The Region

Breathtaking sights, spectacular natural landscapes, cultural treasures and medieval history abound

Welcome to the Tarn & Occitanie

The Tarn is a region of long views and deep river gorges,fertile farmland, vineyards and forests. It is situated in Occitanie, the largest region in France with 13 departments within its boundary. These stretch from the Pyrenees in the South to the Massif Central in the North, and from Gers in the West to the Mediterranean coast. Within its natural boundaries it offers a diversity probably unmatched elsewhere in France.

The Tarn has escaped the worst of the tourist born scourges of appalling traffic, high prices and disappointing cuisine. Historical Albi is its major centre, providing the ancient name for the region – Albigeois. Many villages and towns stage summer festivals of music and medieval pageantry, celebrated for and by the local population, and a bonus for visitors.

Medieval villages and churches dot the landscape of this farming region, replete with pigeonniers. Villages are built in local honey coloured stone, set on rolling hills offering long views of the varied landscape.

The food of the region can be summed up in the title of the classic work from Paula Wolfert, ‘The Cooking of South West France: Recipes from France’s Magnificent Rustic Cuisine’.Confit, cassoulet, magret de canard, foie gras and local cheeses are still on offer along with the more modern interpretations of dishes using the excellent local fresh ingredients. Veal from the nearby Aveyron and Ségala areas enjoys a reputation that extends far beyond France. Well known charcuterie comes from the mountainous Monts de Lacaune, and the pink garlic of Lautrec is referred to as the prince of seasonings.

The local wine appellation is Gaillac. It is one of the oldest wine regions in the country, dating back to Roman times. Vineyards share the landscape with sunflowers, cornfields, hay and cereal crops.

The region offers a rich, diverse history, combined with its distinctive architectural gems, all waiting to be discovered. The wonderful Cathedral Sainte-Cecile in Albi, with its fortress like exterior, displays the power and authority of the Church in its medieval heyday. What a contrast to the modern structural icon in the form of the Millau Bridge over the Tarn Gorge, the perfect combination of engineering, sculpture and architecture!

Some highlights of the region include:

  • Albi At the heartland of the Albigeois with its magnificent brick cathedral and Museum of Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi is a now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Ambialet on the Tarn “No other isthmus in France is as beautiful” according to Elisee Reclus in 1880.
  • Beaulieu-en-Rouergue Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery
  • Bruniquel with its interesting chateau, lovely village, reached via a beautiful drive through the gorge
  • Cahors for its 14th century fortified Valentré bridge and the spectacular Lot Gorges
  • Castres has a Spanish art museum including some Goya and Velasquez, in the Hotel de Ville
  • Carcassonne, restored walled city famed for its turrets and narrow windy streets
  • Laguiole is famous for its elegant knives with their distinctive bone, horn or wooden handles
  • Najac has an ancient fortified tower with wonderful views across the forested countryside.
  • Millau sits below the spectacular bridge, near to the Roquefort cheese caves.
  • St Antonin-Noble-Valis remarkable for its Tuscan style medieval buildings, and a lively weekly market
  • Toulouse, a great city on the Garonne, is an ancient university town, also centre of the French aerospace industry


A particular pleasure of staying in a home is the ability to cook the wonderful produce sold at the regular markets held throughout France. There are many excellent markets worth a visit, starting with the Saturday morning market in Cordes. Other markets of note can be found in these nearby spots:

  • St Antonin Noble Val – Sundays
  • Laguépie – Wednesdays
  • Caussade – Mondays
  • Moissac – Saturday, Sunday
  • Montauban Wednesday, Saturday
  • Cahors – Saturday and Wednesday
  • Albi- a vegetable market every morning except Monday, a poultry market Saturday mornings, a domestic animal market Saturday mornings, a used bookmarket on Wednesdays and an arts and crafts market on Saturdays (except January through March).
  • Limogne hosts a truffle market Friday mornings from December to March
  • Lalbenque’s market features truffles on Tuesdays from December to March.

Some useful links:

Grand Sites in the Midi-Pyrenees
Tourism Tarn
The Aveyron
Randonee – walks in the Tarn
South West France Tourism


Maison des Oiseaux 18 Rue de la Boucarié, 81170 Cordes-sur-Ciel France
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