RDC-662816 - © - Arco / J. Moreno
Cordes sur Ciel
France, Tarn (81), Puycelsi, labellisé Les Plus Beaux Villages de France
RDC-AD-269168 - © - ARCO / B Bönsch
Roadtrip among some of the most beautiful villages in France
On the edge of the hills of lower Quercy and the alluvial plains of the Garonne and Tarn, the long course of the Aveyron and, particularly the region of its gorges, you will find some of the most beautiful villages in France in unique locations and landscapes. Add to this, beautiful roads through the heart of nature and renowned gastronomy and you have a dream trip through the gorges of Aveyron!
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Your tour begins in the pretty bastide of Montauban. Walk through the town and visit its old red brick quarters, its exceptional museum dedicated to Ingres and its 14th century Old Bridge. For some years, Old Montauban has been subject to regeneration work that makes it a very pleasant place to explore on foot.
Leaving the town, head first towards Gaillac and Albi, and then exit 63 of the A20 and finally towards La Salvetat-Belmontet and Monclar-de-Quercy on the D8. Heading north towards the course of the Aveyron, make a detour to Puycelci, an old fortified village on a rocky shelf that overlooks the Vallée de la Vère. This former stronghold has retained a section of its ramparts: a parapet walk offers a panoramic view that extends from the heights of Montoulieu to the peaks of the Pyrénées.
At the end of the road, you arrive in Bruniquel, a village crowned by a castle perched on a cliff at the mouth of the gorges of Aveyron. At the foot of the castle, turn to the right twice to head in the direction of Vaour. Don’t miss the first junction on the left to go to Penne and its castle ruins, both perched and smouldering on its rock.
At the end of the day, you reach Cordes-sur-Ciel, perched on a splendid location at the top of the Puech de Mordagne. Off season, it sometimes appears to be positioned on the clouds, hence the name.
MyTripTailor advice: Parking is prohibited in Cordes-sur-Ciel’s upper town but it’s still possible to drive and park in a small corner without any disturbance. When in doubt, it’s advisable to park near the Porte de la Jane, from where the climb into the old town is easiest.
The following morning, head to Cordes.
To visit Cordes, is to breathe the air of this old city, to stroll along cobbled streets, among an exceptional group of Gothic 13th and 14th century houses, admiring the carved decor of their facades. The best preserved ones border Rue Droite.
Leave Cordes in late morning via the D 922. Almost 50km of beautiful roads lay ahead before you descend towards Villefranche-de-Rouergue, a picturesque town where you can enjoy a walk through the narrow streets at the foot of the imposing church tower. The town has retained the appearance of a bastide with its central square and its checkerboard street plan.
Next head for Najac. Camped along the length of its promontory, the village is notable for its fortress, a masterpiece of medieval military art. From the dungeon platform, you get a magnificent view of the fortress, the village in a row and the valley of Aveyron.
The road then tries to follow the Aveyron closer, which is only possible after joining the D958, on which you stay until Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. A great sounding name for a town whose main attraction is its town hall, housed in a house built in 1125, one of the oldest examples of civil architecture in France, restored by Viollet-le-Duc.
Go to Aveyron to take the other bank, following the D115 which again brings you past the foot of the castle of Penne, then Bruniquel. Further along on the other side is Montricoux, a village built in terraces that has preserved its ancient walls. The lanes, lined with picturesque houses dating back to the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, offer a pleasant stroll.
Once back in the plain, head in the direction of Nègrepelisse to return straight to Montauban.
MyTripTailor advice: you will find several service stations along your route:Montauban, Cordes-sur-Ciel et Villefranche-de-Rouergue.
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