Autoire in the Lot Department has gathered its heritage of pigeon lofts, brown tiled roofs and country manor houses in the hollow of a cirque on the limestone plateau between Figeac and Gramat over centuries; yet it remains small enough not even to register on some tourist maps. The village takes its name from the mountain stream that gushes down from the Causse de Gramat plateau in a series of waterfalls that are a delight to visit, just outside the village.
Under several baronages, in the 14th century Autoire became one of the vassal dependencies of the viscountcy of Turenne. Even so, the protection the village needed when the English arrived, confident and all-defeating from their conquest of Haut Quercy, was not forthcoming, and Autoire saw more than its fair share of destruction during the Hundred Years War. In the 16th century, the Calvinists laid waste to the village, and peace did not return until 1588.
Autoire – Plus Beaux Village de France
Today, the village is serene and peaceful, a perfect walking base for the GR480 and eight other walking trails, with plenty of scope for mountain biking and fishing. It is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”. There are very attractive 16th and 17th century houses built from the local honey-coloured stone. The main square in the centre of the village with its fountain and flowers is a popular place to spend time day dreaming.
If you go, take a guided tour to discover the sights and history of this lovely village, visit the Church of St Peter and go get splashed by the waterfall of Autoire.
Close by are the lovely villages of Loubressac and Carennac, well worth a detour.
Tourist office website: www.vallee-dordogne.com
Dr Terry Marsh has written extensively for magazines and produced guidebooks for walkers to the French Pyrenees and the French Alps.