Very popular for rural tourism, much of the Cantal department lies at an altitude of over 600 metres; large areas of these uplands are barren and treeless, such as the wide rolling grasslands of the Cézallier, to the north-east of Aurillac, the main town of the Cantal. Cattle graze the uplands in summer, and the Cantal is famous for its cheeses, notably the eponymous Cantal, but also other cheeses such as Salers and Saint Nectaire.
At the centre of the Cantal department lie the Monts du Cantal, a great volcanic bulge in the crust of southern central France. In the far southwest corner of Cantal, the land drops off into a much gentler area bordering on the Lot and Aveyron departments. It is in this rural hinterland and valley scape that you will find the house.
Whether your intention is to live in the property full-time, part-time or just for holidays this area of the Auvergne is one of the most beautiful in France with so much to see and do.
PLACES OF INTEREST
This area that comprises the southern part of the Cantal and the northernmost part of the Aveyron offers a wide range of interesting subjects to study and places to visit. The region is steeped in history with many of the nearby towns and villages having their origins in medieval times from before the Hundred Years War. A number of such places, both near and far, are shown below.
Vieillevie is the nearest village to the house. Walking to this medieval riverside village takes about 20 minutes either by a quiet country road or by the path of the old chemin de croix which winds its way down the hillside. Here you will find a small grocer, a café/bar and an award winning restaurant and hotel, La Terrasse. The village is also home to an ancient church and a medieval castle dating back to the 11th century.
Montsalvy, 14 kms away, is an 11th century fortified hill town, the name of which is derived from its role as a place of refuge for pilgrims. The town is more in keeping with a large village than a commercial town; it is compact, quaint and very attractive with narrow streets encircling the 11th century abbey. There are a number of shops, butchers, bakers, supermarket etc., providing most daily needs. It is well provided with two good restaurants and a number of bars. One kilometre out of town is the Puy de l'Arbre, the highest point in the area. The viewing table here offers a magnificent panorama over the Cantal massif, the Carladez, the Barrez, the Aubrac, the Causses, the chestnut groves and Aurillac Basin.
Le Fel, a mere 20 minute drive away, is the small winemaking community. This village not only offers unparalleled views but also visits to a number of small-scale bio wine producers. Nearby is the Poterie du Don, a popular ceramics gallery and boutique presenting the works of renowned artists and potters from around the world.
Entraygues, which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Truyère and Lot, is a charming old town. Particularly attractive is the Rue Basse which has preserved its medieval aspect almost intact. A 13th Century bridge spans the Lot and a Gothic bridge spans the Truyère. Explore the back streets of the town and notice the ancient doors and alleyways. There is a chateau with pepper-pot roofs, typical of the area.
Marcolès is another ancient village fortified in the 13th Century. It has picturesque narrow streets and the 15th Century gateway bearing the Coat of Arms. In August of each year famous names from the Tour de France attend a cyclists 'Criterium' with tests and time trials.
Conques, only 20 minutes away by car, is one of the premier Plus Beaux Villages de France. Conques is a must see for any visitor. It was an important stopping place for pilgrims en route to St. Jacques de Compostella and today it is a European Centre for Art and Medieval Civilisation. The abbey has a superb example of a Tympanum of this period; study this carved and sculpted panel over the Abbey door to see a graphic representation of the Last Judgement. This is a photographers’ paradise. Explore the narrow streets, the backs of houses, the ancient doors and the arrangement of stone walls and wooden beams. Belle's village in the 2017 version of the film Beauty and the Beast was based on Conques.
Figeac, an hour away by car, is a most beautiful medieval trading town. Here you will find a jumble of narrow streets and alleys with ancient timber-framed houses fronting on to them. Figeac is also the birthplace of Champollion who first deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics with its associations with the Rosetta Stone. A museum celebrates his life and work. A market on Saturday morning is one of the largest in the area.
Rodez is the ancient county town of the département of Aveyron built around the cathedral Notre Dame, a Gothic master piece that dominates the town and its surroundings from the top of its 87 metre bell tower.
Further afield, a number of other towns and Plus Beaux Villages de France will be found including Espalion, Estaing, Rocamadour, Cordes-sur-Ciel, St Cirq-Lapopie, Najac, Salers, Belcastel, Sarlat and Cahors.
If historical sites and natural scenic beauty get too much then a visit to the Viaduc du Millau, less than two hours drive away, is a must. Millau viaduct holds the world record for the tallest bridge, culminating at 343 metres (higher than the Eiffel tower), 2,460 metres long and touching the bottom of the Tarn valley in only 9 places. A truly outstanding feat of design and engineering.
Many activities await you in this area and you will undoubtedly find something of interest. Children need special consideration during the holidays and here they can indulge in a number of exciting diversions. There are Office de Tourism centres in both Montsalvy and Entraygues who can help you with this.
It wouldn't be France if there wasnt a market on somewhere. Locally, there are excellent markets in Aurillac (Wednesday and Saturday), Salers (Wednesday), Maurs (Thursday), Decazeville (Friday), Rodez and Figeac (Saturday) and Marcillac (Sunday). Further afield there are very good markets to be found in Villefranche-de-Rouergue (Thursday) and Sarlat-la-Caneda (Saturday). Most markets start early and finish by lunch time.
On Wednesday evenings, during July and August, there is a marché de producteurs (producers market) in the nearby town of Entraygues where you can buy local food and wine and sit and enjoy your purchases in the company of fellow travellers and locals whilst listening to music and perhaps even dancing. A similar market is also held in the nearby riverside village of St Parthem.
The Cantal and the Aveyron departments both have a considerable number of lakes, reservoirs and rivers and the many pleasures which water can bring include canoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking and rafting on the River Lot, and canyoning with guided descents of waterfalls, dinghy sailing and wind-surfing. Canoeing and paddle boarding are run from centres in Entraygues and another in Le Port, close to Vieillevie. A few miles downstream from Grand Vabre a company offers boat cruises, with and without lunch, a pleasant way to while away a few hours and see the river from its best vantage point.
Whilst many walks can begin from the house, the more adventurous will want to head for the volcanic mountains of the Monts du Cantal, just over an hour away by car. The highest point is almost 6,000 feet and the views over much of the Auvergne are superb. This landscape offers high level ridge walking at it’s finest. The sign-posted trails can be easily followed at a leisurely pace. The Aubrac, a large volcanic and granitic plateau that extends over an area of 1,500 km2, also provides an excellent hiking experience. Although lower and more level than the nearby Monts du Cantal, walking in the Aubrac is, at any time of year, not to be missed.
Cycling is a popular activity in this area. Excellent road surfaces and little traffic allow for some fast times either on a road or mountain bike and is a wonderful way to explore the hidden parts of La Châtaigneraie. Tackling the Puy Mary is a classic hill climb for a real enthusiast. Cycling around the Cantal is always an up and down affair but then, that is why you have 27 gears to choose from! In the 2016 Tour de France the route for one stage went through Montsalvy and Vieillevie.
An 18 hole par 72 course in Vezac near Aurillac is in a beautiful setting. It has open air and covered driving ranges, with introduction and improvement training available. Equipment can be hired. Another popular golf course near to Aurillac is the Golf De Haut-Auvergne. This 18 hole course covers 6,208 metres (par 72) and it is in a calm and magnificent setting. Golf is also available in Rodez.
At Super Lioran, about one hour away by car, there is an adventure circuit with a number of guaranteed ‘sensations’ for all the family. Out of the winter season a challenging Go-Ape style tree adventure can be found in this beautiful mountain resort. Other activities in the immediate area to the house include cart racing, tennis, horse riding, rock climbing and both lake and river fishing. Licenses for fishing are available from many local shops.
At an altitude of 350 metres, winter seldom arrives at the house, with only occasional, light falls of snow occurring from December up to the end of February. The same cannot be said of the mountainous regions an hour or so away by car. In these mountains the snow can be metres deep and remain until May. Head for Super Lioran, a major centre in the Monts de Cantal for winter sports. Here you have a choice of alpine skiing with over 40 kms of pistes, 140 kms of cross country routes and an ice skating rink. You can also continue your trekking across the mountains on snow shoes. The Aubrac also offers similar winter sport facilities, with less emphasis on alpine skiing and more on hundreds of kilometres of cross country and snow shoe routes.