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Guide to Cantal
The Cantal department of France (department number 15) is located in the region of the Auvergne and has an estimated population of 150,778 (approximate in 1999). Situated in south-central France, the department is named after the distinct Cantal mountain range and vast extinct volcanoes, which cover most of the area.
The capital of the department is the city of Aurillac, with the large towns of Mauriac and St-Flour within the immediate area.
The department is well known for its gastronomy. The Cantal cheese is a firm cheese, which is one of the oldest cheeses in France. Fougasse, is a brioche, flavoured with brandy or orange flower water and filled with crystallised fruit.
The dishes of Cantal are made of basic ingredients such as ham, cheese and vegetables such as:
- The Aligot (also in Aveyron): Cheese (Fresh Tome) with mashed potatoes
- The Truffade: Crushed potatoes with cheese (Fresh Tome) garlic and plugs.
- The Pounti: A light dish made with herbs and a kind of bread.
Why you should visit Cantal for your next holiday in France
As with the Puy-de-Dome department, the landscape of the Cantal highlands changes into sweeping glacier valleys, lakes and waterfalls and wide plateaux that are inhabited by deer, goats, rock thrushes and peregrine falcons.
A nature lover's paradise, the Cantal is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, offering many opportunities to relax.
Alternatively, the area is perfect for various sporting holidays giving its diverse landscape. There are a number of golf courses across the department and it is outstanding riding, hiking and mountain climbing country, with lakes where you can swim, sail and wind-surf. The lakes also offer great opportunities for fishing, bait, fly or spinning.
The climate of the department varies greatly depending on the geographical position.
The summers are usually long and warm with temperatures often reaching 30 degrees punctuated by short sharp thunderstorms. The uplands are cooler and at altitudes of over 1000m, snow frequently lies until May.
What to see in Cantal
The town of Aurillac is one of the most out the way provincial capitals in France. A pleasant town to explore with a good main-line station, it offers perfect amenities for a stop-over or short stay. The kernel of old streets, now largely pedestrianised, is an interesting part of town to visit. It is full of good shops and is situated just to the north of the central place du Square. Two large weekly markets are held in place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville on a Wednesday and Saturday.
The town originates to an abbey, which was founded during the 6th century. Mauriac was built on the slope of a volcanic hill and has a 12th century church. Marble quarries are in the immediate area.
This charming town stands dramatically surrounded by basalt cliffs above the River Ander. Once the seat of a 14th century bishop, the years have seen the lower town develop around the station, with the prettier area of the town surrounding the cathedral. A great time to visit the St-Flour is on a Saturday morning when the old town is filled with market stalls selling sausages, cheese and other local produce.
Located on the eastern edge of the Cantal, Murat is the closest town to the high peaks. Its cafés and shops provide a lot of hustle and bustle, which is quite out of character for such a little place in the region. It is also the easiest to access, lying on the N122 road and main train line, about 12km northeast of Le Lioran ski resort. The town is rich in historical architecture, with many of its grey stone houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Massiac is known as the gateway to the Cantal and provides great access both to the A75 motorway and the South of France and also to the skiing resort of Le Lioran (30 minutes drive). The town is famous for its macaroons and its annual apple fair, which is held in October. The Millau Viaduct is also only 1 1/2 hours drive away.
How to get to Cantal
There are direct flights from the UK (London City airport) to Clermont-Ferrand. There are also flights from Paris and several other European cities.
The journey by road from Calais to Aurillac is approximately 861.4km and should take around 8 hours.
There is no direct TGV service to the area from Paris. You could travel from Paris to Lyon by TGV (2 hours) and then catch a regular train to Clermont-Ferrand. Regular trains from Paris to Clermont-Ferrand will take about 5 hours.
An alternative could be a coach from London via Lyon with Eurolines. This takes about 16 hours.
Average temperature and rainfall for Cantal
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