During our stay at La Calsade, our voyages out into the French countryside would often take us through the village of Carlat. Each time we would say “We really must visit”. So the decision was made to stop and explore this little village.
Carlat is a commune in the Cantal department in south-central France.
The “Rocher de Carlat” or rock of Carlat situated above the picturesque commune was once the site of one of the most powerful and impenetrable chateaux in all of France. It was the seat of Jacques d’Armagnac, Duke of Nemours and often the center of intrigue, resistance and rebellion against the kings of France. Completely razed by order of the king in 1604 to alleviate the inconvenience of rebellious and ambitious southern relatives, hardly a trace of the chateau remains. The site is now a park, open to visitors and commanding sweeping views of the Carlades.
Carlat is another of those places where you cannot drive in, unless you are a resident. A car park is provided on the outskirts, and visitors are invited to make the short walk in. There isn’t much to see but it is pretty. There is a school and the children were playing happily in the sunshine. There appeared to be only the one shop and that was closed. So our stay was quite short.
From the gite, part of its fabulous panoramic view, we had discovered that there was a church on top of a flat topped hill (plateau).
Curiosity decree’d that we had to go search it out. So off we set from Carlat. Cutting across country, driving down narrow, single lane roads and tracks that dropped down into, then climbed back out of the tree covered gorges. Directional decision making was dictated by any sighting we made, as we crested the various hills. Eventually we reached a village, Cros Ronesque, and as we passed through noted the folks sat having lunch outside a local hostlery. That set the juices going. Coming out of the other side of the village we found that we were within spitting distance of the church. Soon we were following a winding lane which took us up to the church. Actually, I think we were supposed to park up about 500 metres below. However, I decided to play the dumb Brit and drive right up to the church. We were the only ones up there so I guess nobody really cared where we parked.
Formed on the site of an old peneplain, then covered as a result of volcanic activity and deeply sculpted by vast valleys, this rock is one of two basalt plateaux in the Carladès (part of the Vic-sur-Cère region). You can drive to a tiny chapel from where the magnificent panoramic view takes in the huge plateau, with the monts de Cantal to the north and the Aubrac mountains to the southeast. Below, to the right, stands the Château de Messilhac, overlooking the Vallée du Goul.
What a great decision it was to search out this place. Fabulous views, 360 degree. Little church, graveyard, cross, as well as North and South orientation tables. We tried to see our gite but should have had the binoculars to hand.
After absorbing the fabulous views it was time for a beer. That bar/restaurant, the Auberge de la Sapiniere, that we had spotted earlier in Cros Ronesque was calling, so we set off back down to the village where we satisfied that craving.
After the beer we headed back to the gite. Amazingly it only took about 10 minutes to get back, whereas it took over an hour to get to the church. It makes a big difference when you know the name of the place you are trying to get to.