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The Tarn (department number 81) is located in the region of Midi-Pyrénées in the South West of France and has an estimated population of 343,402 (approximate in 1999). The capital of the department is Albi and the other major town of the department is Castres.
The Tarn department is named after the Tarn River and has three principal ranges lying to the south-east: the Mountains of Lacaune, the Sidobre, and the Montagne Noire, belonging to the Cevennes. The ranges vary from stony, wind-blown slopes, granite plateaux's, which separate the valley of the River Agout from the River Thoré and the Montagne Noire, on the southern border of the department.
Why you should visit Tarn for your next holiday in France
The department offers a natural beauty in its surrounding and an eclectic mix of the Languedoc and Pyrenean culture. The Tarn is made up of sun kissed vineyards and lush green land and forests. The locals are friendly with a wonderful relaxed and laid-back way of life allowing time to enjoy the delights of the area.
In addition to the breathtaking landscape and the enviable climate, the department's gastronomy is also second to none. The most popular dish of the area is Foie gras.
The climate is a cross between Atlantic Maritime and Mediterranean. Early springs, long hot summers and short mild winters when it can be drizzly.
What to see in the Tarn
Albi is the department's capital and lies above the Tarn Valley along the banks of the river Tarn. The town is dominated by an enormous red brick cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d'Albi) and it is from the river Tarn that the reddish clay is taken to build the majority of the town. At night the majestic cathedral is illuminated beholding a dramatic sight. The town is also famed for being the birthplace of the painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and the museum there houses many of his works.
North West of Albi is the walled medieval town of Cordes, with 13th and 14th century Gothic buildings and a market hall with a fine timber roof. Many artists have settled there and it is worth a detour.
The historical town of Castres is situated in the south west of the department and is built on the River Agout. Textiles were and still remain an important industry to the town but with the introduction of tourism, Castres has adopted a more modern appearance. However, even with all the modern conveniences, Castres still has two daily markets, selling local produce in the main square and bric a brac in the Place Albanique. This is a great holiday destination from which to explore the neighbouring region of the Languedoc-Roussillon.
The ancient town of Gaillac is situated near to Albi and is surrounded by vineyards and dramatic gorges with breath-taking views of the mountains in the distance. Since Roman times, Gaillac has been producing wine and today produces the most popular wine of the area. Red and white wine are equally delicious. Wine caves and a museum offer opportunities for authentic tastings and an insight into the wines history.
As with a lot of other towns in the department, Gaillac succeeds in blending its historical monuments and heritage with today's modern ways of living.
The fortified town of Lavaur is constructed in the familiar red brick of the area. Typically French in both appearance and ambience, this lively town has a wonderful Saturday market and the impressive Romanesque cathedral, Cathédrale Saint-Alain de Lavaur. Given the varied terrain, numerous sporting activities are on offer within close proximity including quad biking, windsurfing and jet skiing.
The colourful and bustling market town of Mazamet is located in the south of the department. It is situated at the base of the slopes of the Montagne Noir and offers a gateway to the Languedoc-Roussillon region, the Med and the Pyrénées.
How to get to the Tarn department
The international airport at Toulouse in the neighbouring department of Haute-Garonne has a wide range of connections to all parts of the UK, including cheap airlines such as Easyjet, Bmi, Bmibaby, Flybe and EUJet as well as BA and Air France. From Toulouse you can reach Albi and other areas of the Tarn by connecting bus or train, or by hiring a car.
Ryanair also fly to Rodez which is Northwest of the Tarn in the neighbouring department of Aveyron.
The easiest route is from Calais. Take the A26 & A1 to Paris then the A10, A71 and A20 which runs straight through the middle of the Midi Pyrenees.
The journey is approx 850km to the northern end of the Midi Pyrenees and will take around 8-9 hours depending on length of stops.
The Motorail service runs fro Calais to Toulouse throughout the holiday season and from Paris (Austerlitz) to Toulouse during the rest of the year.
There is a regular service between Paris (Austerlitz) and Toulouse by TGV throughout the year including the night train with either Couchettes or wagon lits.
From Toulouse you can reach Albi and other areas of the Tarn by connecting bus or train, or by hiring a car.