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A guide to Tarn, Midi-Pyrenees

Category: Midi-Pyrenees - Departments
Department No : 81
Prefecture : Albi
Subprefecture : Castres
Arrondissements : 2
Cantons : 46
Communes : 324
Area : 5,758 km2
Economy : Engineering, food processing, agriculture
To Visit : Albi, Castres, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Mazamet,
Attractions : Montagne Noire, Gorges du Tarn, Tarn dovecotes
Events : Albi Guitar festival, Black Mountains car rally, Lautrec Pink garlic festival
Population: 343,402

Key points about this information item A guide to Tarn, Midi-Pyrenees


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Geography and climate

Tarn was created as one of the original 83 department during the French Revolution from part of the province of Languedoc.  The department has a varied topology with mountains in the south east, a plateau in the north east and valleys and gorges in-between.  The departmental capital is Albi, located on the Tarn River.

 

The climate has a number of influences including the Mediterranean.  The winters can be mild, but with cold night time temperatures while the summers are mostly hot and dry with storms that clear the air.  Summer temperatures can easily rise to well over 30 degrees with plenty of sunshine.

 

Tourism

Albi is the capital of the department, 80 km north east of Toulouse on the banks of the River Tarn.  Its attractions include a cathedral, a 13th century fortress and the old buildings of the town centre.

 

Castres has some 16th and 17th century mansion house and on the banks of the river are 14th century tannery houses from the wool trade that overhang the river.  Cordes sur Ciel was built as a bastide town, on a rocky mound in the 13th century and is extremely well preserved.  Tarn has four villages listed as the most beautiful in France (Plus Beaux Villages de France), Castelnau de Montmiral, Lautrec, Monestiés and Puycelci.

 

The Montagne Noir (Black Mountains) are situated a little way south of Castres and take their name from the dark tree covered northern slopes.  The area offers a multitude of outdoor activities and lakes for watersports. 

 

The Tarn is also well known for its proliferation of dovecotes. 

Walking and outdoor pursuits are extremely popular in the department, with many miles of marked tracks and the Black Mountains to explore.

 

 

Economy

There is some engineering industry and food processing, but the main economic activity is agriculture with cattle, cereals and fruit being the main output.

 

The region is also a large wine producer so much of the land is turned over to vineyards.

 

Cuisine

Typical of the Midi-Pyrenees region, fois gras, duck and cassoulet are all commonly found in the Tarn along with wines from Gaillac and Cahors in nearby Lot department.  Local produced fruit, vegetables and meat are also readily available in the markets.

 

Transport

The department is flanked on the east and west by the A75 and A20 motorways and the road from Albi to Toulouse is dual carriageway, but the rest are single carriageway.

 

The department is well served by trains with stations in all the major towns, but as with the rest of the Midi-Pyrenees, once away from the larger towns, public transport is a struggle.

 

Flying to the region is relatively painless although the airport at Castres currently only handles internal flights to Paris and Lyon.  Toulouse is an hour's drive from Albi making access to International flights and the UK quite easy.

 

Getting around the department will generally require a car as public transport only really runs between major towns.  Have a look at our travel information for more detail.

Tarn holiday accommodation listings.

Property for sale in the Tarn.

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