VTT N°4: The cirque of Tournemire
From the granary-tower of Viala-du-Pas-de-Jaux, ride through a landscape shaped by the agropastoral tradition before reaching the cliffs of the Tournemire cirque. Vast horizons, large expanses and breathtaking landscapes await you throughout this family itinerary in a sumptuous natural paradise.
The Tournemire cirque
Tower of Viala du Pas de Jaux
The Lord of Tournemire gave to the Templars knights the lands of Viala du Pas de Jaux in 1150. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Viala consisted of a few farms.
After 1312, when the Hospitallers took possession of the Templars’ property, they decided to create in this place a village and for that they built farm buildings, managed by the brothers of the order. They constructed for them a dwelling and a church dedicated to St-Jean-Baptiste, the patron of the Hospitallers.
Until 1430, the inhabitants of Viala du Pas de Jaux and the surroundings took refuge in Ste-Eulalie de Cernon during the periods of insecurity which occurred on the Larzac. Because of the high distance between the two village, the inhabitants asked the authorization to the Grand Prior of Saint Gilles, to build a fortified tower to be able to take refuge inside with their possessions. This is the first fortification built on the plateau.
Today the 30 meters high tower has been restored. The vaulted ground floor, the five floors, its terrace and the dwelling dating from the 14th century are now accessible.
From the car park, get to the village.
- Take the street that goes up in front of the Tower. At the crossroads follow the GR on the right (red and white markers).
- 400m further, turn left on the track. At the intersection, follow yellow signs on the right.
- Once on the edge of the cliffs, follow the single path that runs along them until the cross.
- To come back to the village, take the road first and then the track on the right (GR 71 C).
Tourist Office Larzac et Vallées
Place du Claux, 12230 NANT
Located on the ground floor of the Town Hall (mansion of the 18th century), The Tourist Office welcomes you all year and offers tourist information on the Larzac and its valleys, the department of Aveyron, and also on neighboring counties. Free Wifi access.
Opening hours :
From Novembre to February: Tuesday morning 9:00-12:30
March and October : Tuesday to Friday 9:00-12:30
April : Tuesday to Friday 10:00-12:30 and 14:00-17:30
May, June : Tuesday to Saturday 10:00-12:30 and 14:00-17:30
July and August : every day 10:00-12:30 and 14:30-18:00
September : Tuesday to Saturday 10:00-12:30 and 14:00-17:30
Access and parking
36km south of Millau by the D809 and the D23.
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What to see
At its entrance, is a 180 million-year-old complete skeleton of an extinct marine dinosaur, the Occitanosaurus tournemirensis which was discovered fossilized in the “grey clay soils.”
The ecologically Sensitive Natural Space (SNS) of the Tournemire amphitheatre which is situated in the village of the same name, stretches over an area of approximately 130 ha and marks the boundary between the frontal causses and the causse du Larzac. This area has a remarkable environmental importance due to the geomorphology of the site and also owing to several natural habitats of European interest that it provides. This natural space shelters numerous noteworthy bird species: the Eagle Owl, the Golden Eagle, the Common Whitethroat, the Wallcreeper, the Red-billed Chough and some inconspicuous bats. A few plant species well-adapted to the topography, the rock and even sometimes to the Mediterranean climate can be observed: Hoppe's Figwort, Hormathophylla macrocarpa...
The House of Plesiosaur displays the skeleton of the marine reptile (it's a copy, the original is at Millau's museum) along with interpretative panels about the geology, Plesiosaur, flora, birds and bats. It is also the starting point of the Tournemire amphitheatre hiking circuit that enables you to immerse yourself in a unique environment and of the point of departure for the amphitheatre interpretive trail.
"Espace Nature Aveyron" is a mobile application which allows to discover the whole range of animal and plant species living in this ecosystem and to enjoy the SNS stroll.
Where to sleep ?
What to see
His canon is known for his works about french flora. At Saint-Paul des Fonts, he made botanical research and wrote the "Flore de France". The botanical area presents the enormous work of Hippolyte Coste in botany. Saint-Paul des Fonts, in the memory of the "flower priest", is an unmissable place for all those who want to learn and recharge their batteries while discovering the botanical richness of the Larzac and the Aveyron;
What to see
Where to sleep ?
Upstairs, two welcoming stylish simply decorated rooms: the blue room "rising sun" offers you a magnificent view over the Larzac and the Monts du Lévézou and the pink room which provides an amazing view of Le Combalou.
Beyond the visit of the cellars of Roquefort, the amateurs of hike can appreciate landscapes which confide throughout paths surrounding the village. Without forgetting the long walking on quite close Larzac and meeting not to be missed with the famous Viaduct of Millau. Bye for now !