Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is one of 'les plus beaux villages de France' (‘the most beautiful villages of France’). This independent association, created in 1982 promotes the tourist appeal of small rural villages with a rich cultural heritage. So, wherever you are in France, be sure to keep an eye out for these as they are always worth a visit.
This particular hill-top village has it all: a brilliant winding drive through dramatic countryside and gorges, where the road is literally carved from, or through the land in some places; picture perfect old stone buildings and cobbled streets; an abundance of cafes and restaurants; many tiny independent artisans and traders selling their wares; and of course, views to die for.
We visited twice this year, firstly back in February when it was really wild, wet and windy; great for getting the place to ourselves, but not so great for getting a cup of coffee as everything was closed for the season! Our second visit was in August, when we made sure we set off super early to avoid the crowds, and were rewarded with almost empty streets where we were free to wander aimlessly and take in the atmosphere.
The place is so beautiful, it actually feels like a film set. We stopped for coffee and croissants before exploring the maze of little cobbled streets, popping into tiny shops for a peek at artisans making: glass, lavender gifts, clothes, wine, foodie treats, pottery, artwork.....
There is also a really good walk that you can do along the river Lot, before arriving at the village. To avoid the crowded car parks, you can park at Bouziès and walk along the river towpath to the village. It takes about 45 minutes and is flat for 95% of the time before you head up the massive hill to reach the hill top village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie! Along the way you'll find the 'Chemin de Halage'. This historic site is formed of the river towpath which was cut directly into the dramatic gorge cliffs in 1845 for about 1km (so great if it's raining!) to allow the horses to pull the barges along the river. In 1985 the artist Daniel Monnier (from Toulouse) carved a bas-relief out of the rock to represent the river, and its flora, fauna, rocks, fossils and whirlpools. It is a lovely way to extend a morning/ afternoon visit to a whole day out.
And of course, it's totally dog friendly too :)
Click on the first photo to see the photo gallery - you'll see the tow-path art at the end of the gallery.