A land of contrasts, the Tarn is a land of hills and bastides, vineyards and valleys. A kaleidoscope of landscapes and atmospheres to discover, between traditions, history and nature.
To the west, the Grésigne forest. To the east, the Monts de Lacaune. To the north, the coal basin of Carmaux. To the south, the Montagne Noire. Not forgetting the Ségala plateau, the granite island of Sidobre, the Tarn and Agoût valleys and the Gaillac vineyards. And the river Tarn which crosses the whole and in particular the Albigensian capital, a high place of history. The Tarn territory, with its varied landscapes and strong identity, invites you to getaway, epicurean or erudite, against a backdrop of old stones, perched villages, paths and legends. Escape there to espanter (surprise yourself in patois) for a summer.
Land of history and heritage
Turbulent, History here is that of the Capitouls, the Cathars, but also the Visigoths, Pastel and Protestantism, and it can be read over the villages, often among the “most beautiful in France”. In the middle of the Albigensian Crusade, the bastides were thus “basties” by the Count of Toulouse to preserve the economy and the inhabitants converted to Catharism. These fortified cities are organized around a square with arcades to trade “under cover”, as in Castelnau-de-Montmiral, “the mountain where you can see”, where you can now shop for t-shirts and berets with Occitan logos at Boudu. Conversely, Puycelsi, stronghold of the Templars then of the King’s soldiers who went to hunt the “parpaillous” (Protestants) of Montauban, is built around the church. This one, painted in deep blue, has a single nave so that the voice carries during sermons.
Perched on her “puech”, Cordes-sur-Ciel responds to the killings of Simon de Montfort and its name pays allegiance to the King of Aragon and Cordoba. In the “city of 100 warheads”, you can admire the Gothic residences of fabric merchants, one of which housed the Grand Écuyer of the Tarn chef and pastry chef Yves Thuriès who opened a Museum of Sugar and Chocolate Arts here. A mysterious paved well is pierced by the rays of the sun at its zenith, like Saint Michael slaying the dragon, and the church, built under duress, has no access stairs: the Tarnais is rebellious and a bit mystical. To Albi, the fortress of God is built to establish the Catholic faith in response to the Cathar heresy. Hay barn after the Revolution, it features al fresco paintings and a rare intact rood screen. Around what is the largest brick cathedral in the world, the city can be explored through its districts, Castelviel historic heart, La Madeleine, a suburb with its mills and vermicelli factories, or in the footsteps of Toulouse Lautrec.
Boudu, Place des Arcades, 81140 Castelnau-de-Montmiral. Such. : 06 13 58 65 10.
Sugar and Chocolate Arts Museum, 33 Grand-Rue Raimond VII, 81170 Cordes-sur-Ciel. Such. : 05 63 56 02 40.
Artisanal and epicurean traditions
If the Tarn has the shape of a ham, the curing tradition in the Monts de Lacaune has persisted for centuries thanks to the alchemy of the altitude (850 meters) and the oceanic and Mediterranean winds which dry hams and sausages. These were then exchanged for salt, wine and fruit from the “Low Country”, notably the nearby Minervois, via the Route des Crêtes de la Montagne Noire. Maison Millas perpetuates this know-how with hams under IGP, Roquefort or truffle sausage, but also bougnettes and melsat, local specialities, which can also be tasted in the charcuterie bar. Gaillac wine is grown in the west of the department between terraces, hillsides and plateaus and sublimates some native grape varieties such as Len de l’El (far from the eye because the grapes are far from the bud), Mauzac with apple aromas, or Braucol, Prunelard or Duras. The wines are red, rosé, dry white, sweet or sparkling and even “pearl”. In the heart of what is known as “little Tuscany”, the Castle of Saursa Palladian-inspired residence, lets visitors discover its huge vaulted cellar as well as its gardens and rose garden, before or after tasting.
The Tarn is also a land of craft traditions. Graulhet, capital of tanning since the Middle Ages, specialized after the war under the impetus of workers in leather goods. There were up to 150 factories in the 1950s in the city installed on the banks of the Dadou. Today, subcontractors of major luxury brands or designers are reinventing this ancestral activity. Bandit Manchot thus recycles scraps of leather to create original objects and accessories, slippers, shopping bags or postcards in all leather. In Giroussens, the tradition of pottery continues through a Center for Contemporary Ceramics.
Maison Millas, Les Argieuses, 81320 Murat-sur-Vèbre. Such. : 05 63 37 14 72.
Château de Saurs, 48 chemin Toulze, 81310 Lisle-sur-Tarn. Such. : 05 63 57 09 79.
The nature side of the Tarn
Nestled between Languedoc, Gascony, Guyenne and Rouergue, the Tarn inherits unspoiled nature and grandiose landscapes, an ideal playground for outdoor sports and leisure. The Grésigne forest invites you to listen to the roar of the deer or to treat yourself to a sylvotherapy. The lake of Saint Ferréol, imagined by Pierre-Paul Riquet to supply its Canal du Midi, features beaches and pine forest, catamaran and canoe. As to Sidobre massifthe largest granite concentration in Europe, it plunges the visitor into a chaos of stones, and is traversed along paths, legends, wonders, blackbird lake, or time for a storytelling walk in the evening. Children and adults will play a game of giant goose or become a stone hunter, geologist or naturalist. On some 7000 kilometers of marked trails, hikers will find what they are looking for: the Thieves trail in Puycelsi, the Sagnes trail in the peat bogs or a bucolic GR in the heart of Albi. Without forgetting the way of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle which crosses vineyards and valleys by a variant of the way of Puy or by the way of Arles. All roads lead to the Tarn.
By plane: arrival at Toulouse airport.
By train: arrival at Albi or Castres stations.
Chateau de Tauzieres : 15 bedrooms, swimming pool and view of the vineyards. From €139 per room.
Château de Tauziès, 1850 route de Cordes, 81600 Gaillac. Such. : 05 63 41 26 80.
Castle of Salettes : 13th century building, gourmet restaurant and wines from the estate. From €123 per room.
Castle of Salettes, 81140 Cahuzac-sur-Vère. Such. : 05 63 33 60 60.
Grand Hotel de Castres : contemporary decor on the banks of the Agoût. From €92 per room.
Grand Hotel de Castres, 1 rue de la Liberation, 81100 Castres. Such. : 05 63 37 82 20.
Villa Caroline and The other shores : two guest houses facing old Alby.
Villa Caroline, 16 rue de l’Équerre, 81000 Albi. Such. : 07 83 95 22 70. From €186 for two nights.
L’autre Rives, 60 rue Cantepau, 81000 Albi. Such. : 06 75 47 01 51. From €90 per night.
The Alchemy : an Art Deco hotel and its gourmet restaurant in the center of Albi. From €130 per room.
The Alchimy, 10-12 place du Palais, 81000 Albi. Such. 05 63 76 18 18.
Kitchen without outbuilding : in Gaillac, the secret table d’hôtes of Michelin-starred chef Yannick Delpech from Toulouse.
Kitchen without outbuilding, Tel. : 06 40 71 25 64 (sms). The address will be communicated to you 48 hours before.
Farm-Inn des Chênes : grandmother’s recipes and accommodation in the forest.
Ferme-Auberge des Chênes, Peyre Blanque, 81140 Larroque. Such. : 05 63 33 10 92.
Hotel-Restaurant du Pont : panoramic view of the Tarn and refined cuisine.
Hotel-Restaurant du Pont, La Moulinquié Pont d’Ambialet, 81340 Saint-Cirgue. Such. : 05 63 55 32 07.
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