ! There are many mountain bike trails in the commune !
Nages is a lovely, small tourist village. There is a beautiful castle with two towers which exhibits a collection of medieval objects. It is being refurbished in order to reveal its secrets... There is a lake in Nages and it is the centre for tourist attractions. The lac du Laouzas is a reservoir which has a large choice of nautical activities (windsurfing, sailing, pedal boating, canoeing...) and swimming/relaxing.
In Rieumontagné, close to the lake, visit the Country and folk Museum of the Haut-Languedoc. This is a beautiful reconstruction to illustrate life on a farm in Monts de Lacaune. It is open in summer and can be accessed during the rest of the year by pre-booking. Do not miss seeing the beautiful Maison de Payrac which has a broom roof ; it has a shop with local products and a refuge for hikers during the summer. There are a number of events which take place during the summer (meals, bread baking, shows).
In the heart of Monts de Lacaune, surrounded by 8 mountains of a reasonable altitude (the region is considered a mountainous area), is the thermal resort of Lacaune and the Bel-Air warm spring. There is a casino for evening entertainment. The region is well known for its great tasting charcuterie, and of course, natural mineral water, Mont Roucous.
The altitude and the climate of the region are beneficial to the production of famous salted products, which can be found in the shops and restaurants of the town. In Lacaune you will find a 19th century wool spinner (Ramond Filature), "spin the wool, spin the wool"... There is the Vieux Lacaune Museum, close to the Fontaine des Pisseurs (16th century), which is a listed historic monument. The Calmels Tower and its lovely wooden frame and the remarkable 4.5 metres high menhir or "Pierre Plantée", probably erected by prehistoric man to encourage the telluric properties of the town !
The Wellness Centre, the Lacaune warm springs area, provides a relaxing experience with jacuzzis, warm baths, a steam room, as well as balneotherapy, body and beauty treatments.
Hiking and fishing are available in this natural conservation area. Visit the Pic du Montalet for a splendid view! The path "sur les traces de l'enfant sauvage" is a walk through a cedar forest, which has a noticeable incline (leave the pushchair behind, but children can walk around safely).
Montagne Sainte, dotted with streams, (where gold would have been found during Gallic times), has a castle with four towers, a moat, the church of Saint-Jean Baptiste, the chapel of Notre-Dame de Ruffis and the Planetarium, the town's observatory, where you can see the stars. The whole family can participate in themed evenings, shows and events. For those who do not have their head in the stars, you may prefer to see 1,200 animals in the Zoo des Trois Vallées.
Hikes in the Regional Natural Park of the Haut-Languedoc are not far from here and the Tourist Office can advise on walks of all levels. Here are some hiking trails.
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Located in a lush setting, the commune of Saint-Pierre-de-Trivisy is definitely a green resort ! In the Hautes Terres d'Oc, there are many things to do. Let’s start with cultural activities : Lacaze Castle offers art exhibitions, medieval attractions, and evening shows for a very reasonable price (€2 entrance fee). Moulin de Record is a water mill with one working mill, which has ground wheat for six centuries. There are many walks and hiking paths. There is also a guide for local hikes, available at the Tourist Office, so you won't miss any exceptional natural sites.
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