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The Causse de Gramat is the northernmost of the Causses of Quercy, the vibrant, shimmering limestone country between the Lot and the Dordogne. Quercy was a province of pre-Napoleonic France and has a history of repeated invasion from Roman times. During the Hundred Years’ War the region was claimed both by France and England, eventually being ceded to England, an insecure arrangement that lasted only a short time. For many today, however, the great delight of the Gramat Causse is Rocamadour itself, but surrounding this multi-tiered, cliffhanging pilgrimage site is a vast expanse of undulating countryside populated by black-eyed sheep and rusty coloured cattle, and patrolled by black kites, buzzards and green woodpeckers. There are three villages regarded among the most beautiful in France: Carennac, Loubressac and Autoire. Together they make a lovely tour from Rocamadour, based around lunch in Loubressac. None of the villages need consume more than an hour or so, but the relaxed pace of life, warm colours, the heady scent of thyme drifting in from the Causse, and general ambience have a captivating charm that can persuade you to linger. CARENNAC Carennac, a short drive from Rocamadour, sits on a rocky terrace overlooking the left bank of the Dordogne.There is a pleasing ensemble of tiled houses and turreted mansions focused on its old priory, once the home base of the writer François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénélon, a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer, better known simply as François Fénélon. The site was occupied in the Gallo-Roman period and throughout the early Middle Ages, but it was the abbey of Cluny, which founded a priory here in 1047, that sealed the destiny of the place. Many of the stone-built houses boast mullioned windows and date from the 16th century, imbuing the village with Renaissance elegance and Quercy charm. A number of the houses have watch towers or exterior staircases, and collectively display a patchwork of steeply sloping brown-tiled roofs. Much older than these, is the church of St-Pierre, a Romanesque structure with a fine tympanum that dates from the 12th century. This is a very pleasing place to explore, and a leaflet (€0.50) available from the tourist office located in the former apartments of the Deans gives a detailed survey of the village and its buildings of note.
And much, much more
Our Contributors Karen Booth-Burns
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