The Aveyron is a beautiful and largely undiscovered Department of France, with plenty to see and do. The landscape is varied and provides a mixture of mountains, gorges, plateaus, forests, rivers, woodland, rolling ‘causses’ and lakes. In amongst the beautiful scenery can be found medieval villages, churches and chateaux, including many of the ‘plus beaux village de France’. There are also vineyards to visit where the local AOC Marcillac wine can be sampled. In the summer numerous night markets and village ‘fetes’ provide an opportunity to sample regional food and drink and join in local festivities. The tranquil undulating countryside of the Aveyron is ideal for walking and mountain biking with many ‘chemins’ leading to magnificent panoramic views. The dramatic Valle de Lot and Gorges de Aveyron also provide opportunities for canoeing and swimming. At around 30 minutes drive from the historic town of Rodez Le Roc provides an ideal base for exploring the region.
The village of Bournazel, where Le Roc is located, has at its centre a chateau which is said to be one of the finest examples of renaissance architecture in southern France. The chateau is currently being renovated, (some parts were destroyed during the French revolution), to include extensive gardens in the renaissance style and is open to the public daily.
The village has evolved around the chateau and is very contained in a bastide style. With narrow streets accessed by gateways in the ‘walls’ and closely packed houses that look inwards. Within the village there is the church that was once part of the chateau and the Marie and tourist information centre. At the foot of the walls of the chateau, shaded by plane trees, is the village square which is often the centre of activities and the place where the villagers come to play patanque and sit and chat. On the edge of the square is the village bar and restaurant. Bournazel is situated between two medium sized towns; Montbazens and Rignac. Both of which are approximately 8 minutes drive away and have supermarkets, chemists, bakers, butchers and banks as well as restaurants and swimming pools. Montbazens has a very good market on Wednesday mornings and Rignac has a market on Tuesday mornings.
Places to visit
Conques – Drive time 30 minutes
This pretty medieval village with its abbey dating back to the 10th century has its origins in the pilgrims and was a major stop off point on the ‘Santiago de Compostella’ pilgrimage. Now classed as a world heritage site and one of the ‘plus beaux villages de France’ it is well worth a visit. As it is a major tourist draw it has many restaurants and shops selling local produce and artefacts.
Belcastel – Drive time 15 minutes
A picture postcard village tumbling down the sides of a lush green valley on the banks of the river Aveyron with the ruins of a chateau and a humpback bridge, Belcastel is one of the ‘plus beaux villages de France’. In the village of Belcastel are several cafes and two very good restaurants.
Villefrance de Rouergue – Drive time 25 minutes
This large town situated on the banks of the Aveyron River, has a very fine centre of stone built medieval town houses built around the cathedral at its centre. It is well worth a visit but make sure you go on market day which is Thursday morning when the whole of the old town centre becomes one huge vibrant market selling everything that you could ever need and more. This market is said to be the best in the department of the Aveyron.
Peyrusse le Roc – Drive time 15 minutes
A fascinating place to explore, parking in the ‘new village’ walk down through a wooded valley and discover the remains of an abandoned medieval village complete with chateau, cathedral, watermill and hospital. It is very picturesque with the river running through it and trees growing through the ruined stonework.
Najac – Drive time 45 minutes
This beautifully preserved medieval village which has just one street is towered over by a royal fortress built in the 13th century perched high up on a rocky outcrop. Encompassed by a meander of the river Aveyron, Najac is another ‘plus beaux villages de France’ and has several good restaurants.
Sauveterre de Rouergue – Drive time 45 minutes
Yet another ‘plus beaux villages de France’ Sauveterre gives the feeling of stepping back in time with its half-timbered houses, sculptured ornamental stones, ornate doorways and beautiful colonnaded square. Sauveterre is found on many tourists agendas and has many shops and places to eat.
Marcillac - Drive time 20 minutes
Marcillac is situated in the Dourdou valley which has its own micro climate which makes it particularly suited for growing the grapes for the local Marcillac wine, which has its own AOC. Marcillac has a busy market on Sunday mornings.
Millau Viaduct-Drive time 1 hour 30 minutes
This magnificent piece of architectural engineering opened in 2005 spans the valley of the Tarn at Millau.