We are brilliantly situated right in the centre the Tarn within a scenery of romantically rolling hills and valleys. All around us you will find a huge variety of landscapes including lakes and rivers, mountains, granite rock formations, dense forests and fields of sunflowers, not to mention extensive vineyards overlooked by vertiginous hill-top villages.
The whole region is steeped in centuries of history, medieval architecture, dotted with ruined Cathar castles and strongholds.
The medieval, city of Albi, entirely built of rose pink brick, is the architectural jewel of the region and is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will be amazed by its towering cathedral, enchanted by the Toulouse Lautrec museum and enjoy exploring its charming narrow cobbled streets. From its position, perched high over the River Tarn, you can enjoy spectacular views over the countryside, then take a river cruise to see things from different angle. Albi offers cafes and restaurants, chic shopping and a good choice of live music and theatre.
We are so lucky to be positioned between two important cities. To the south, the ancient stone built town of Castres situated right on the River Agout, boasts quaint, Venetian style houses overhanging the water. Lively markets with local vendors always ready to let you sample their produce will surely find you tempted. Welcoming cafes and a Michelin starred restaurant provide more culinary delights. A strong musical heritage pervades the town which offers concerts in the streets and an excellent theatre. The Goya museum overlooks a manicured topiary garden designed by Le Nôtre and houses a large and compelling collection of Goya cartoons.
The romantic hilltop village of Lautrec, is just a short drive from us. Listed as one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’ , its ancient brick and timber houses and exceptional panoramic views make it a lovely place to explore. Its world renowned ‘AOC pink garlic’, is a ‘must buy’, especially at the huge garlic festival in summer. Later, at the Fȇte du Pain, you can sample speciality breads and cakes. Local crafts are well represented in galleries and you can visit the clog maker’s workshop, then climb up the stone stairway to the old windmill on the hill, to find how wheat and woad dye were once ground.
Close to Castres, following the River Agout eastwards, you arrive in the dramatic landscape of the Sidobre. Millions of years ago, geological activity resulted in immense granite deposits throughout the area. These have gradually eroded to form spectacularly sculptural rock formations with names like ‘Napoleon’s Hat’, ‘Goose Rock’ and ‘Three Cheeses’. Hidden within is the tranquil ‘Blackbird Lake’ revealing its own smooth stones and an exotic covering of waterlilies. This enchanting area is somewhat unknown, so you can enjoy your explorations and picnics with little more than birdsong for company.
The region is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with miles of marked footpaths and tracks to explore and great opportunities for wild life watching. To better appreciate this variety, you might like to take a balloon ride to enjoy sensational views of the landscape.
Activities on offer locally include horse riding, canoeing and fishing, while some guests have even brought their own hi-tech cycles. Don’t worry, if you’re tempted, we have bikes to lend you too. Three excellent adventure parks offer challenging outlets for adolescents young and older, while two modern swimming pool complexes and an outdoor leisure centre offer fun and exercise for all ages.
Golfers are spoilt with the choice of four excellent 18 hole courses, all with open access to visitors and excellent restaurants, naturally. If you haven’t room to bring your own clubs, they can be hired on site.
Once a centre for the wool and leather trades, there are many artists and craftsmen upholding the old traditions and making beautiful objects and clothing by hand.
You will discover talented painters, weavers, clog makers, potters, sculptors, print makers, blacksmiths, basket makers, glass blowers and leather artisans, providing lots of chances to find a unique souvenir of your trip.
The tradition of knife making is seeing a resurgence, with craftsmen skilled in honing superb quality steel blades and utilising rare woods for the handles.
Between the 12th and 14th centuries, the fortunes of the region were based on the natural blue dye of Woad, known here as Pastel. You will see references to the Pays du Cocagne, named after the dried ball of plant leaves making the dye. A small artisanal production is now creating dyed garments, decorating paints and drawing crayons.