Day 1 : Cordes sur Ciel
Cordes-sur-Ciel is 84 km northeast of Toulouse (1 hr 10 min.).
> Morning : wander the steep streets of the medieval town of Cordes-sur-Ciel, perched on the Pech de Mordagne hill. This is one of the most beautiful bastide in Midi-Pyrénées.
> Afternoon : visit the Jardin des Paradis nestling next to the town walls, and/or the Yves Brayer museum of modern and contemporary art in the Maison du Grand Fauconnier.
> Overnight in Cordes-sur-Ciel.
Day 2 : Castelnau-de-Montmiral et Puycelci
> Morning : depart for Castelnau de Montmiral
22 km - 25 min.
You pass through part of the Gaillac AOC vineyards (the wine estates are signposted).
Recommended detours en route:
- To Andillac : see the Château-Musée du Cayla, the romantic residence of the poet Maurice de Guérin (19th century).
- To Senouillac : visit the imposing castle at Mauriac.
> Lunchtime : stop for lunch in Castelnau de Montmiral and go for a short walk around this bastide that sits on top of a promontory overlooking the Gaillac vineyards.
> Afternoon : departure for Puycelci.
12 km - 13 min.
Visit Puycelci, an old fortified village overlooking La Grésigne state forest, the biggest oak forest in the South of France.
> Overnight in Puycelci.
Day 3 : Bruniquel et Penne
> Morning : departure for Bruniquel.
13 km - 15 min.
Take a stroll round Bruniquel, a charming medieval village with steep street and Gothic façades. See the village's two castles (the Château Jeune and the Château Vieux), built on the edge of cliffs towering over the Aveyron Gorge.
> Late morning : departure for Penne.
9 km - 10 min.
Have lunch in Penne and see the château built, like the rest of the village, in an eyrie high above the Aveyron Gorge. Ruined in the course of its turbulent history, the château is now enjoying a new lease of life.
> Afternoon : departure for Najac.
44 km - 45 min.
Recommended stopping points en route :
- Saint Antonin Noble Val, the pearl of the Aveyron Gorge, to see the Place de la Halle and belfry.
- Varen, to spend a few minutes inside the village's Romanesque church, a little marvel that not many people know about.
> Overnight in Najac.
Day 4 : Najac et Villefranche-de-Rouergue
> Morning : take a stroll round Najac, a 13th century bastide that looms spectacularly ahead of you in the heart of the Upper Aveyron Gorge. See the impressive royal fortress.
> Afternoon : departure for Villefranche de Rouergue
22 km - 25 min.
Explore Villefranche de Rouergue on foot. This is an extremely fine example of a bastide of the Southwest. Its fascinating heritage, starting with the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame, will amaze you.
> End of circuit.
BASTIDES AND HILLTOP VILLAGES AROUND THE AVEYRON GORGE
Cordes-sur-Ciel, Bruniquel, Najac… from the dizzy heights of their promontories and rocky spurs, these character villages overlook the surrounding hillsides, vineyards and forests or stand guard on the top of sheer cliffs. Most of them are bastides, a type of settlement found only in Midi-Pyrénées. You'll see them standing out on the skyline, creating elegant shapes of ancient amber and ivory-coloured stone. These little towns and villages punctuating your journey along the wild green ribbon of the Aveyron Gorge will make you dream that perhaps one day, you'll live here...
Day 1 : Cordes sur Ciel (Tarn).
Day 2 : Castelnau-de-Montmiral and Puycelci (Tarn).
Day 3 : Bruniquel and Penne (Tarn-et-Garonne).
Day 4 : Najac and Villefranche-de-Rouergue (Aveyron).
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