6 Days Célé Tour
This is a 5 Night, 6 Day tour in which we spend three days paddling down the Célé river and a day either canoeing on the Lot river or hiking a section of the Way of St. James.
We will explore the little known Célé valley by both canoe and foot and visit its beautiful villages and see its beautiful wildflowers & butterflies & dragonflies. We will also visit the cave paintings at Pech Merle.
The rivers are easy paddling and suitable for families and less experienced paddlers alike. The emphasis on this trip is to enjoy the rich history and natural history of the region from the unique viewpoint of the river.
We shall enjoy lazy days meandering down the river and take our time to enjoy all that we see along the way and taking the time to visit many of them as we go. We will certainly visit the world famous caves at Pech Merle and see the ancient cave paintings.
Everyday we will stop for a fabulous picnic lunch and in the evenings we will enjoy dinner in small family run restaurants or in the hotels where we are staying.
The Célé is a small winding stream that flows down a steep sided valley into the Lot. On the way it passes through several small and picturesque villages such as Espagnac St. Eulalie, Marciilhac, Sauliac and Cabrerets.
Along the same valley a long-distance trail winds its way. Sometimes besides the river but mostly up high along the valleys edge. This is the GR651 which is a small deviation off the famous GR65 more commonly known as the ‘Way of St. James’ or the ‘Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle’.
In an adjacent valley flows the Lot river with the famous cliff-hanging village of St. Cirq Lapopie.
For those so inclined we will have a pre-breakfast walk and before we start canoeing each day we will have time for another hike. We will explore the trails along the causse above the valley and find dolmens left by ancient man. We will see plenty of colourful butterflies in the meadows and in the season plenty of wildflowers too, including some exotic orchids, like the Lizard and Bee Orchids.
The river can run quite quickly and we will have to be on our mettle when the turns become narrow. Several flour mills still operate on the river and at these points we will have to negotiate the slides which take us past the small dams. A short portage is also available if you prefer.
The Célé valley is a quiet and largely undiscovered small valley and we shall probably have the river all to ourselves. If it is warm enough we can find some beautiful spots for some wild swimming.
Our evenings will be spent discussing our day over a family style evening meal with plenty of wine to make the conversation flow.
- Fully guided whilst on the river & trail
- Full minibus support throughout
- Includes all accommodations
- Includes breakfasts, lunches and evening meals
- Canoe the remote valley and stream of the Cele
- Hike along the route of the Way of St. James
- Join your guides for a pre-breakfast walk
- Visit the ancient cave paintings at Pech Merle
- See the beautiful villages of Marcilhac, Espagnac, Cabrerets and St. Cirq Lapopie
Day 1. Arrival and first meeting
You will be met at our arranged meeting point by our guides for your transfer to the Célé valley. This is usually Cahors Station for those guests arriving by train from Paris.
Alternatively arrangements can be made for arrivals at regional airports: Brive and Bergerac are possibilities.
We will meet you off the train that arrives at Cahors at about midday. The drive to Sauliac takes about 45 minutes. We will stop along the way for a picnic lunch, get to know each other and go over the trip together. It is a short drive from here to our accommodation. If we have time we may take a short afternoon hike.
On our arrival at the Métairie Basse we will be met by our hosts Helen & Richard and if time and the weather allows we will be able to use the swimming-pool and relax before dinner.
Day 2. Our First paddle on the Célé river
Today we will paddle the Célé river from St. Eulalie to Marcilhac. When we pass the village of Espagnac we will stop to visit and look at the ruins and design of the old tower which is all that remains of 13thC Monoastery. This village is on the Way of St. James and has an interesting hostel built into the Monastery walls. If we're lucky a cafe will be open.
Later we will have our lunch on the river-bank around about Brengue. The remains of a weir mark this spot and we may have a short portage depending on water-levels. It does make for a good spot for a wild-swim.
As we paddle down look out for the 'English Castle' in the cliffs above: just a few remains from the 100 Years war.
Before the days paddle we can walk on the limestone causse and visit a Dolmen. The Friemds of the Célé is an organisation that looks after the river: they've agreed that fishing takes priority on the river until 11am and after 6pm and canoeing between times. This gives us plenty of time for a relaxed morning and/or time for a hike. To save time we can drive up to the plateau, hike out to the Dolment and then take a walk back down to the Marcilhac village. The walk has splendid views up and down the valley and we usually see plenty of butterflies and flowers along the way.
We remain at the Métairie Basse tonight.
Day 3 Continuing down the Célé river
We will continue our paddle from Marcilhac down to Cabrerets. This stretch begins with a chute (glissiere) at Marcilhac where a flour mill with a dam. This is a fun way to start the day though you may get a bit wet with the splash at the bottom. If you don't fancy it we'll take the canoes over and you can start your paddle from the beach below.
After about an hour and a half we come to another flour mill. It's the same procedure! But a 20 yard portage is also available.
From there we paddle down to Sauliac - our home village - for a splendid picnic lunch on the river bank. It's a nice swimming spot too and if you look carefully you'll see a chateaux across the river hidden in the trees. This is the place where we may see tiny gems of an insect shining bright blue in the grass like jewels. If we are really lucky we might see Purple Emperor Butterflies puddling in the sand.
From here we paddle through a tight chicane with massive cliffs either side of us with glimpses of hoouses built into the cliffs high above us and even a church perched on an outcrop. Leter the river seems to hit a brick wall and turns sharply left as we arrive at Cabrerets. As we enter the village you can see more troglodyte houses built into the cliffs and above them the 'Devils Castle': another relic of the religous wars.
Before the paddle we can walk a short stretch of the GR651. This hike takes us up through the village to the Causse above. We can admire the gardens and perhaps see some Lizard Orchids spouting in the grass verge. At the top we can visit a stone-age Dolmen before joing the pilgrimage trail. A mere 70 years ago this was prime sheep farming land and we can see the old Cazelles (where sheep would live in winter) the dry-stone walls and the old shepherds huts. We'll then circle back to down to the river to begin our days paddling.
We will also make sure we see the ruins of the old abbey in the village itself. This Abbey was prosperous at one time but became uneconomic when pilgrimages to Rocamadour took over.
We remain at the Métairie Basse again tonight.
A Cave, a paddle, a riverside walk and an arrival in St. Cirq Lapopie
We will walk from our lodgings across the causse and down to the Célé valley at Cabrerets: this takes about an hour, downhill all the way.
We then visit the caves at Pech Merle to see the stunning 25,000 year old paintings. This really is a fantastic must see visit. We can hike up to the cave - it's steep but short - or perhaps elect to hike down afterwards instead! In the season we can see Bee Orchids along the way. The village has an attractive church and a massive Chateau to view along the way too. Underneath the castle is a lovely bakery and cafe where we usually stop for coffee and cakes.
After this we finish our canoe on the Célé with a short paddle down to Conduché. The paddle starts with another shoot over the dam and continues past the Towers of Hercules - a pair of huge rocks acting as obstacles.
At the finish we'll probably have some drins at the cafe in the old Conduché railway station and then have an hours river-bank walk to the beautiful cliff-hugging village of St. Cirq Lapopie. This is a splendid walk along the Sentier de Halage: the tow-path where barges used to be hauled by horses.
Depending on timings we will have our picnic today at the caves or beside the Lot river.
Tonight we stay at the Auberge du Sombral in St. Cirq Lapopie unless we have decided on a single centre tour.
Day 5. A Hike on the Causse or a Canoe on the Lot
Today we have a choice between several long hikes. Either the GR651 pilgrims trail along the Célé valley, or a walk along the cliffs above the Lot river or perhaps some walks around the forests and cliffs above St. Cirq Lapopie.
We will carry our lunch with us today and find a suitable spot ourselves: usually high on the cliffs overlooking the valley.
Alternatively we can canoe along a section of the Lot river – completely different from the Célé. This wide river has several locks along the way but canoes can take a short chute or a portage. We usually stop for lunch at Cregols and stop somewhere else for a wild-swim.
Tonight we remain in the Auberge du Sombral (unless we ae doing a single centre tour).
Day 6. Time to leave
After a leisurely breakfast we will return to Cahors in time to catch the midday train to Paris.
For the 1st, 2nd and 3rd nights we are at the Métairie Basse which is situated high above the Célé valley on the Causse above the village of Sauliac. Our hosts Richard and Helen have converted a farmhouse from almost a complete ruin to provide fabulous accommodation in this quiet area.
In the grounds we can look at the market garden and chickens and also use the outdoor swimming-pool which nestles surprisingly in a converted barn.
Early morning walkers can enjoy some trails out onto the Causse and visit an ancient Dolmen: a Iron-Age burial site perhaps 8,000 years old. We can also walk the long, but downhill trail, to the village of Cabrerets on the Célé river to begin our third day with a visit to the cave at Peche Merle.
Richard and Helen will provide us with some delicious home-cooked meals featuring regional specialities and using ingredients from their own garden. They will also introduce us to some local Apéritifs such as Vin Noix, a Ratafia or perhaps a Fénelon.
- Big friendly welcome from our hosts Helen & Richard
- Family run Chambre D'hôte with swimming-pool
- Great hikes out onto the Cause - with a Dolmen to visit
- Fantasic evenings with home-cooking and local specialities
- Hosts of Orchids to see in the spring season
- Beautiful location with stunning views
On the 4th and 5th nights we stay at the l’Auberge du Sombral in the heart of Saint Cirq Lapopie. This picturesque village perches on the side of the cliff above the Lot river and is looked over by a ruined castle and abbey and surrounded by the remains of a fortified wall with entrance gates at the top and lower ends. The village has a single street from which vehicles are barred (excepting access for locals) and is riddled by a network of tiny cobbled pathways.
Our hotel sits in the main square almost at the top of the village within easy walking distance of the restaurants and small shops. On our first evening here we are able to choose our own restaurant but on our final evening we will all dine together again either in the village itself or close by.
For those that like to walk we have plenty of choices of all lengths and difficulties. The village is surrounded by woods and the top of the Causse can be easily reached to offer superb views over the valley. Other walks take the winding trails down to the river and we can follow the Chemin de Haulage which is the path previously used by the Bargemen and their horses to pull boats along the Lot.
- Stunningly beautiful village built into the valley side
- Lovely hotel in the village square
- Immediate access to hiking trails: to the Causse, the forest and the stations of the cross to a chapel above the village
- Walk up to the viewpoint, examine the ruined castle and the huge church/li>
- Village has several restaurants and cafes
- Really a classic location with views over the Lot river