Cordes-sur-Ciel in the Tarn region, southwest France, is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France, perched high on a hill, its head in the clouds. It was voted favourite village of the French in 2014, loved for its beautiful architecture as well as the stunning countryside that surrounds it. It is a glorious place for holidays and to live, with loads to see and do.
The nearby vineyards of Gaillac, though little known outside of France date back to Roman times and have many unique grape varieties only grown in the region. There are hundreds of small independent wine-makers who welcome visitors. The grand city of Albi, a former important religious centre houses the Toulouse Lautrec museum. The old centre is beautifully preserved with narrow streets and medieval brick buildings.
Summers here are long, dry and sunny, spring and autumn are mellow and winters are short and mild with occasional snow.
Several airlines serve Toulouse airport which is under an hour from Cordes and 40 minutes from Gaillac. Motorway connections are good and the major towns are served by local trains from Toulouse. And with the Mediterranean and ski resorts just 1.5 hours away, you’ll never run out of things to do.
We talk to Colin Shand, a former local government officer from Scotland who moved to the Tarn in 2012. Now an agent with Leggett Immobillier he covers the area known as the ‘golden triangle’ formed by St Antonin Noble Val, Gaillac and Albi. Read Colin’s expert property guide to Cordes-sur-Ciel…
Life in the Tarn
We used to holiday in the Tarn and fell head over heels for the area around Cordes-sur-Ciel. Our house is a typical 19th century limestone building, originally a small farm on the edge of a tiny village. It had been empty for around 10 years and needed modernising and we used superb local craftsmen who did all the work including converting an attached 2-storey barn to a 4 bedroom gite.
The rolling countryside around Cordes reminds us of the Scottish Borders. The climate is ideal, warm but not the extreme heat of the Mediterranean in the summer and not too cold in the winter. We’re surrounded by vineyards and beautifully preserved medieval villages.
From our garden we have breath-taking views across open countryside all the way to the Pyrenees, and although we’re in a village, it feels like we’re in the countryside.
My wife teaches English to French school kids during the summer so we spend a lot of time showing them the area and doing activities. Within 30 minutes’ drive we can go canoeing down the Gorge d’Aveyron, leisure lakes with slides and beaches, horse riding and more. We love to visit the medieval hilltop villages – Castelnau de Montmiral, Puycelsi and Penne, and Albi, a world heritage city, which has the largest brick-built cathedral in the world and the Toulouse Lautrec museum. There are so many beautiful, signposted walks to explore, and we can even walk to the vineyards to taste the Gaillac wine.
Property guide to Cordes-sur-Ciel
Generally, property in the countryside, not too far from a village with shops and restaurants, is the most sought after option in the Cordes-sur-Ciel and surrounding area. All the larger villages in the area are well equipped with amenities so you’re never really further than 10 minutes by car to a shop or boulangerie.
Country properties around Cordes are generally quite large with three or more bedrooms. They tend to have limestone walls and tiled roofs, outbuildings, and a decent amount of land. It is very difficult to find small traditional houses for sale, though you’ll have more luck in smaller villages.
Before Brexit and Covid, the typical house buyers were older UK citizens looking to retire to France. Recently there has been a real change. Now there are younger buyers looking for a second home and French people wanting to re-locate from the cities.
In and around Cordes, turnover of properties is much slower. Houses are larger and most have been renovated so prices are higher than most places in the Southwest. Property in the villages are always better bargains but are often ignored as buyers think they want a country house with large gardens. But it’s absolutely worth considering whether you really want that large garden when there is so much glorious countryside around.
People come here for the wonderful weather, the slower pace of life, the beautiful countryside, and the history. It’s a little slice of paradise.
See Colin’s portfolio of properties in the Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne