The village of Conques, classed as one of the ‘Loveliest Villages in France’ is an essential stop along the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. Tucked away in a leafy setting, the village has a wealth of treasures to discover : cobbled streets lined with lauze-roofed, half-timbered houses ; the abbey-church, a Romanesque masterpiece with its superb tympanum of ‘The Last Judgment’, beautiful contemporary stained glass windows by Pierre Soulages and the magnificent ‘Sainte-Foy treasure’, a reliquary covered with gold and precious stones.
Conques lies on the edge of the Marcillac wine-growing area, with its easily recognised red earth which produces a PDO wine : Marcillac. This well-reputed, traditional wine is made from a single grape – Mansois – and there is no better way to enjoy it than with ‘soleil de Marcillac’, a local pastry. The gently rolling countryside is ideal for walking and other outdoor activities. Heritage enthusiasts will love the many character villages in the area, like Salles la Source and Clairvaux. There are also lots of Romanesque churches, museums and medieval castles waiting to be explored !
The area in and around Conques-Marcillac has been fashioned by the River Dourdou and the River Lot and has many surprises in store : character villages, castles, Romanesque churches, museums for history lovers, walks and outdoor activities for families, sporting and countryside enthusiasts as well as lots for foodies, art lovers and visitors interested in the local way of life.
The Causse Comtal has picturesque villages with yellow-ochre buildings like Salles la Source, Muret le Château, Bozoul and Rodelle. The area known as Le Vallon or Rougier de Marcillac lies on red sandstone which can clearly be seen on the slopes and houses of Marcillac, Clairvaux, Bruéjouls, etc. Upstream, in the Ségala de Conques, the River Dourdou and its tributaries have hollowed out deep valleys in the blue-grey shale to reach the Lot Valley where you can explore the villages of La Vinzelle and Montarnal.
There are numerous Romanesque buildings to discover : the chapel de Monédiès (Grand-Vabre), churches (at Clairvaux d'Aveyron, Salles-la-Source…) and a crypt (Saint-Maurice à Auzits). Don’t hesitate to visit different museums to understand the history and culture of the region : Trésor de St Foy at Conques (works by medieval goldsmiths), Musée des Arts et Métiers Traditionnels du Rouergue (traditional arts and crafts) at Salles la Source, Musée Joseph-Fau at Conques, Terra d’Olt at St Parthem, Espace G Rouqier at Goutrens, Maison de la Châtaigne Chestnut Discovery Centre) at Mourjou. Travel back through time when you visit the medieval castles of Château du Colombier at Mondalazac, Château d’Estaing, Château de Belcastel and Château Bournazel. While out and about you will see many other castles and country houses (not open to the public) in the villages and valleys or on rocky spurs (Panat, Montarnal, Sénergues, Pruines, Mouret, etc).