Southwest: Aubrac and Rouergue
France > Massif Central > Southwest
In the southwest corner of the Massif Central, the landscapes start to change and the mean altitude begins to drop. The wild, desolate moorland of the Aubrac is cut and contained by the savage gorges of the Lot and Truyère rivers. To the south of them, the arid but more southern-feeling plateaux of the causses form a sort of intermediate step to the lower hills and coastal plains of Languedoc. And they in turn are cut by the dramatic trenches formed by the gorges of the Tarn, Jonte and Dourbie, along with the spectacular caves of the Aven Armand and Dargilan. These are places best avoided at the height of the holiday season, when they turn into overcrowded outdoor playgrounds for amateur canoeists, parties of schoolchildren, motorists and campers.
The bigger towns, like Rodez and Millau in the old province of the Rouergue, also have much more of a southern feel. Both are worth a visit, although their attractions need not keep you for more than half a day. Rodez has a fine cathedral and Millau is worth considering as a base for exploring the causses and river gorges of the Tarn and Jonte.
The two great architectural draws of the area are Conques, with its medieval village and magnificent abbey, which owes its existence to the Santiago pilgrim route (now the GR65), and the perfect little bastide town of Sauveterre-de-Rouergue.
Pages in section ‘Southwest’: Aubrac, Upper valley, Millau, Roquefort, Gorges du Tarn.