The Tour du Lot is a circuit of over 500km around the department’s periphery – or as near as GR trails, footpaths, bridleways, country roads and obstacles allow. Actually, the Tour du Lot was designed to be undertaken not just on foot but also by off-road bike or on horseback, but neither competes with the benefits of walking.
The Department of the Lot sits at the northern end of the Midi-Pyrénées region. At just over 5200 km2 (about the size of Powys in Wales), the Lot is a relatively small department but, even so, has a low population density (about 32 people per square kilometer – Cumbria has about 75 people per square kilometer), and a particularly rich and varied heritage with differing landscapes, architecture, farming practices and traditions. This variety has evolved not least from the underlying geology. In the north east are the ancient granite rocks of the hills bordering the Massif Central; a large part of the centre of the department is dominated by a limestone plateau; the north west is predominantly limestone, with scattered deposits of iron ore; and the south west is noted for its bedrock of white chalk.
Then there are the three impressive rivers that carve their way through this department; the Dordogne to the north, the Célé in the centre, and the Lot to the south, each having its own particular impact on the land. Add to the mix, the numerous prehistoric sites (the cave paintings of Pech-Merle, for example, goes back up to 25,000 years), magnificent castles, 420 monuments and sites of interest, including 6 of the most beautiful villages in France (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France); beech, oak and chestnut forests, and Cahors vineyards extending over 4200 hectares along the Lot river valley, it’s not hard to see why you might want to stay here a while and see some of it.
The best way to appreciate this diversity is on foot – hence the establishment of the Tour du Lot. The official route for walkers embarking on the Tour du Lot is broken down into 14 stages, starting and ending at Laval de Cère in the north east of the department. With a couple of exceptions, each stage is walked over two days, covering about 20km a day give or take a few kilometres, with an overnight stop at a chambre d’hote, hotel or campsite, depending on preference, availability and fortitude. And this is what we did with our local walking club, CazalRando (always taking the hotel option I should add), and completed the tour on Wednesday 18 May 2011. Below are each of the 14 stages and for each you can view our photos on this web site, while I have uploaded the GPS track to the Openrunner web site where you can view and print in Googlemaps or France IGN maps, and you can also download the .gpx file for your GPS.