The best of the Tarn is on your doorstep
Chateaux, fortified towns, cathedrals… you’re perfectly placed to explore many of the Tarn’s finest treasures
You’re spoilt for choice for places to visit. The nearest towns are Gaillac, Lisle sur Tarn, Lavaur and Graulhet. Further afield you’ll find towns and cities with a rich heritage, such as Toulouse, Albi and Castres.
Here we list some of the most popular local attractions. For more information, visit the Tarn tourist information website.
Lisle sur Tarn
Lisle sur Tarn has a genuinely medieval feel. It’s the only bastide town in the area with a port and has the largest covered square in south-west France, dating back to 1229. Dining out at one of the excellent restaurants in the square is a magical way to spend a summer’s evening. You’re sure to want to have your picture taken beside the beautiful 13th century fountain – everyone does! A stroll round the lake is well worth it – and if you happen to visit in July, make a date to see the spectacular lakeside firework and laser display.
Lavaur is typically French, yet very much a town of the region. In bygone days, it was protected by ramparts: you can still see evidence of them if you look closely – be sure to check out the tourist office. There’s plenty of history to explore – from the town’s role as a bastion for Catharism (a Christian religious movement) to the wealth it built from a locally grown plant with exceptional dyeing properties, widely used to create the treasured bleu pastel.
Stroll beneath the plane tree-lined avenues, admire the distinctive red-brick architecture, enjoy a leisurely elevenses in one of the countless street cafes or enjoy the floral delights of the gardens. There’s no end of boulangeries and patisseries to choose from – mine’s a strawberry tart!
Markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Shoppers will love the wide range of smart boutiques. The Cathédrale Saint-Alain (1255) is an impressive sight high up on the banks of the Agout.
This town is situated on the banks of the Aveyron river and is famous for its Sunday morning markets which run along the narrow streets and medieval market hall.
The town was also used as the backdrop for the film Charlotte Grey (a film about the Resistance in the Second World War). This is also an excellent place to hire a kayak or canoe and slowly meander down the river (a mini bus will pick you up and bring you back!)
Gaillac’s origins as a wine-producing abbaye region go back to the 2nd century, but the town only began to grow after a Benedictine monastery was founded here in 972. The town is poised on the banks of the River Tarn. The Abbaye Saint-Michel, which dominates the view as you cross the bridge, is well worth a visit. Castle fans will love the Chateaux de Mauriac just on the outskirts of Gaillac. Markets are held Friday mornings. A new, modern cinema often shows films in English – look for the VO (version originale) sign.
An ancient fort in the middle ages, Graulhet made its mark in the 18th century as a leather producer. Find out more about the vital part leather played for the town and local population at the Maison des Metiers du Cuir.
The town’s old bridge is older than most, dating back to early 900. More architectural splendour awaits you in le quartier médiéval with its timber-framed buildings.
Graulhet has several lakes – perfect for walking, fishing, boating or just having a picnic. The Parc Boyer in the centre of the town has centenary trees. Explore the river by canoe from Saint-Hilaire to the Maison des Metiers du Cuir – 6km.
There are markets every Sunday morning. If you’re visiting in September, don’t miss the Fête du Cheval – eating, dancing, car boot sale, equestrian demonstrations and usually some miniature ponies presented by some local friends of ours.
You’ll be familiar with the name of this pretty little village – the family of the artist Toulouse de Lautrec lived close by. A fully working windmill dominates the landscape. Summer festivals, open air theatre, clog-makers workshop, archaeological exhibition, guided tours and a water park are just some of the things Lautrec has to offer. Foodies will know the region is renowned for its pink garlic.
Picturesque as Montans is, the town’s claim to fame is that during Roman times it was one of the most important centres for pottery production in the Gaul region. You can follow the story at the Archeosite museum and information centre.
Giroussens and St Lieux Les Lavaur
Perched high above the river Agout, Giroussens offers a panoramic view of the area. Nearby are the Jardins des Martels (English gardens) and the Chemin Touristique du Tarn, where you can take ride by steam train to neighbouring Saint-Lieux-Lès-Lavaur. For the ultimate steam train adventure, you can even be an engine driver for the day. If you’re looking for action, once you get to Saint-Lieux-Lès-Lavaur, check out the Ludolac leisure centre for volleyball, canoeing, pedalos, fishing, crazy golf and tennis.