WITH THE recent announcement of a new London Stansted to Toulouse route from Ryanair, the relatively undiscovered region of The Tarn in southwest France is being placed firmly on the UK tourist map.

Walking, Monts de Lacaune © L FrezoulsWalking in the Monts de Lacaune (© Laurent Frezouls)

This lesser-known département in the Midi Pyrénées is situated around 20km east of Toulouse. The area boasts a striking landscape, being home to undulating vineyards, rolling countryside, dramatic gorges and the winding Tarn River. It has a fascinating history, a rich culture and an exceptional gastronomic heritage, and yet, the area remains somewhat undiscovered.

The Tarn encompasses some of France’s ‘Grandes Sites’, including the episcopal city of Albi (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), built around the original cathedral. Albi is most famous for being the birthplace of the painter Henry de Toulouse Lautrec, born in Albi in 1864.

Albi. © Vijorovic DThe episcopal city of Albi (© D Vijorovic)

The bastide villages of Cordes-sur-ciel, built on a rocky outcrop overlooking vineyards and rolling hills, plus Puycelsi (listed among the most beautiful French villages) and Castelnau-de-Montmiral are another highlight of the area. The town of Ambialet is home to the beautiful Loop Valley, where the Tarn River makes a 3km circle around the town, shaping the valley into an impressive rocky peninsula.

Gailalc wine © Laurent FrezoulsGaillac wine (© Laurent Frezouls)

Home to one of the oldest wine-growing regions in France, the Gaillac wine region is spread over 3,000 hectares of land and is made up of over 112 vignerons (winegrowers) producing AOP Gaillac wines. Visitors can stay amongst the vineyards at one of the many rural chateau vineyards in the area, or spend the day sampling the local food and wine at one of the many weekly food markets.

Alchimy suiteSuite at boutique Hotel Alchimy

Accommodation options are varied, from the new stylish, modern, boutique Hotel Alchimy in Albi, to the authentic Chateau de Salettes in the village of Cahuzac sur Verre.

New flight routes are an indicator of increased visitor numbers to an area, and the newly formed Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées region of southwest France will soon be served by three airlines from three London airports. The new flight route from Ryanair will commence in November 2016, and it will join easyJet and British Airways already serving Toulouse-Blagnac Airport daily, from London Gatwick and Heathrow respectively.

Walking in Cammazes ©CDTTarn - Walter PascaleWalking in Cammazes (© CDTTarn – Walter Pascale)

Flights from London Gatwick to Toulouse with easyJet depart four times a day during the summer months and start from £75pp for a return journey (advanced booking). Flights from London Heathrow to Toulouse with British Airways depart three times a day and start from £82pp for a return journey (advanced booking). Flights from London Stansted to Toulouse with Ryanair will depart once a day from November and start from £40pp for a return journey (advanced booking).

For further information regarding Le Tarn Tourisme visit www.tourisme-tarn.com/en/tarn