Key points about this information item A guide to Aveyron, Midi-PyreneesInformation Description:
Aveyron is a region of plateau and gorges. The northern part of the region encompasses the south eastern area of the Massif Central.
Geography and climate
The Aveyron stretches for over 200 kilometres from north to south, and encompasses deep gorges and vast plateaux. The region occupies the south eastern end of the Massif Central, a huge expanse of elevated land in the centre of southern France covering 15% of the country. Occupying an area between Clermont-Ferrand and Toulouse, it was virtually unknown as a tourist destination, even by the French, until the A75 motorway opened the area up. The department is comprised of three main plateaux, Aubrac, Levezou and Larzac. The highest point is the summit of Mailhebuau at 1469 metres in the Aubrac.
The spring and autumn are mild here, while the winters on the higher plateaux can be harsh and cold. In the summer, there are Mediterranean influences and the temperatures can soar. The region enjoys one of the sunniest climates in France, but with the large changes in elevation right across the Aveyron, there are wide variations. For better sun, keep to the south, below the Aubrac.
Being a relatively new tourist destination, the Aveyron is still mostly known for its household names such as Roquefort, Laguiole and the more recent Millau Viaduct, the world's highest road bridge. Other well known tourist attractions are the castle at Najac, a medieval ruin perched on a hill top and there are a number of beautiful monasteries to visit, such as Conques Abbey, Sylvanes Abbey, Bonneval Abbey and Loc-Dieu abbey
It is an area with a myriad of small villages, each with its own character, but mostly with narrow streets and bustling market squares. The region boasts ten villages listed as Plus Beaux Villages des France. For the fishermen, there are miles of rivers and many peaceful lakes to while away the time and for the more energetic there are dramatic gorges and rapids for canoeing and kayaking. Many festivals held in the region either on stage, in museums and on film, featuring artists and exhibitions from all over the world.
Once winter arrives, the Aubrac offers skiing and the gorges and valleys are just made for paragliding. When you add the hundreds of miles of hiking paths and numerous caves to explore, it is clear that the Aveyron offers a multitude of outdoor activities.
On a volcanic plateau, at the heart of the region is the Aubrac, covering 2500 km2. During spring and autumn, the cattle are brought up to graze and when the winter sets in the wide open space are enjoyed by skiers, both alpine and cross-country.
The area is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, with over 1000 different species, while wild boar and foxes roam the plateau, rutting stags can be heard through the forest. The area is a traditional farming community with the local economy based on the rearing of Aubrac cattle and cheese making.
The Pays d'Olt
This area stretches from Saint-Laurent to Entraygues, as the Lot River meanders through many picturesque villages including Sainte -Eulalie-d'Olt, Sainte-Geniez-d'Olt, Saint-Come-d'Olt, Espalion and Estaing.
The Levezou Lakes
On the vast plateau between the Tarn and Aveyron valleys a reservoir was created to power a hydro electric scheme and in so doing created 5 lakes covering an area of 7 square miles. It is now an important area for tourism with two dedicated fishing lakes and the others offering an array of water sports.
Roquefort is a brand known the world over, which is now protected ensuring that the region benefits from its hard earned reputation. The traditional dish for the region is Aligot, a rich creamy puree of potatoes, Tomme cheese, and garlic prepared in an enormous cauldron. Away from the more famous, it is no surprise that fresh locally reared and grown produce plays an important role in the gastronomy of the region and good quality food can be found every where.
The area has been developed for enterprise without damaging the land and character of the region. Alongside the traditional agriculture, there are now factories producing car parts, while Millau is world famous for its high fashion gloves and Laguiole for its knives. The manufacture of furniture and production of wood is a major driver of the economy. Mining and quarrying are also important due to the large range of different types of rock.
With the improved access from the A75 and the opening of the Millau Viaduct, tourism is now gaining in importance. It is the third most industrialised department in the Midi-Pyrenees, but through the careful development has retained its peace and serenity, so important to the tourist industry.
By car :
The A75 brings you to the eastern side of the department and runs from Clermont-Ferrand to the Mediterranean coast near Bezier and Montpellier. A key factor is that this road does not have tolls except to cross the Millau Viaduct, which currently costs 6€. The A20 is the western route, which links Paris to Toulouse. Tolls are payable on major stretches of this route. Joining these two roads is the R840, which crosses from the A20 to Rodez and connects with the A68 / R88.
By Air :
The department has a regional airport at Rodez, which currently handles around 150,000 passengers each year.
There are currently four routes operating;
Air France : Paris-Orly, three times a day
Hex'Air : Lyon-St Exuperey, two times a day
Ryanair : London-Stansted, four flights a week
Ryanair : Dublin, three flights a week
The Ryanair flights are seasonal and only operate between March and October while the internal flights operate all year. The nearest International airport is Toulouse which offers a wide range of flights, including Easyjet to the UK.
By Train :
There are direct connections from Rodez and Decazeville to Paris at various times of the day and night. Connections to Toulouse run eight times a day from Rodez and six times a day from Villefranche-de-Rouergue.
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