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Traveller Rating


  • self guided walk
  • 4 nights in hotels
  • 2 nights in chambre d'hôtes
  • 3 Dinners
  • 1 Lunch
  • 6 Breakfasts

7 Days£980GBP


Trip Code: JAB

Trip highlights

  • Walking Historic Sites of the Cathars
  • Medieval Hilltop Towns
  • Vineyards, Gorges, Forests and Rivers of Rural France
  • 4 of the 'Les Plus Beaux Villages' in France
  • Stay in Chambres d'Hotes
  • Cobbled Streets, Carved Facades, Old Buildings
  • Option to Extend with The Old City of Albi

This beautiful rural walk winds between the bastides or fortified towns that sprung up between the Cathar Crusades of the 1200s and the Wars of Religion in the 1500s. They are situated in spectacular settings on rocky promontories or broad hills like the Tuscan hill towns and are rich in history. The intervening countryside is a beautiful mixture of forests, fields and river valleys with a distinct lack of tourists. This has become not only one of our most venerated walks, but also one of the most popular tours in France. No fewer than 4 of the villages on this tour (Cordes, Bruniquel, Puycelci and Castelnau-de-Montmiral) are included on the unofficial but prestigious list of 143 most beautiful villages in France (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France). The days are quite full, but you should have plenty of time to explore and photograph these wonderful places.

This tour is a little different from our other hotel treks in that Chambres d’Hotes are used for some of the nights, literally ‘a room with your hosts’. For a couple of nights the accommodation is also Table d’Hote, ‘dinner with your hosts.’ You will on those occasions have meals prepared by members of the family, and probably sit and eat with them. They will offer you wine and try to engage you in conversation and enthuse you with what they are doing. You certainly won’t just feel like a hotel guest!

You are also strongly advised to take an extra day to discover the old city of Albi, a survivor of the arrows and slings of history. A great day can be spent walking around the huge red brick cathedral and palace, looping across the bridges over the Tarn River or having a good meal in the centre.



Starting Point:

Cordes sur Ciel

Finishing Point:

Cordes sur Ciel

Arrival at the first accommodation in Cordes, an amazing medieval town of cobbled streets, which is perched on a hilltop high above the surrounding countryside. It is a bastide town, founded in what was then (and still is) a remote rural district in the 13th century; lacking a name, it took its name from the great Spanish city of Cordova. Accommodation: A lovely 2* hotel combining the charm of a medieval building with modern comfort. It is built into the old town walls in Haute-Cordes. All 7 rooms have ensuite facilities. The hotel is close to the restaurants and shops of the upper town for your evening meal.

Meals:  Nil

This is quite a long day, but before leaving Cordes, you might wish to explore the lovely covered market, ancient streets and carved facades of the old buildings. Then wind your way down through the Porte des Ormeaux to Les Cabannes and across fields and an ancient stone bridge, skirting a little vineyard. Scattered farms and shady woodland lead you near to Roussayrolles. You could visit this pretty hamlet for a break or dive into the leafy valley of the River Laussiere. Then passing abandoned watermills, climb through a pinewood to arrive at the massive Dolmen de Vaour at an ancient crossroads. There is an easier walk (via the road from Lapeyrade) into the pretty village of Vaour. Approximate total Ascent: 720m / Descent 900m Accommodation: A carefully renovated farmhouse, this Chambre d'Hotes is located 1.5 km from the village. The comfortable rooms are ensuite, and there is an outdoor swimming-pool. The owner cooks delicious meals with products from the local markets. Evening meal, breakfast, and packed lunch are included.

Meals:  B,L,D

After some woodland and pastoral meanderings with some more tiny hamlets your path takes you along a wooded limestone scarp with splendid views across the Aveyron Gorge, before descending and then reascending to arrive at the little village of Penne, clustered below the ruins of the castle above the River Averyron. This has associations with both the One Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion. From Penne descend to the Aveyron Bridge, cross the river and ascend the forested scarp and continue through depopulated lands, and fields where the forest has regrown. Views open up over the Aveyron Gorge and towards Bruniquel Chateau perched on its rock. Having re-crossed the River Aveyron, climb up and explore lovely old Bruniquel village, with its C13 and C16 castles. Approximate total Ascent: 500m / Descent 750m Accommodation: A traditional stone built house in the centre of the village, this 4 * Chambre d'Hotes offers lovely comfortable rooms, all ensuite.

Meals:  B,D

From Bruniquel your path climbs to take you through the ancient forest of Gresigne. This is the largest forest in south west France, which has many varieties of holly, some unique to this region and the marks of prehistoric man. You emerge from the woods to climb steeply up to the old Bastide of Puycelci. The village itself was founded in the 10th century by Benedictine Monks from the Aurillac Abbey. Until the First World War, the village was quite prosperous, with a population of nearly 2,000 in 1830. Almost abandoned in the 1950s, it was since then restored by its inhabitants and is now listed among the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”. Approximate total Ascent: 550m / Descent 490m Accommodation: A former inn dating back from the 18th century, this 3* hotel has 8 tastefully decorated rooms, all ensuite.

Meals:  B,D

Cross the green valley of the River Vere and climb through the village of Laval to follow the edge of a wood. Follow the GR signs through vineyards, climb through a wood towards the ruins of Lagarde. Head along a ridge with views of Castelnau de Montmiral as you approach it. Then descend off the ridge crossing the valley and up into the bastide, which has a very interesting centre with a 17th century square. Approximate total Ascent: 800m / Descent 790m Accommodation: A charming 3* hotel in an historic building in the old square. Breakfast may be taken in the courtyard. The hotel has a small outdoor pool, with great views.

Meals:  B

The longest day is a little easier to start with in that it is flatter country initially through the vineyards of Gaillac to the little town of Cahuzac-sur-Vere. The finish is hillier, past the Chateau de Clayrac to a stunning view of Cordes as you approach it and a satisfying finish as you return to complete your circular Tarn walk. Approximate total Ascent: 650m / Descent 480m Accommodation: On your return to Cordes, stay in the same comfortable hotel as on the first night of the tour.

Meals:  B

Depart Cordes after breakfast. If you are taking the optional Albi extension, at 9.30 am a taxi will collect you & your luggage from your hotel and drive you to Albi. On your way into the town you will cross one of the fine redbrick bridges over the River Tarn. After checking in you can explore the town on foot, including the magnificent and fortress-like medieval red-brick cathedral and the former bishops' palace which now houses the world’s biggest collection of works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who was born in Albi. There are pleasant riverside walks along the Tarn River. Accommodation: Optional Albi extension. A small 2* hotel conveniently situated in a quiet location, close to the old town centre and cathedral. Alternatively we can arrange an upgrade to a centrally located 3* hotel. See below for details.

Meals:  B



The map and elevation chart are for illustrative purposes only and meant to provide general guidelines.
On self guided trips, actual route information provided before departure will be more detailed.


  • 6 breakfasts, 1 picnic lunch, 3 dinners
  • 6 nights accommodation in hotels and chambres d'hôtes on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities
  • Luggage transfers from Inn to Inn
  • Full route notes and map package
  • Emergency hotline
  • GPX Files

  • 3 dinners, lunches (unless specified) & beverages
  • Entrance fees
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel to the start and from the end point of the trip
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Unscheduled transfers required during the trip
  • Excess Luggage
  • A supplement will apply if you are travelling solo or book a single room
  • Guide - this is a self guided holiday




This walk (grade 3) should present no difficulties for anyone in reasonable condition and accustomed to walking the distances involved. The terrain is undulating with small to medium sized hills, with climbs / descents typically 30-100 metres and occasionally 200 metres or so. Some steep inclines, especially approaching the hill towns. Being able to cope with warm weather is also an advantage.

Departure dates

Daily from 1 May to 24 Oct


Mid Season
High Season
Option to include an Albi Extension, supplement applies, see Day 7 & below for details.
Supplement applies to trips commencing on Thursday to Saturday, see below.

Priceper person from


Options & Supplements*
  • Thu-Sat Start Day SupplementGBP£22
  • Albi Extension Twin SharingGBP£130
  • Albi Extension Single RoomGBP£180
  • Albi Extension Solo TravellerGBP£200
  • Single Room SupplementGBP£320
  • Solo Traveller SupplementGBP£480
*Prices listed are per person

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, it is! You start and end your walking holiday in Cordes-sur-Ciel.

Whether you have time to visit a castle really depends upon the day and how you feel. Walking conditions are probably the indicator to decide if you still have the inclination to visit a chateau in the afternoon when you finish your walk.

Generally, the walking is field and forest. There are some steep ascents and descents and some gravelly sections. Most of the steepest walking sections are up to the various bastides.

Generally yes, with the distinctive red/white marks of the GR long distance paths. In some places these may not have been updated for years and sometimes in forests they may disappear. Your maps, notes and GPX tracks will help you find your way.

No, the walking on our Hilltop Villages of Medieval Tarn trip is quiet. You will of course find some tourists up in the pretty villages and the various castles, but on the trails its usually quiet.

It's quintessential rural France and there is a lot of real beauty, combined with the accommodation we have selected for you in charming, independent hotels this is a real immersion into French nature and culture.

Trip reviews

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Our well priced trips offer great value for money. Included in your package are comprehensive route notes, maps & guide books along with bag transfers and locally run accommodation. We take the stress out of organising your holiday.

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We have been operating active self guided holidays since 1973. We handle all the necessary logistics so that you can relax and explore your destination at your own pace. Many of our tours depart daily, giving you even greater flexibility.

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