Cahors, nestling in one of the wide loops of the river Lot, between the steep sloping hills and arid plains of the Causses, has a wealth of historic interest and plenty to offer tourists. Not only is it renowned for its wines and gastronomy, but it has the “Town of Art and History” label.
The Valentré bridge and the legend of Satan
The Valentré bridge is located to the west of the loop in the Lot where Cahors stands. Already a listed historic monument when it was restored in 1880, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, as part of the historic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. It is one of the more important and remarkable bridges in the south of France, and a magnificent example of medieval defensive architecture. The construction work spanned some 70 years and gave rise to the legend about the Devil. According to the legend, the architect, realising that he was not going to finish on time, came to an agreement with Satan. The Devil would use all his power to help the construction along, and in return, the architect’s soul would belong to the Devil when the work was completed. But if the Devil disobeyed, he would lose all his rights. With this pact in place, work progressed quickly!
Just before completion, the architect managed to trick the Devil and save his soul. When Paul Gout, in charge of the restoration, heard about the legend, he immortalised it by putting a stone image of the Devil on the bridge with his fingers trapped in the joints!
The Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park
Leave your hired boat behind in Cahors and take to dry land to explore the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park. Rocamadour, clinging to a cliff overlooking a gorge, is a historian’s delight and, with its underground river, the Padirac Chasm is a wonder of nature. There are plenty of activities on offer for all ages and tastes - caving, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, adventure trails, walking and horse riding etc. And no visit to the Causses de Quercy would be complete without an evening of star gazing. ‘The Quercy Black Triangle’ has been nicknamed the ‘clearest sky in Metropolitan France’. With no light pollution at night, it is ideal for seeing the stars, planets and Milky Way. A really ‘out of this world’ experience!
Walking in the Célé valley
If you enjoy walking, you’ll find some delightful and sometimes surprising trails to explore while you’re cruising in the Lot valley. History buffs will be bowled over by the medieval village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie. If raw nature is your thing, then you’ll enjoy the cliffs, gorges, rivers and the wide variety of flora and fauna. At Cabrerets, take a look at Pech Merle, a large cave where the walls are decorated with authentic coloured prehistoric designs and pictures. This is now a listed historic monument and recognised as an important site for European palaeolithic art. The Célé valley is full of natural and historic treasures.
Cahors and the Lot valley offer a huge number of natural and historic attractions to discover. With almost too much choice between heritage sites and sporting activities, there’s something for all the family and for all ages.