September 10, 2013

Cabrerets to Belcastel

The village of Cabrerets, under the cliffs above the Célé River

Sometimes one day feels like much more ... this was one of those. I started off in Cabrerets, a village on the Célé River, just above the confluence with the Lot. Yesterday I had visited the painted, prehistoric, caves of Pech Merle. This morning, the cliffs loomed above me, above the village, roads, castles, river. Those cliffs, and most of the rocks here, are limestone. That means water seeps in easily, and that in turn creates numerous caves. I rode past more cave entrances than I could possibly count, wondering how many painted caves remain undiscovered, their entrances blocked. Soon enough, I reached the point where the Célé merges with the Lot, and continued along the Lot River.

Called the English Castle .... or sometimes the Devil's Castle

I have seen the phrase troglodyte houses, here and at home, but am not sure exactly what that means. These houses, on the banks of the Lot River, are almost surely dug back into the cliffs that hover over them. I suspect they count.

Homes built into the cliffs. The river is right near to the road on the right

All too soon, a one-way suspension bridge took me across the Lot, and I headed southeast, generally towards Belcastel, on the Aveyron River.

One lane wooden suspension bridge, this one crossing the Lot River..

View up the Lot River

This landscape feels like the causses I rode across in 2010, and have been wanting to revisit, but I do not know that it actually qualifies. It seems reasonably fertile, less dry than the Causses I rode on to the south, which I experienced then as dry, full of aromatic herbs and plants.

One of the many farms I passed on my ride

Somewhere enroute, I left the Departement of the Lot and passed into the Aveyron. (The departements are governmental units, imposed I think, by the central government in Paris in the late 18th century, in a quest for centralization and order.) The causses are not really flat, they are gently rolling, and include the area known as the Cantal, home of a famous, and delicious, cheese. I wondered if the milk from these beautiful honey brown cows goes into it. I am not in Cantal just now, so have no real idea. Wish that I knew what kind of cows these are.

Another handsome cow or two.

The day had started as I passed by one castle, known variously as the English Castle and the Devil's Castle. It ended 50 miles later in Belcastel, but not before some searching to follow the little roads. At one rural corner, as I looked at my map, a lady leaned out her 2nd story window, and asked if I was searching for something. Her directions served me well, ending in very steep descent down a newly gravelled road. With the loose stone, steep pitch, and sharp switchbacks, I moved slowly.

This route is steeper than it looks in the photo.

And so I arrived safely in Belcastel, a beautiful village, some of whose residents gave me quizzical looks when I arrived.

Belcastel boasts a beautifully, and sometimes fancifully, restored castle, purchased for his personal residence and rebuilt by the famous French architect Fernand Pouillon. Before him the ruined castle had been owned by a local woman who bought it for barely more than a song, and then used it as a quarry, selling off the stones for building materials. The castle is now owned by New York gallery owners, who have incorporated private living quarters, galleries and public space, and a bed and breakfast tower, into the castle. It is no doubt again the source of economic security for the village.

Some photos: The moat, which brought fresh water and offered protection, to the castle. Also, 1,000 year old pipes used in the plumbing. Medieval toilet facilities, through which human waste dropped 200 feet into the river and (hopefully) was carried off. And one example of the extensive collection of coats of armor.

View Cabrerets to Belcastel in a larger map



  1. Gorgeous pictures, Su! Thanks for sharing your pleasure, even if through our screens, it still carries the flavor of the joy in your trip!

    1. Myrna,

      How very nice to hear from you, thanks! This ride is taking me through a beautiful part of France. Be well!

  2. I very much like the variety of photographs that you take, each one well composed too. I wonder that you had any time for cycling at all.

    1. Thank you, again! That is very high praise from you, who takes such gorgeous photos! I have a lot of fun with this camera.


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