La Couvertoirade may be one of the prettiest places in France that you never heard of. Deep in the heart of the Aveyron department, southeast France, the little village of La Couvertoirade provides a glimpse into a long-gone past. It is one of the best preserved Templar Knights villages in France. And it’s a classified plus beaux village – officially one of the prettiest villages in France…
La Couvertoirade is located in territory known as the Causses and Cevennes. This UNESCO classified World Heritage site is listed for its ‘agro-pastoral cultural landscape of the Mediterranean’. It’s a rather dry description of a stunningly beautiful area of France. You’ll discover exquisite countryside where villages in the valleys look as though they have been hung on the sides of the hills like baubles on a Christmas tree. The area touches on four departments: Aveyron and Lozère in the Midi-Pyrénées region, and Gard and Herault in Languedoc-Roussillon.
La Couvertoirade looks out over the Larzac plateau, a land of fertile valleys and villages which seem to grow out of the rocks. In the 12th century, this area was considered the private fiefdom of the crusading Knights Templar and later the Knights Hospitaller. And in La Couvertoirade you’ll find the only castle built by the Knights Templar in France.
What to see in La Couvertoirade
There’s plenty to see and fall in love with as you wander the narrow cobbled alleyways lined with ancient houses. The atmospheric 14th century church of Saint Christophe is reached by steps cut into the rock. The 14th century Windmill of Le Rédounel is the only restored windmill in Aveyron. From its hilly position you have fabulous views over the village. The wonderfully preserved Templar castle was built at the end of the 12th century and last updated in the 15th century. It sits atop a rocky spur, dominating the town with its imposing high walls.
“It’s so extraordinary that when you walk around the medieval ramparts, you know that these walls are original. It’s easy to imagine that the Knights Templar and generations of people since who have walked here. Like us they have stood and gazed out at the astonishing views” says Julia Girard-Gervois of TripUSAFrance. “It never ceases to amaze me just how absolutely gorgeous this village is. Lovely cobbled streets, beautiful grey stone houses and flowers and vines everywhere. It’s been likened to a miniature Carcassonne and it really is incredibly pretty.”
Authentic and fantastic
Just an hour’s drive from the city of Montpellier and close to the beautiful village of Saint-Guilhelm-le-Desert, La Couvertoirade has an epic history. “This is no museum town though” says Julia. “It’s brimming with history and vibrant with artisans, potters, wool spinners and more. It’s not hard to imagine it how it was in the days of the Templars. There’s even a communal bread oven at the windmill which has been restored and once a week you can taste bread and other local specialities.”
This little village certainly lives up to its Plus Beaux Village award…
3 Must-sees in Aveyron
Aveyron is a land that echoes with the past. Every densely wooded gorge and valley, every ancient bastide town and every winding road seems to whisper of the footsteps of pilgrims making their way south. Of Romans and rebellious Gauls. And of Knights Templars, thundering across the plateaux. It’s a place where you’ll find picture-postcard-pretty medieval villages, historic towns, rolling valleys and vast canyons where rivers roam and forests reach to the sky. Here you’ll find authentic markets, ancient churches clinging to rocky cliffs and divine cathedrals with soaring towers. There are ancient castles and museums galore. It’s a land that’s rich in natural beauty, as well as cultural and spiritual. We picked just 3 of the many must-sees in Aveyron:
This is a village with an inescapably spiritual feel. It is a towering masterclass in Romanesque engineering and architecture (the Abbey of St. Foy) and the very tangible memory of the weary feet of pilgrims, shuffling along the well-worn streets. The village has a genuine sense of hushed reverence with its medieval walls, slate roof tops, forgotten gates, time worn 11th century fountains, narrow, cobbled streets. The views will leave you in stunned and silent awe and contemplation. Read more about Conques
The village is well deserving of its “plus beaux villages de France” status because, yet again, here is a place in the Aveyron that is shockingly beautiful, with the gentle tumble of water from the River Aveyron in the background and its steep, cobbled streets leading up to the castle. If you’ve got the time, have lunch at the Vieux Pont (a Michelin star restaurant in the village. Then walk off your indulgences with the climb (and it really is a climb) up to the castle.
Certified as a “grand site Midi Pyrénées and “pays d’art et d’histoire” Rodez is a city which, like so many in France really seems to enjoy mixing the old and the new whether that’s in terms of art, architecture, gastronomy or culture. A small city which clings to the last of the mountains of the Massif Central and dozes quietly 600 metres above sea level. It was originally two cities and is ever so slightly disjointed, with two city squares and a heady combination of gothic and renaissance architecture, hand in hand with the ultra-modern Musée Soulages. Read more about Belcastel and Rodez