5 Day Tour of Medieval villages

This 100km circuit takes us around all the local medieval hilltop villages, starting and finishing in Itzac, with each day's start and finish no more than 20 minutes from the house by car. It follows the national grande randonée route GR46 for a long part of the walk. A range of terrain is covered from rugged limestone plateau to rolling vineyards, forests to river valleys and gorges. We visit beautifully preserved historic villages built in the era of the Cathars and Crusades, and enjoy a picnic lunch at roughly the halfway point.

Itinery

DAY 1  Itzac to Penne (19 kilometres)

We leave the vineyards behind to climb through oak and chestnut forest to the Templar settlement of Vaour, where we pay a quick visit to the Templer Commanderie built around 1160. From Vaour we make a long descent before climbing back up to a limestone ridge and plateau from where we get stunning views across the valley to Haute Serre, and catch our first sight of Penne. The next descent winds down to the Aveyron gorge lined by towering limestone cliffs, before climbing up to Penne and its 13th century chateau, destroyed in the 100 year war.

      
DAY 2 Penne to Puycelsi (21 kilometres) 
Today the first part of the walk follows the Aveyron gorge to the village of Bruniquel, dominated by its 12th century castle. After lunch we then follow the Vere valley and skirt the Gresigne forest before climbing to the walled village of Puycelsi, perched high above the valley.

DAY 3 Puycelsi to Castelnau de Montmiral (22 kilometres)
Continuing to follow the GR46 route, we drop down to cross the Vere to Laval and then along the Vere escarpment through oak forests to our next stunning hilltop village of Castelnau de Montmiral, with a beautifully preserved 17th century central square. 
 
Rest day 
O
ption of a visit to the Departmental capital ALBI to view the red-brick Cathedral of St Cecile and tour the historic centre with its Toulouse Lautrec museum, or simply relax around the village.
DAY 4 Castelnau de Montmiral to Cordes sur Ciel (24 kilometres)
This part of the route takes us eastwards over rolling countryside and vineyards from Castelnau to the small market town of Cahuzac sur Vere, where we have lunch. We then turn north and climb to get stunning views to the Black Mountains before heading down and follow a shaded valley towards the pretty villages of Frausseilles and Amarens. After visiting an abandoned mine where limestone millstones were hewed from the hillside, we get our first views of Cordes sur Ciel - voted the best village in France in 2014.
 
DAY 5 Cordes sur Ciel to Itzac (14 kilometres) 
with a visit to the vineyard at Chateau Bourguet.