TARN'S MEDIEVAL BASTIDES
6 days walking/7 nights
A circular trail linking many of the Tarn's wonderful hilltop villages
Wonderful medieval bastides (hill-top fortified villages) including Puycelci, Castlenau and Bruniquel
Exploring Cordes-sur-Ciel, considered to be one of the best preserved villages in France
Leisurely walking through varied and picturesque landscapes
Gaillac vineyards and historic oak forests
Lovely small guest houses with great cuisine
Let 's discover the full itinerary!
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome, transfer from Gaillac train station and settle in to your first guest house near Castelnau in the Tarn.
Day 2: Castelnau-de-Montmiral - Donnazac
Your first day starts by climbing to the first of your bastide villages - Castelnau-de-Montmiral. This beautiful village sits on top of a hill with a central square surrounded by wonderful timber-framed historic houses. Your trail then continues west through quiet rolling countryside with a patchwork of Gaillac vines decorating the pretty vistas. After visiting the village of Cahuzac you’ll turn north to reach Donnazac and your wonderful guest house.
Overnight: Donnazac, Walk:21km, +310m
Day 3: Donnazac - Cordes-sur-Ciel
An easier day as you make your way through vineyards, passing historic chateaux and farmsteads to reach the remarkable bastide of Cordes-sur-Ciel, widely considered to be the finest fortified settlement in France. Climb into the old town to explore the narrow winding streets and see the beautiful gothic and renaissance buildings, which are incredibly well preserved. Afterwards, descend to your lovely guest house at the foot of the village.
Optional extra night and day with possibility of visiting Albi on the banks of the river Tarn, classed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city is home to Saint Cecile Cathedral, the largest brick built building in the world.
Overnight: Cordes-sur-Ciel, Walk: 14km, +240m
Day 4: Vaour - Bruniquel
Transfer to a small hamlet beyond Vaour. A day of contrasts as you traverse the hills of the Causse Magrou before descending to reach the Aveyron Gorge. Just before you reach the gorge, you can climb to reach the pretty ridge-top village of Penne with its ruined castle. Afterwards you have the choice of following the bottom of the gorge or the plateau above to reach your next bastide - Bruniquel. Like many of the villages you’ll explore, this is also classed as one of the prettiest villages in France. Explore its steep streets lined with historic dwellings.
Overnight: Bruniquel, Walk: 17km, +350m
Day 5: Bruniquel - Puycelsi
Your trail takes you into the forest of Gresigne which is the largest forest in the Tarn and the greatest oak forest in the South of France. It was also the hunting forests of King Francois I. A choice of trails depending on the distance you wish to walk. You’ll finish by climbing to another wonderful hilltop bastide. Puycelsi has been a strategic highpoint from prehistoric times. This small village is the archetypal bastide with its church and houses encircled by protective walls which sit on the edge of vertical cliffs.
Overnight: Puycelsi, Walk: 14-18km, +380m
Day 6: Puycelsi - Castelnau-de-Montmiral
You’ll descend from Puycelsi to reach the Vere Valley which you’ll never leave for too long during your day's walking. Your trail passes through a quiet rural scene of farms, manors and small hamlets. You’ll undulate across a number of small tributary valleys in and out of woods to return to your guest house near Castlenau.
Overnight: Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Walk: 16km, +330m
Day 7: Tour from Castelnau-de-Montmiral
For your last day you have a choice of walks from your guest house, either on the north in the Gresigne forest or south into Sivens forest. Plenty of interest throughout in these deciduous forests. You can of course choose to relax by the pool at your guest house.
Overnight: Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Walk: 12-24km, +330m
Day 8: Departure
Transfer to Gaillac station after breakfast.
At a glance
April - June & September - October
From £840 / €920 per person (based on 2 sharing)
7 nights / 6 days walking
Distance: 12-21km per day
Ascent: 240-380m per day
Small guest houses
FULL BOARD except one evening meal
Other walking holidays in the Tarn
Similar self-guided walking holidays in south-west France
A large number of well-preserved medieval villages known as Bastides are scattered throughout the Tarn in southern France. From high on rocky hilltops, these timeless places such as Puycelsi, Penne, Castelnau, Bruniquel and Cordes-sur-Ciel have kept watch over the surrounding countryside for centuries. Our self-guided walking holiday explores these wonderful settlements, many classed as some of the prettiest villages in France. Inbetween the villages the quiet Tarncountryside is a mix of rolling fields and vineyards with expansive views, sunny chalk plateaux, ancient oak forests and deep rocky gorges. Your independent circular walking trail not only links some of the prettiest villages in France but also explores the full range of Tarn’s beautiful landscapes, whilst staying in delightful chambre d'hote style guest houses. The Tarn is a hidden gem welcoming only a fraction of the number of toursits that visit the popular hotspots elsewhere in the south of France.
7 nights/8 days: 6 days independent walking moving between guest houses
Everday of week subject to availability during April, May, June, September & October
Walking Profile & Grade
This self-guided or independent walking holiday in the Tarn region of France is made up of 6 walks moving between guest houses. The walks average about 17km with limited ascents and descents although some paths can be rough and stoney in places with the odd steeper section. Average daily ascent is 330m. Some walking days include options to vary the walking length and difficulty.
This walking holiday is graded easy - moderate. See more information about walking grades.
Accommodation & Meals
7 nights accommodation in several charming small guest houses with great character in double or twin rooms with own bathrooms (3 star equivalent). Wonderful regional cuisine and wines
Where is the Tarn?
When to Travel
Our self-guided walking tour in the Tarn is available from April to June inclusive and in September and October. We do not run this holiday in the height of the summer due to the high temperatures and the difficulty in securing our top choice accommodation. The climate in the Tarn is classed as warm temperate with an oceanic climate with a Mediterranean influence, characterised by hot and fairly dry summers, sunny autumns, mild winters and springs marked by recurrent rainfall. Ideal walking temperatures are experienced up to mid June, after which it can become very hot. Average day time temperatures are 17.5°C for mid April and 21.5°C for mid-May. By Mid June temperatures have reached 25.5°C on average in the afternoon whilst September highs average 25°C. October is still a good month for walking on average with maximum temperatures of 20°C and lower rainfall than those experienced further south and east in the south of France. April can still be fresh with morning temperatures averaging 8°C. The wettest month in the Tarn is May, whilst September is the driest month. The region is slightly sunnier than the national French average.
Navigation, Walking Notes & Maps
This walking holiday partly follows GR (Grande Randonnee) long distance trails which are well way-marked with red and white markings. There are also a number of signposts along the trail. The walking follows clear paths for its entire duration. The remaining sections follow local trails waymarked in yellow, whilst other sections have no or little markings. Our walking notes are very detailed (more information here) and include intermediate distances for sections of the trail. They also include information about the sites which can be explored along the route. We supply one walking guide per person on this holiday. As well as the detailed walking notes we supply official walking maps produced by the IGN at a scale of 1:25,000. Your trail is highlighted on the maps.
On this walking holiday your main luggage is transferred between guest houses so you only have to carry a day rucksack with picnic lunch (supplied by the guest houses and included in the holiday price), water and spare clothes, waterproofs, camera etc. On this holiday the guest house hosts are generally responsible for transporting your main luggage as well as the transfers between Gaillac and the walking holiday. If you have any specific requests you can ask your hosts during your trip. Please limit the weight of your bags to 20kg. We generally use small guest houses in historic buidlings and some of the rooms are accessible only by stairs.
ransfer between Gaillac train station and your first and last guest house in the Tarn included in your holiday price.
Eurostar, TGV and then TER French trains allow you to get to Gaillac train station from where you'll be given a transfer to your guest house in the Tarn near Castlenau. Changes between the Eurostar and TGV are at Lille or Paris. TGV's run from Paris Austerlitz to Toulouse from where you can change for a train to Gaillac, heading towards Rodez or Albi. For some trains you can also change at Montauban rather than Toulouse and then take a train or bus (run by the train company) to Gaillac.
There are flights from French and UK airports toToulouse. Operators from UK airports include Easyjet from Bristol and Gatwick, Jet2.com from Leeds - Bradford and Manchester, and British Airways from London Heathrow. From the airport, take a shuttle bus to Toulouse train station and from there, a local train to Gaillac. Shuttle bus is found at door B3 on the ground floof and the journey costs about €5.50.
Note: Please check concerning the availability of a holiday before booking any flights. If you need further information or would like to discuss any aspect of your travel arrangements, please contact us, we’re here to help you.
Self Drive from UK
Channel ferry crossings from Dover are provided by a number of operators including P&O Ferr
7 nights / 6 days walking
- From £840 (single supplement £245)
- From €920 (single supplement €270)
- Loyalty scheme reduction applies for returning customers (see terms and conditions)
What's included in the price
- Transfers between Gaillac train station and guest house at start and end of walking holiday
- 7 nights FULL BOARD accommodation (except one evening meal)
- All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 6 evening meals
- Full walking notes and maps
- Transport of luggage between guest houses
- One other transfer during your week
What's not included in the price
- Travel to Gaillac, France
- Lunches on the day of arrival and departure, plus one evening meals in restaurant
- Additional transfers to those described above
- Any excursions or entrance fees
- Travel insurance
- A deposit payment of 30% or at least £250 or 250€ per person must be made to confirm your booking. The balance of payments is due 8 weeks before the holiday date. If the holiday date is less that 8 weeks away at the time of booking, then the full price should be paid.
On this independent walking holiday in the Tarn, you will stay in a number of charming bed & breakfasts full of local character. All rooms have private bathrooms. Examples of the guest houses used on the walking holiday are shown below. They are small, charming guest houses which include renovated farms in beautiful rural locations, as well as exquisite historic houses with the town walls. At all your guest houses you'll be treated to a warm welcome. Many of the guest houses have swmming pools.
Renovated 18th century house at the foot of the historic villlage of Cordes-sur-Ciel. Warm welcome from Nico and Christianne
Extra nights are possible at any of the stopovers. There are already three nights near Castelnau-de-Montmiral at the start and end of the holiday. We would also recommend an extra night at Maison au Puits if you would like more time to explore Cordes-sur-Ciel or visit the beautiful city of Albi on the banks of the river Tarn. Your host can provide you with transfers. The city is home to Saint Cecile Cathedral, the largest brick built building in the northern hemisphere. There is also the chance to visit the Toulouse Lautrec museum which houses over 1000 of his works or just stroll by the river and relax in one of the numerous cafés and bars.
Toulouse: The walking holiday starts with a pick up in Gaillac, which is accessed by public transport via the pink city of Toulouse. Toulouse is France's fourth largest city, located on the banks of the Garonne River. Founded by the Romans it owes its nickname of "Ville Rose" or pink city to the use of brick used in much of its architecture from Antiquity to the present day. It dresses the façades with warming colours, from soft pinks to the most flamboyant oranges. Toulouse counts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Canal du Midi (designated in 1996 and shared with other cities), and the Basilica of St. Sernin, the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe, designated in 1998 along with the former hospital Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques because of their significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail. We can add on a city break of varying numbers of nights according to your wishes.
Please consult us for a price on any of the above options.
If you want to learn more about the region's culture through tailor-made activities and visits, check out those trips that include a few days in the Occitanieregion. Contact us to add them to your hike.
Authentic trip to discover the Tarn: stunning walks, exquisite gastronomy and centuries of captivating history in Toulouse, Albi, Carcassonne and more.
Learn everything about French history on this fun family trip through the ages. Explore Paris, Bordeaux, Sarlat, Carcasonne and Marseille.
Every guest house and every host was so special each in it's own/their own way (and believe me we've had bad experiences in the past so I do know okay from bad and special from simply good!) The chambre d'hotes/table d'hote experience was new to us and we loved it - so much fun to have people from different countries all stumbling around in each other's language and getting to know each other. We love hiking in France and this has been our most enjoyable trip. Your company really does an excellent job.
We have had a great holiday. Great accommodation with lots of character. Variety of walks. A better sense of real French life than offered by a hotel.
Maureen & Robert T.