Free (except meals and accommodation)
the best period
Spring and Autumn
The "Vallée et Gorges de l’Aveyron à vélo" ("Aveyron Valley and Gorges by bike") véloroute is an incredible cycling route in my opinion. It will take you through a wide variety of landscapes and surprise you with spectacular viewpoints, despite being just 85 kilometres long. You can stop at charming medieval villages, cycling at your own pace.
Departing from Montauban, along the Promenade des Montalbanais, all the way to Laguépie, get ready to pedal on its wide bends with banked turns. With a river on one side and cliffs on the other, the Aveyron Gorges in Tarn-et-Garonne are wild and majestic.
This cycling experience begins in an enchanting setting, the sublime Montauban, resplendent in pink brick at the heart of the Tarn Valley. The town of Ingres, Bourdelle and Olympe de Gouges, it never ceases to inspire artists. Before you get on your bike, I recommend taking a walk in its historic centre and ensuring you have plenty of energy by enjoying a flavoursome lunch on the amazing Place nationale. The exit from the town is less romantic, through urban areas, but the countryside is close by
This itinerary is a véloroute. That means it is shared by bicycles, motorcycles and cars. Don't forget your helmet, yellow vest and lights for going through the tunnels, and take care. Level: easy, a few of the hills are more enjoyable on an electric bike. You can hire one from ALoisir.
You can go back by train from Laguépie station or by bike.
As you pass through the villages of Saint-Etienne-de-Tulmont and arrive in Nègrepelisse, you travel along flat roads which offer an easy start.
In Nègrepelisse, a big surprise awaits you.
Here, the old castle fort has been turned into a Centre for Art and Design, dedicated to cookery and contemporary architecture, and appropriately named La Cuisine ("The Kitchen").
As you can now tell, this will also be a gastronomic adventure. Leave your bike on the avenue of plane trees opposite the castle to go and explore this surprising building, and discover designers' enduring works on La Cuisine's island by the Aveyron.
In Autumn, don't be surprised if you see poetic quotes written on the town's windows in coloured felt-tip pen. From mid-November, the Festival Lettres d’Automne invites you to see, hear and share the literary works and artistic world of a writer who is selected to be guest of honour.
From Nègrepelisse, the adventure continues in Bioule and on through farms and orchards. A few dovecotes adorn the route to Montricoux.
To round off this first section nicely, you have to go 6 kilometres off the véloroute and head to Vaïssac, for the Accueil vélo-certified hotel, Chez Terrassier.
You can confidently leave your bike in the owners' capable hands, for they are bike-lovers too, and enjoy a peaceful night in this little village. Before bedtime, enjoy a gourmet dinner at the restaurant, where you simply must try the famous mushroom omelette that the house is famous for.
Did you know ?
La Cuisine has been renovated by the famous Catalan architects RCR Arquitectes, winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. They also designed the Soulages Museum in Rodez.
Montricoux is an old Templar city. You won't regret going up to the village once you're standing in front of its medieval houses' façades, and especially in the courtyard of the Château that houses the Marcel-Lenoir Museum. Next, the descent along the Aveyron is green and shady, and you feel like you're going through an enchanted forest. Then there's a surprise, as you find yourself on a little bridge over the Aveyron... just above the cliff where the impressive Bruniquel Castles tower over us.
For film buffs: the villages of Bruniquel and Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val are popular film locations! Numerous masterpieces have been filmed here: The Old Gunby Robert Enrico, Charlotte Gray with Cate Blanchett, The Hundred-Foot Journey with Helen Mirren and Charlotte Le Bon…
The véloroute does not go through the village of Bruniquel, so you cycle off the beaten track for less than 2km, to reach a place that you simply have to see. You will soon see why Bruniquel is Plus Beaux Villages de France-certified... The architecture of the houses, the rose bushes and other plants dotted about the village, and the buttressed windows will cast a spell on you. The Castles are like a mountaintop you have to conquer, but it's best to go up on foot, leaving your bike opposite the Tourist Office.
Once you arrive, take a breath of fresh air at 90m above the Aveyron from the Renaissance gallery, and enjoy the 360° view of the landscapes opposite you.
Worth the detour
Penne, located 8 km after Bruniquel, is your next stop. This village will also charm you with its narrow streets and ruined castle, built on a rocky spur above the Aveyron Gorges. It's best to leave your bike next to the church and explore the cobbled streets on foot.
After these athletic uphill climbs, the véloroute becomes gentler again, with hills and descents along Aveyron's natural beaches like in Cazals. The superb Route de la Corniche, with its rocky ledges overhanging the Aveyron Gorges, is well worth the effort involved in pedalling up to the hamlet of Brousse les Antibels. Of course, you have to take a selfie break after the passage in the rock, to the right on the way downhill. Next, just carry on until you reach Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, a medieval town where there is no shortage of guesthouses for a magical overnight stay, with a spot of stargazing if you like.
The market in Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val on Sunday mornings is unmissable if you want to discover the best of the local gastronomy.
When you leave Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, you say goodbye to the dizzying cliffs and head to the green Aveyron Valley, where the river is more peaceful. You can't help but marvel at this trail dotted with pretty villages like Féneyrols and Montrosier.
A stop in Lexos is a must if you want to admire the impressive station, a real monument to 19th-century railway architecture. It's a reminder of the industrial and mining history of this region, which used to connect Brive-la-Gaillarde with Toulouse.
Well worth a visit
Varen, located less than 3km from Lexos, is worth a short detour. Its 15th-century deanery with defensive medieval architecture will surprise you since life seems so peaceful here: proof that there is also a historical aspect to this bike trip. The abbey church's Romanesque capitals are architectural treasures of the 11th century, especially the animals.
All that's left is to arrive in Laguépie, where Quercy seems far away since we're at the gateway to Rouergue.
The oak trees and also chestnut trees reign supreme here, hence the famous Laguépie chestnut, which has its own festival on the last Sunday in October every year.
In summer, Viaur's Blue Flag beach is an ideal place for a well-deserved swim. In autumn, you will be content with admiring the red and orange colours of the trees by the river, mingling with the fog in the morning, like something from the movies!