South-West France is ancient Cathar country and the Tarn is steeped in history. The famous fortified village of Cordes-sur-Ciel with its collection of artists’ workshops is just up the road and the historic city of Albi which houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum and has the largest brick-built cathedral in the world is 14 miles away.
La cathédrale d'Albi
Le jardin de l' évêque , Albi
Among the more picturesque legacies of Simon de Montfort’s crusades against the Cathars are the Bastides village – fortified villages perched dizzily atop a hopefully impregnable mountain. Cordes-sur-Ciel is the best known but not to be missed are Penne, Bruniquel, Puycelsi and Castelnau de Montmiral. The energetic can visit them in a three or four-day 67km round trip walk, not for the faint-hearted but spectacular.
The less energetic can tour the Tarn by car, following the routes of Les Pigeonniers, the Pastel route or the spectaular road that follows the valley of the Tarn from Albi to Millau with its awe-inspiring viaduct carrying the A75 high above the river valley. You can also discover the many ceramicists’ studios and visit the Ceramics Museum in Giroussens.
Slightly further afield are the spectacular Gorges d’Aveyron, St Antonin Noble Val, the setting for the film The Hundred Foot Journey starring Helene Mirren, the handsome 'pink' city of Toulouse and the amazingly well preserved medieval city of Carcassonne.