50 mins north-east of Montauban, Caylus is a lovely medieval village packed with beautiful houses including the famous "Maison du Loup".
15 mins from there through the Bonnette Valley, Saint-Antonin Noble Val oozes irresistible charm on the banks of the Aveyron.
Perched on a rocky outcrop 30 mins away, Najac is a bastide whose views of the Gorges de l'Aveyron will leave you speechless.
Well worth a visit
Take your time exploring Najac's royal fortress, a fine example of medieval military art. The view from the keep perched 200m above the Gorges de l'Aveyron is incredible!
Bastides are unique to Occitania. They are towns built out of all sorts between the 12th and 14th century. The town's are built in a chequerboard layout. The streets are cut at a right angle and their main squares hosting the lively market is usually covered on the edges.
The bastides of Villefranche-de-Rouergue and Najac share a famous founder: Alphonse de Poitiers, King Louis IX's brother and heir to the counts of Toulouse.
Stroll through the network of organised streets leading to Place Notre-Dame surrounded by arcades and Gothic buildings. Here you can see Notre Dame Collegiate Church, a stone behemoth with a massive belltower-entrance, Gothic nave and 62 stalls sculpted by André Sulpice. In summer you can go up the belltower for panoramic views of the bastide.
The square is buzzing on Thursday mornings: it's market day and one of the region's most popular. This is a great opportunity to sample farçous (chard pancakes), aligot (cheesy mash potato), fouaces (bread), cured meats and bread from the Aveyron.
The hills in Saint-Antonin Noble Val turn into cliffs framing the Aveyron for 20km. A natural area with incredible biodiversity. The many hiking trails on the clifftops give you stunning points of view.
If you're feeling brave then go climbing or paragliding from Roc d'Anglars.
Family must-dos: canoe down the Aveyron, swim by the little beaches in Laguépie, Saint-Antonin or Cazals, visit the hilltop villages of Penne and Bruniquel and their châteaus.
Saint-Sauveur Charterhouse in Villefranche-de-Rouergue is home to one of the biggest Gothic cloisters in France open to visitors. Unwind in the romantic grounds at Loc Dieu fortified abbey between Villefranche and Caylus.
Varen Roman church and its priory are havens of peace between Saint-Antonin and Najac.
Last but not least, leave the world behind in the unique atmosphere of the Cistercian abbey in Beaulieu-en-Rouergue. You can have a picnic just outside the walls on the banks of the Seye with the dragonflies.
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