The bastide town of St Sulpice, 11km away, was founded in 1247 and visitors can now explore the mysterious underground passages of the town’s 13th century castle. Dug during the 10th century, with a 465ft length, you can walk inside, discover rooms and galleries which sheltered the villagers more than a thousand years ago. The castle or “Castela”was destroyed during the religious wars in the XVIth century and today you can have a walk and a picnic in the ruins of the fortifications and the chapel. The church which was built as a fortress in the 14th century has a 40m bell-wall which is remarkable.
The charming village of Giroussens (11km) offers a splendid panoramic view over the banks of the river Agout and the surrounding plains. From 1580 to 1800 the village had over 500 potters and today is still the only place in the Midi Pyrenees dedicated exclusively to contemporary ceramics. There is a training workshop, museum, shop and gallery and workshop to promote potters who are just starting out.
The gardens, Jardins des Martels at Giroussens, are beautiful and cover 3.5 ha with over 2,000 varieties of plants from the 5 continents. Many ponds overrun with rustic and exotic water lilies. Tropical greenhouses with dates, bananas and tree ferns. There is also a mini farm with many animals living semi-free in herds: fallow deer, Senegal and Angora goats, Chinese ponies and pigs and ornamental chickens and ducks. Make your journey to the garden part of the fun with the narrow gauge railway from St Lieux les Lavaur.
The bastide town of Lisle sur Tarn (14km), built in the 13th century by the Count of Toulouse, is in the heart of the Gaillac vineyards and has managed to keep its original architecture and its olden day appearance: Grid pattern town plan, large town square with arcades, Pountets (covered passages between buildings), church, town houses and half-timbered houses.
The typical fortified architecture, the biggest of the arcaded town squares in the south west, millenary vineyards where you will meet fervent, hearty wine growers, a county museum, plus festivals and events all year round give Lisle-sur-Tarn an attractive, appealing character. Lisle-sur-Tarn is the only fortified town on the Tarn’s plain to possess a port. As early as the 13th century the town boasted a flourishing economy, primarily due to woad production and later with wine making.
Gaillac is a bustling market town, the centre of the local wine industry. A well signed circuit invites you to make a motor tour of the local vineyards, tasting and comparing.