The Lot (department number 46) is located in South West France in the region of Midi-Pyrénées and has an estimated population of 160,197 (approximate in 1999).
The capital of the department is Cahors. The two other major towns of the department are Figeac and Gourdon. The department is named after the Lot River.
Why you should visit the Lot for your next holiday in France
The Lot has a magnificent and varied landscape, which is largely untouched and filled with hidden gems at every turn.
The oak woods and walnut groves, river valleys and limestone cliffs topped with ancient fortified towns and villages of the north, give way to the open, hilly green farming country of Gascony.
The food of the area is hearty and generous and makes full use of the great variety of local produce farmed and grown here. Good soups, particularly in the north, and garlic, walnut oil, truffles, wild mushrooms and chestnuts and an abundance of vegetables form the basis of many dishes together with goose, duck and chicken fed on maize and corn, and lamb roasts and casseroles.
Further south, the cooking of Gascony is based on goose fat or oil flavoured with garlic, shallots, and spices. Goose and duck farms produce foie gras, which is then sold fresh or made into pate and terrines. Nothing is wasted, and the rest of the bird is made into confits, preserves used to make stew and soups.
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 Lot
The Parc Naturel Regional des Causses covers a large proportion of the department and the River Lot runs through it. Many of the beautiful sites are located in and around the river and its numerous bends. A boat trip is definitely a great way to appreciate the delights of the Lot.
The capital of the Lot is Cahors. A charming old town, it is situated on the bend of the River Lot and is also surrounded by two further rivers. Cahors has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and a laid back way of life. An abundance of cafés line the streets and a pretty fountain takes pride of place in the square. A good variety of shops are at your disposal with regular weekly markets. Cahors is a great base from which to explore the Lot and there are plenty of activities and places of interest on your doorstep. Enjoy a stroll along the banks of the Lot and take in the magnificent site of the Pont Valentre Bridge.
The large town of Gourdon is located in the north-east of the department and is the historical capital of the Bouriane region. Gourdon boasts a number of medieval buildings and there are several prehistoric caves in the area to explore. The town is situated on the gentle slopes leading down to the Dordogne River and so affords beautiful views.
The pretty medieval town of Figeac is surrounded by lush green countryside and remains unspoilt by tourists. Dating back to the 9th century, Figeac has a magical atmosphere and encapsulates the joy of France.
St Cirq Lapopie
One of the prettiest villages of the department and possibly in France is St Cirq Lapopie. Perched on the edge of a cliff overhanging the Lot River, the views are quite spectacular and simply unforgettable.
Rocamadour is another cliff-top village, very popular with tourists for its breath-taking views. Perched precariously on the edge, Rocamadour was once a stop off point for the many pilgrims that made their way to Compostella.
About 15km North-east of Rocamadour is the Padirac cave. Deep inside you will be able to sail along the world's only underground river.
Other places definitely worth visiting are the cave paintings at Pech-Merle and the ruined castles at Najac, Penne and Peyrerusse.
How to get there
The international airport at Toulouse 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. Ryanair also fly to Rodez.
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.