Monts d’Aubrac, an untamed country

Farm track in Aubrac
Farm track

Monts d’Aubrac, a name that evokes a vast deserted area, wild and windy plateaus covered with peat bogs and dense forests where wolves once roamed.

It is indeed an untamed country which spreads over the departments of Aveyron, Cantal and Lozère.

It’s a country of scary legends the pilgrims invented during the Middle-Ages, as they walked along the Via Podensis, on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

Aubrac is also the name of a village and monastery-hospital situated at 1300 m of altitude.

La Dômerie d’Aubrac

Adalard, a Flemish pilgrim, founded La Dômerie after being attacked by bandits.

La Dômerie accommodated hundreds of pilgrims who, through fog and bad weather were guided by the sound of the monastery’s bell or Cloche des Perdus (Bell of the Lost).

Notre-Dame des Pauvres in Saint-Chely d'Aubrac
Notre-Dame des Pauvres in Saint-Chely d’Aubrac

They found shelter for the night before continuing their journey at the first crack of dawn after a traditional meal of cheese.

The small village expanded rapidly around the monastery.

The Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Pauvres (Our Lady of the Poor) was built in the 12th century.

The bell-tower was added in the 16th century and the Tour des Anglais (Tower of the English) in the 14th century.

The church and the hospital are the only remnants of the monastery.

The Via Podiensis connects Le Puy-en-Velay to Santiago de Compostela and is very popular with hikers.

The 135km long section traverses the region and the superb medieval walled cities of St-Cosme d’Olt, Conques and Espalion.

Hikers who stopover in the village of Aubrac can visit the Maison de l’Aubrac.

Aubrac means cows!

The region is now safe!

Long are gone the wolves that roamed the dark forests and spread terror among humans and animals.

Instead you’ll find the beautiful cows, the undisputed “queens of the Monts d’Aubrac”.

This ancient tawny coloured breed with gentle eyes outlined with black produces one of the best milk and meat in France.

Aubrac cows grazing
Aubrac cows grazing

Its reputation is second to none and the label of quality Aubrac ensures that they are fed exclusively on grass during summer and hay during winter.

As the Lacaune ewes, they spend the summer months in the high pastures.

The transhumance or change of pasture occurs in May; it gives rise to joyous celebrations, one of the highlights of the region’s pastoral life.

Beautifully decorated with ribbons, flowers and colourful bells, herds are led along the cattle tracks or drailles to the plateaus.

Once there, they graze in large paddocks bounded by stone walls until Saint-Géraud’s Day on 13th October.

Men and animals form a lively and happy crowd brought together in this Fête de la Transhumance .

This ancestral tradition ends with a feast of local beef, a tender and tasty meat served with the renowned Aligot.

Cows means cheese!

Sadly very few huts or burons, where shepherds once made their cheese, still exist.

Laguiole cheese produced in the Aubrac region
Laguiole cheese

The cheese cooperative Jeune-Montagne in Laguiole revived the local cheese-making tradition.

An audio-visual relates the making of Laguiole cheese from the beginning (Tome fraîche de l’Aubrac) to the finished product (Laguiole AOC) ready to be sold and eaten!

The ripening time varies from four months to one year following the maturity and intensity of flavour desired.

The cooperative produces various AOC cheeses such as Laguiole, Grand Aubrac and AOC Vieux, but also aligot.

A lot to discover and taste!

Aveyron department
Coordinates: Lat 44.621589 – Long 2.985022

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: Domerie  CC BY-SA 3.0 – Laguiole Cheese  CC BY-SA 3.0

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