Tag Archives: Lot

5 of the prettiest villages and towns to visit during your French riding holiday

French riding holidays
The picturesque streets of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

Lot has some of the prettiest towns and villages in France, perfect for a visit during your riding holiday.

Here are our top 5:

Visit the narrow, picturesque streets of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. In 2012, it was voted ‘The Favourite Village of the French’ and has been awarded the status of being one of the most beautiful villages in the country.

Part of the village is a listed monument, and it is an excellent village to wander around on foot.

The streets are lined with buildings made from golden-coloured stone. Many are charming craft shops or art galleries.

Art-lovers should visit the Rignault Museum, named after the painter and collector who was the site’s owner in the early 20th Century. It has temporary exhibitions of contemporary and modern art alongside the museum’s own collection.

You can also visit its impressive Gothic church built in 1522.

The village clings to cliffs 100 metres above the River Lot, and there are impressive views.

Look for the lock and mill of Aulanac, and the villages of Tour de Faure and Calvignac.

You can get fine views of the village itself by walking up the Peyrolerie.

Walk down to the river, and you can stroll along the tow path next to the river – a path which was carved into the rock face in 1847.

Look out for the beautiful reliefs carved on the rock walls of the towpath. They were created in 1985.

Along that towpath, you’ll come to Bouziès.

It is known for its fine suspension bridge spanning the river between impressive cliffs.

It’s a busy base for tourists taking trips along the river – an excellent way to see local villages. It is also a wonderful base for anyone looking to explore nearby caves.

Walking under fortifications created during the 100 Years War, you’ll leave Bouziès under the “Castle of the English”.

Nestled in the heart of Cahors vineyards, the medieval village of Puy l’Evêque clings to a rocky promontory overlooking the River Lot.

Wander around its lanes and steps and spot its historic sculptures. There are streets named after its medieval trades – nail makers, dyers, and boatmen.

Walk down to the old quayside which was once abuzz with industry. At the top of the village, there is a 13th Century tower and the church of Saint-Sauveur, which dates to the 14th and 15th Centuries. Explore its Gothic nave.

You can take a boat trip or watch local ceramics being made.

Cahors is a town built by medieval merchants and bankers.

It has an impressive bridge, the 14th Century Pont Valentré fortified against the English in the 100 Years War, which has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

Cahors also has many medieval townhouses.

Its cathedral has a Roman-style entrance, attractive frescoes, and a cloister.

The Museum Henri-Martin tells the story of the town’s history in its artefacts.

Cahors is in wine country, so you will be able to buy excellent local wines, and it is famed for its beautiful gardens.

In Villefranche de Rouergue, founded in 1252 by Alphonse de Poitiers, there is a chequerboard network of streets all leading to the main square in the tradition of Bastide towns.

They were built on commerce and their position near the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostella.

There are arcades which are topped by Renaissance and Gothic houses. Visit the impressive Notre Dame Collegiate Church and the nearby Carthusian monastery completed in 1459.

Are you ready to organise your next French riding holiday? Book here.

 

 

 

Meet the Mérens, a horse with a unique place in French history

French riding holidays
Our Mérens horse Mollie.

If you’re looking to ride a sure-footed, hardy, and docile horse, look no further than a Mérens.

Also known as Ariégeois ponies or Cheval de Mérens, the small horses are native to the Ariégeois and Pyrenees mountains of the south of France.

Always black, the Mérens can either be a small and traditional mountain horse, or a taller, more modern horse.

They were often used for farming and as pack horses because of their superior endurance, and were traditionally taken on a summer migration higher into the mountains – a practice which is being revived in the area.

Now, Mérens horses are used primarily for riding and carriage driving.

The breed standard says a Mérens should have an ideal height of 14.1 to 15.1 hands and a weigh 400kg to 500kg.

Their black coats can take on a ruddy tinge in the winter and foals can be born silver-grey, black, or coffee-coloured. Their coats become black as they grow.

Some may have small, white markings on their face.

 

Thousands of years of Mérens history

The Mérens breed is thought to have originated in prehistoric times, either from Iberian horses or Oriental horses brought to the area by settlers coming from the east.

There are records of small black horses in the area which go back to the time of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.

They have been associated with famous historic figures include Charlemagne and Napoleon Bonaparte. They pulled the artillery used by Napoleon’s Grand Army in its Russian campaign.

Smugglers used these horses to haul their ill-gotten gains through the Pyrenees, they were used by miners, and at the end of the 19th Century they had become known as light cavalry horses.

Widespread cross-breeding had led to decline in the pure-bred population. So, in 1908 a local agricultural society too charge of the breed, creating a registry in 1933 and a stud book in 1948 under the control of the French National Stud.

As machines replaced horses in French agriculture, the population declined disastrously, putting the breed on the verge of extinction in the 1970s.

Then, there were just 40 pure-breed Mérens horses registered with the stud book and a reported 2,000 animals of Mérens descent.

 

How hippies saved the breed

Hippies looking to escape the rat race and become self-sufficient discovered the breed when they moved to the Ariège mountains.

They resettled areas which had become depopulated and brought a welcome boost to the local economy.

They also started Mérens breeding programmes, just at the time there was a resurgence in interest in riding during the mid-1970s.

Many Mérens horses are descended from a semi-feral horse called Bonbon who was orphaned by an accident and raised on goat milk, returning later in life to his herd in the mountains as a prize stallion.

Numbers recovered to a reported 4,000 animals in 1985 and there are 600 pure-bred horses now in the stud book. There are now around 500 births every year.

One genetic study in 2008 however, still considered the traditional Mérens an at-risk breed.

The breed has become more and more popular. In fact, French magazine Cheval Pratique ranked the Mérens one of the 23 most beautiful horse breeds.

There are now Mérens horses registered in Italy and Belgium, and some are reported in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, India, and Tunisia.

In 1998, the French National Stud reclassified the Mérens as horses rather than ponies.

 

Our Mérens horses, half-sisters Nao and Mollie, are beautiful examples of the breed.

Both are docile and sure-footed – and ready to meet you!

Find out more about our horses here.

Are you ready to book your next French riding holiday? Book here.

 

The perfect Christmas gift for the horse-rider in your life

Are you still looking for that perfect Christmas gift for the horse-riding loved one in your life who has everything? How about a château?

We’re not joking.

Obviously, it’s impossible to fit an entire French castle under the tree (not to mention the climate-changing amount of paper you would need to wrap one) but we think we have come up with the next best – and much more eco-friendly – thing. A gift voucher for a luxury riding holiday at Château de Laumière.

voucher

Wouldn’t you love to see the look on your loved-one’s face as they open a modest and unassuming envelope on Christmas morning to see something very special like this inside? It contains the promise of a relaxing holiday next year at our friendly and luxurious château in the picture-perfect Lot, riding along beautiful and peaceful trails, through enchanting villages and unspoiled tree-filled countryside.

A holiday here won’t break the bank, either. If you book your 2016 holiday at the elegant and tranquil 400-year-old château before the end of December, you and your loved ones can enjoy a relaxing luxury equestrian break at 2015 prices.

Alternatively, if you have already catered for everyone else this Christmas, how about treating yourself? Surely you deserve a little luxury you-time about as far away from the daily stresses and strains of real world as it is possible to get?

Remember: if you book your 2016 horse-riding holiday before December 31, 2015, you can look forward to a wonderful break in France next year at this year’s prices.