Historic province of Quercy
Quercy might make you forget the Loire!
Well, don’t actually forget it – you would miss one of France’s most stunning offerings to the tourists if you do!
But think also of the Lot, a river that runs through green and fertile Quercy, a mosaic of orchards, tobacco and cereals fields, and meadows and poplars plantations.
Quercy is a historical province that was attached to the French kingdom during the 15th century.
It stretches over the modern day department of Lot and the northern section of Tarn-et-Garonne.
It is now part of the Occitanie administrative region.
It is divided in two natural regions: Haut-Quercy or Causses and Bas-Quercy
Haut-Quercy – Causses de Quercy
Haut-Quercy, in the north, is a dry tableland that flanks the Auvergne Mountains (Centre of France).
The Lot and Dordogne rivers shaped and hollowed the limestone cliffs and created vast networks of underground galleries.
Our distant ancestors converted these natural rocks shelters into dwellings and sacred sites and decorated their walls with paintings of the animals they hunted.
Rivers also traveled in the deep of the earth and carved gigantic caves adorned with amazing rock formations.
The valleys are dedicated to mixed farming (strawberries, walnuts, fruits, cereals, tobacco) and their slopes to vine.
The less fertile western area is covered with cork oaks, walnuts, chestnuts, pine forests and moors.
The main town is Gourdon.
From north to south you will find four major Causses:
Martel Causse, Gramat Causse, Cajarc Causse and Limogne Causse.
The Occitan word Causse evolved from the Latin Cax meaning limestone.
1- The Causse de Martel is the most fertile.
Its combes or dry valleys are dedicated to the culture of various crops.
The breeding of sheep for wool and meat is reserved to the poorer land, where animals can easily feed on short grass.
The town of Martel is well-known for its sheep skin industry.
This 300m high striated limestone tableland is cut by spectacular canyons, caves and ravines.
3- The Causse of Cajarc is a lower tableland.
Their fertile valleys are a checkerboard of cultivated fields delineated by the swerving shape of the meanders.
4- The Causse de Limogne, in the south, near the town of Montauban, is traversed by the river Aveyron.
The numerous megaliths found in this region show that it has been inhabited since time immemorial.
The area is dedicated to sheep breeding.
Shepherds’ huts – gariottes – are part of the landscape and stand among lavender fields, juniper bushes and oak trees.
Bas-Quercy or Quercy Blanc
The warmer Bas-Quercy in the south is a pleasant and undulating region of white limestone plateaux or planhes.
These are cut by gentle, long and narrow hills or serres and fertile valleys.
This land of serres stretches between the Lot and Aveyron rivers.
The towns of Montcuq, Castelnau-Montratier or Montpezat developed on the top of abrupt rocky promontories or puech.
The south west of the region is known as White Quercy.
The Bas-Quercy is dedicated to mixed farming.
Cereals are cultivated on the plateau and the vines on the hill sides.
Tobacco, fruits and vegetables find propitious conditions in the fertile soil of the valleys.
The Lot valley is a mosaic of orchards, tobacco and cereals fields, meadows and poplars plantations.
The land of bastides
But this was long ago!
Quercy is today a peaceful and quiet region where relaxing or canoeing on the Lot or simply tasting its renowned wine is a “must do’.
The region low levels of industrialization and urbanization result in a very light density of population.
The only fluctuations are due to the ever-growing number of tourists.
The regional architecture is one of the most sought after in France!
The houses are indeed built with the local cream-colour limestone and most are roofed with rounded terracotta tiles (Roman tiles).
They come in variable sizes and many have superb square towers.
However, dovecotes are a unique architectural to the region!
They were not the property of local lords as in Périgord, but belonged to the farmers, who used the pigeons’ precious droppings as manure.
Department of Lot
Coordinates: Lat 44.447523 – Long 1.441989