In the heart of this rich valley, Villeneuve sur Lot is a multifaceted regional capital. The town is also a starting point for visitors to the valley to explore either upstream or downstream.
Villeneuve-sur-Lot ; Photo : Evan Frank / Adobe Stock
Villeneuve sur Lot took fifteen years to build. In size, it is the principal royal bastide of the region, with the traditional grid layout. The streets and alleyways are perfectly aligned with central squares which provide lovely walks and strolls. Villeneuve has been a major trade centre for many years. The streets are very lively at weekends and on bank holidays.
On arriving in Villeneuve sur Lot, you will note the colour of the buildings, especially its ochre brick cathedral. The two towers in the town, the Pujols Tower in the North and the Paris Tower in the south, are open to tourists. The Pujols Tower dates back to the 14th century and takes its name from the splendid Village of Pujols, which overlooks Villeneuve. The Paris tower is a part a restored building which comprised once 8 doors and 6 towers. It was destroyed at the end of the 18th century. The municipal archives used to be located on the first floor, and the third floor was once used as a prison. Stroll along the narrow streets of the old town and find Saint Martin's Church and many old half-timbered houses. Finally, make a stop by the 13th century Pont Vieux for a stunning view of the Lot River and its banks.
Overlooking Villeneuve sur Lot, Pujols is a wonderful, beautifully kept medieval village which is worth a detour. With its strategic position, Pujols was at once Gallic, Roman, Albigensian. Almost destroyed and then rebuilt by Alphonse de Poitiers, today this beautiful town is remarkably well preserved.
Following the Lot River, visit Casseneuil. This is a small village on the banks of the Lot. It is a pleasant village to visit during the summer with its small medieval alleyways, beautiful 12th century church and 15th century murals.
Stop at the Temple sur Lot. This is part of the Water Lilies Latour Marliac Garden. Nowadays, Temple sur Lot is an important centre for watersports.
Near Temple sur Lot is Granges sur Lot. It boasts the Musée du pruneau (Prune museum) and Dedal’ Prune which is a fun corn maze, where, after the educational visit to the museum, you can go in search of the 'lost prune'.
Make sure you see the superb views across this lush valley from the viewpoint indicator of Laparade, a town which overlooks he Lot River.
Finally, just before reaching Aiguillon, where the Lot River meets the Garonne River, take a little detour to Clairac where you will see the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey dating from 782. This is a peaceful town which inspired Montesquieu to write the 'Lettres persanes' (Persian Letters) here.
For your last stop in Aiguillon, visit medieval houses in the old quarter, and see the majestic confluence of the Lot and Garonne rivers. Aiguillon is a commune, like all those in this beautiful valley, where life is pleasant and nature is generous. Stendhal compared Aiguillon, in his famous novel 'Le Rouge et le Noir' (The Red and the Black), to Tuscany in Italy!
Heading north from Villeneuve sur Lot, stop in Penne d’Agenais which overlooks the majestic river valley, find the gates of the town and stroll along its steep alleyways. Penne is a tourist hot spot. There are many stalls displaying regional arts and crafts which are set up between two brick houses or half timbered houses.
A little further upstream is Tournon d’Agenais. It looks like Penne and it takes you back in time with its 13th century houses, strange moondial at the top of a clock tower, its fortifications and the beautiful views over the Lot Valley.
Fumel is a large town and one of the rare industrial towns of the Lot and Garonne. It was a strategic position for both the English and the French for a very long time. Fumel's economy was built on the goods produced in its forges and foundries. Nowadays it hosts a famous festival which takes place in the region during summer: the festival of Bonaguil-Fumel.
Zoom on Monflanquin may be the most beautiful bastide in the Lot and Garonne and one of the most beautiful villages in France. The village has retained its medieval bastide plan, created in 1256. The Place des Arcades at its centre is incredible, the façade of the fortified church towards the top of the bastide is very impressive as well as the fabulous panoramic views over the valley... With a clear sky, you can see Biron Castle on the border with the Périgord! There are many events which take place during the high season which retell the history of the bastide.
This is a beautiful fortress perched on a rock in the heart of the forest, situated on the borders of Quercy and Black Périgord. Bonaguil is impressive!
The castle was built in the 13th century. Béranger de Roquefeuil, son of one of the oldest families in Languedoc, transformed it into an invincible fortress at the end of the 15th century. This is a great example of military architecture.
Enter via Barbacane, one of the first lines of defence of the castle, visit the large tower, 35m high, then the dungeon, the last major stronghold for defence.
There is a weapons' room, monumental fireplaces, tunnels and ditches. This is a fortress not to be missed!