We hope that the maps and guides in the living room of the cottage will help you to plan pleasant outings during your stay here. A brief overview of a number of our favourite local attractions can be found below. Prices may change but were last updated in July 2014.
Those particularly suitable for family visits are marked with an asterisk *.
PECH MERLE & CABRERETS. Pech Merle is the extensive cave system at Cabrerets – well worth visiting not only for the limestone formations but for the early cave paintings, which are some of the finest in France outside Lascaux. Visits (in guided parties only) take about an hour; English translations of the introductory talk are available. There is a small museum, shop and café on site. Booking is advisable in July and August (preferably a week ahead as numbers are limited). Adults 10 euros; children (4-14) 6. Tel. 05 65 31 27 05 or 05 65 31 23 33. www.pechmerle.com. (21km).
Cabrerets boasts a good selection of restaurants and snack bars, including Hôtel de la Sagne (05 65 31 26 62), and Hôtel des Grottes (05 65 31 27 02) overlooking the river.
* GOUFFRE DE PADIRAC. Spectacular limestone formations in series of caves approached by boat along an underground river. Can be busy in season so get there early. Guided visits take 1 ½ hours. Adults 10.30 euros; children 6.90. 05 65 33 64 56. www.gouffre-de-padirac.com. (48km) This excursion is easily combined with a trip to Rocamadour and/or the Forêt des Singes. You can pass through Gramat en route if you want to do a supermarket shop or visit the Zoo, or enjoy a meal at the Relais des Gourmands, 05 65 38 83 92, near the station.
(Other local caves include Grottes de Foissac, 13k south of Capdenac, which served as a burial chamber 5000 years ago, open 10..0-18.00 July and August and more limited times out of season, 06 19 12 98 28; Grottes de Merveilles at Rocamadour which, like Pech Merle boasts neolithic cave paintings, open 9.30-17.00 July and August, closed over lunch April, May, Juin and September, 05 65 33 67 92.)
*PHOSPHATIERES DU CLOUP d’AURAL. One hour guided tours of19th century phosphate mines at Bach (37k; through Cajarc and Limogne on D19) which have exposed fossils from the tertiary period and unusual flora. PLeasant picnic spot with buvette, park describing local flora and children’s discovery trail. Open daily July and August, 11.00 – 18.00, (visits 15.00 and16.30 the rest of the season). Adults 7 euros; children (6-14) 4.50. An excellent visit but, unfortunately, guided tours are not yet available in English, although printed outlines in English are provided. Can easily be combined with a trip to Cajarc and the Chateau de Cénévières, or to Limogne, where Au Rince Cochon serves an excellent lunch (reservation essential: 05 65 23 87 20).
CHATEAU DE CENEVIERES. Charming small château on the Lot (approach via Marcilhac). Mediaeval dungeons and Renaissance villa (still inhabited). Guided tours mid-April – end of September, closed Sunday morning; October – mid-November afternoons only; and out of season by arrangement (05 65 31 27 33; www.chateau-cenevieres.com). Adult 6.5 euros; children (7-15) 3 euros. (23km) Easily combined with a trip to Cajarc and the Phosphatières du Cloup d’Aural, Bouzies (see below).
BOUZIES. The tow path along the Lot from Bouziès provides a charming walk with the added interest of some low-relief carvings. It is also the startng point for short cruises on the Lot. The walk can be combined with a meal at the Hotel Restaurant les Falaises (booking usually necesary 05 65 31 26 83).
CHATEAU d’ASSIER Remains of 16th century château with impressive classical facade. Open daily July and August, 10.00-12.30, 14.00-18.45; rest of season closed Tuesday. Adults over 25: 3 euros. 05 65 40 40 99. (16km)
CHATEAU DE LARROQUE–TOIRAC. Imposing and quirky fortified château on the Lot (with dungeons and bats!). Open daily July – September; guided tours 6 euros; children (4-12) 3. 06 12 37 48 39 or 06 60 08 80 10. www.chateautoirac.com. (18km)
St-CIRQ-LAPOPIE. Un des plus beaux villages de France. Well-preserved and restored mediaeval walled town in defensive position high above the Lot. Home to André Breton and centre for artists in the early 20th century. Fine views over the Lot from the remains of the Roman ramparts; exhibitions in Musée Rignault and the château; craftsmen selling pottery, woodwork, ironwork, paintings, puppets etc. Several cafes and restaurants, including Auberge du Sombral (05 65 31 26 08) and Le Gourmet Quercynois (05 65 31 21 20), both recommended. (27km) Combine this with a walk along the Lot at Bouziès for some stunning cliff carvings.
CAPDENAC LE HAUT, another of ‘les plus beaux villages de France’ (but smaller and quieter than St Cirq), just a few kilometres beyond Figeac, is a mediaeval fortress overlooking the Lot, which claims to be the site of the Uxellodunum, the last Gaul town to hold out against Caesar. Recently beautifully restored it now has a hotel/restaurant offering reasonably-priced meals. (33km) Combine with a trip to Figeac.
*GRAMAT ZOO (Parc animalier) on the main road into Gramat a large zoo (over 40 hectares so allow at least two hours for a visit) housing over 1000 species of wild and domesticated European animals. Excellent family outing; cafe or take a picnic. Wolves fed at 11.30; bears 14.30, otters 17.00. Adults 11 euros; children 6.50. 05 65 38 81 22. www.gramat-parc-animalier.com. (33km)
*FORET DE SINGES. A 20 hectare park beyond Gramat where 150 Barbary Macaques wander free and will eat from your hand. It is an important breeding place for this endangered species. Adults 9 euros; children 5.50. 05 65 33 62 72. www.la-foret-des-singes.com. (45km). Easily combined with a trip to Rocamadour, Rocher des Aigles, and or/the Gouffre de Padirac.
*ROCHER DES AIGLES. A bird of prey centre near Rocadamour, with flight displays approximately every 90 minutes. This was one of our children’s favourite trips. Adults 9.80 euros; children 6. 05 65 33 65 45. www.rocherdesaigles.com. (47km). Easily combined with Rocamadour, Forêt de Singes, and or/the Gouffre de Padirac.
*CUZALS Open air museum of local agriculture between 18th and 20th centuries, off the valley road 12k beyond Marcilhac. Well set out with plenty to interest both adults and children; café, picnic area, etc with a series of demonstrations (threshing, butter-making, weaving etc.) on Sunday afternoons. Open July-August; remaining season Wednesday- Sunday afternoons. Adults 5 euros; youths (12-26) 2.50. 05 65 31 36 43. http://musees.lot.fr/index.php/musee-cuzals. (16km)
*FIGEAC AND MUSEE CHAMPOLLION In this museum Figeac celebrates its son (who deciphered hieroglyphics) and the history of writing over 5,300 years. Well set out with plenty of interactive material for older children. Open July-August daily, 10.30-18.00; remaining season 14.00-17.30, closed Monday. 05 65 50 31 08. www.musee-champollion.com. (30km).
Figeac itself is an interesting and very attractive historic town with a market on Saturday mornings.
CAHORS Departmental capital with long and interesting history; some fine old buildings near the cathedral and a recently-developed series of mediaeval gardens in the centre and by the river. The Pont Valentré, a bridge going over the Lot has its own interesting legend. (Roman remains left exposed in central underground car park off Rue du President Wilson). (50km)
ESPAGNAC ST EULALIE is a village with picturesque and interesting remains of a priory, now the village church, 10km along the valley road towards Figeac. (11.8km)
VILLENEUVE – A charming bastide with medieval gate is on the road to Villefranche de Rouergue. The part-Romanesque church boasts 14th century wall paintings of pilgrims. (31km)
VILLEFRANCHE DE ROUERGUE Sign-posted from Cajarc, Villefranche de Rouergue is a lively town with narrow streets in the old centre round cathedral (the misericords are especially good). It has an excellent market on Thursday mornings but parking can be difficult. (38km) Easily combined with Cajarc and Villeneuve, and with the Gouffre de Lantouy (see below).
GOUFFRE DE LANTOUY. A magical small natural lake with deep clear blue water. Take the D24 (to Villefranche) and immediately after Salvagnac take a right turn and follow the signs to the Gouffre. There is a simple parking spot near-by.
DOLMEN DE LA PIERRE MARTINE. This is an area rich in neolithic remains, including many dolmens (stone communal burial chambers), two of which are in St Sulpice Comune (on the Causse behind the house near Le Rat and ovr the bridge just beyond Le Mas de Jean Blanc n the hill opposite). The largest, however, is La Pierre Martine, near Livernon. It wiehgs severaltons, is over seven metres long but could originally be rocked with one finger. It is well signposted fromLivernon and there is a car park near the dolmen (only a short walk acros a field). In Livernon there are two pleasant restaurants/bars: Auberge de la Causse (05 65 40 55 24) and Cafe de la Paix (05 65 40 55 05).
ROCAMADOUR a pilgrimage site since the 12th century overlooking the Dordogne. It is spectacular but commercialised and you need to leave the main street and climb the steps to the shrine of the black Madonna to understand why it is so revered. (46km). Easily combined with: Rocher des Aigles, Forêt de Singes, Grottes de Merveilles and/or the Gouffre de Padirac.
CONQUES Further away, in the direction of Rodez, a justly famous mediaeval pilgrim town with a fine Abbey (note particularly the fine 12th century tympanum, and the modern windows by Soulages). It has recently been regenerated by the return of a Cistercian community; the opening of a guesthouse for pilgrims en route to Compostella and daily worship in the Abbey. (74km)
LARAMIERE PRIORY Just beyond Limogne; an Augustinian priory (13th -17th centuries) with frescoes in the Chapter House. Open afternoons mid-July – late September; closed Tuesday. Adults 6 euros. (Visit warmly recommended; combine with Beauregard where mediaeval market building includes, hollowed into the walls, measures for standard volumes of grain.) www.laramiere.new.fr. (65k).
MOISSAC. The Abbey of Moissac is further afield but both the Abbey itself and the Cloisters are outstanding examples of romanesque (as are the well-known churches at Sarlat, St Cere, Carennac and Souillac on the Dordogne).
There are also many local smaller churches in the area of considerable interest:
Toulonguergues (turn right off D922 just south of Villeneuve d’Aveyron) and Ginouillac (head towards exit 56 of the A20, cross motorway on to D801 for 6k and turn right) are Vizigoth churches, dating back to 9c, with distinctively high walls and rounded corners. Toulonguergues has interesting wall paintings but is only open at present Wedensday afternoons (15.00) in August, and Ginouillac is in private hands and is not open although visitors are able to view the outside.
Saint–Pierre–Toirac, on the Lot, has a remarkable church dating from the 11c was fortified in 14/15c, with defensive walls and a well pierced in the nave floor to withstand sieges. Interesting capitals, especially in the apse. Open daylight hours. (There is another impressive fortified church at Rudelle – west of Lacapelle Marival on N140 – but we have never found it open. Note that the highest points of the defences were a 19thc embellishment.)
Soulomes (on D17 south-east of Labstide Murat) has a small Templer Commandery dating from the first half of the 12c, later taken over by the Knights Hospitalers, and a church with 16c wall paintings of the Resurrection. Church open daylight hours.
Lunegarde, (right off D802 on D42) church, built after the Hundred Years’ War, has a fortified room above the apse and boasts delightful 16c murals celebrating the Nativity. Church open in daylight hours.
Caniac–du–Causse (approach through Soulomes or right off D13 through Senaillac Lauzes). The church retains its 12c crypt housing a reliquary of the local Saint Nymphaise – a soldier under Roland who became a hermit in this bleak region, uncovered sources of water and healed the sick. Since the middle ages pilgrims have walked, and continue to walk, under the reliquary seeking healing.