Cantal is a rugged and remote d�partement nestled deep in the Auvergne region in central France. Part of the Massif Central plateau, the d�partement takes its name from the Cantal mountain range, an imposing cluster of six extinct volcanic mountains that cut across the region, forming part of the Parc Naturel R�gional des Volcans d’Auvergne.
Among the grandiose peaks and sumptuous green pastures are farmsteads that blend into their mountainous backdrop. This remoteness has preserved many age-old traditions. Historically, the Occitan language was prevalent and the local dialect of aurillacois can still be heard spoken in Pierrefort and the capital Aurillac. Another charming local custom is la bour�e; a folk dance, performed in traditional costume and accompanied by the accordion.
Aurillac is a town that prides itself on being the d�partement capital furthest from a French autoroute. Aurillac is a good base for exploring Cantal’s high points, such as the Plomb du Cantal, the d�partement’s highest peak standing at 1,855 metres. A climb along the ridgeway path to Le Puy Mary offers a jaw-dropping panorama of 12 different glacial valleys. This upland area offers other historic towns and villages of interest: the dark volcanic stone architecture found at Murat and Saint-Flour as well as the Plus Beaux Villages de France of Salers and Tournemire. The Viaduc de Gabarit is a 565-metre railway bridge over the River Truy�re and was designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1880.
A mountain trek can be rewarded by some robust regional Cantal cuisine. Try truffade; a potato and cheese-based dish flavoured with a generous dose of garlic, herbs and lardons. The d�partement is one of France’s main cheese-making regions, producing no less than five different AOC cheeses. Among them is Cantal, which is one of France’s oldest cheeses dating from the time of the Gauls; a tasty triumph to the traditions of the region.
Calendar and events:
June – Hautes Terres Festival des Cultures de Montagne, Saint-Flour.
August – Festival International de Th��tre de Rue, Aurillac.
August – Festival Mondes Crois�s (International Festival of Dance), Murat.