Tarn has a 3,500km network of trails including several long distance GR routes which cross the department, such as the GR7 from the Vosges to the Pyrenees via Mazamet and GR71 from Mazamet to l’Esperou.
In particular the GR36 (which travels the whole of France north to south from Manche to the Pyrenees) enters Tarn at Laguepie and follows a route from north to south passing Cordes and Albi, Ambialet, Trebas, Alban, Vabre and Mazamet. The GR46 takes a route from Tours ending in Tarn. There are plenty of shorter hiking routes, many of which begin around Cordes. TopoGuides can give you more details or there are leaflets at local Tourist Offices.
The green woodland of the 3530 hectare forest of Gresigne makes a shady option for summer walks along ancient trails with stunning views. This important oak forest is known internationally for its exceptional fauna and flora. Look for wild orchids in spring, rare birds, red squirrels, deer and the occasional wild boar.
Tarn has 2,000km of coarse and fly-fishing waters beside picturesque streams, rivers like the Agout and mountain lakes. Many are in the Haut Languedoc Regional Natural Park. Lac des Montagnes near Mazamet and Lakes Laouzas, Raviege, Saint Peyres and Vezoles in the Lacaune Mountains all offer fishing. Wild trout are plentiful in the streams of the Gijon Valley. Fish for trout, pike and perch in the rivers and lakes around Les Cammazes on Tarn’s southern border. Look out for fishing competitions during the summer months at the Poutras reservoirs. Night fly fishing for carp is authorised on some river stretches between May and the end of October. Permits can be bought locally (you will need a passport photograph) and Tourist Offices and tackle shops have fishing guides.
Tarn’s network of quiet roads, clear air and varied countryside make it ideal cycling country. The Regional Tourist Department (BP 225, 81006 Albi Cedex. Tel: (00 33) 5 63 77 32 10) offers more than 20 long distance routes of varying distances and levels from family outing to experienced cyclist. There’s an easy Dovecotes tour of 39km and a specially signposted 65km Ridges Tour from Albi to Cordes-sur-Ciel. A 43km circuit of the Gaillac vineyards also begins at Albi. Other routes take you across the Sidobre, the Segala plateau, around lakes and along rivers. Signposted Veloroutes point to popular tourist spots. Some of Tarn’s most magnificent scenery is along the Aveyron Gorges. A lengthy 109km tour includes the gorges and forest of Gresigne.
The Velo Club Lacaunais organises mountain bike outings in the Lacaune Mountains during June. Local Tourist Offices usually have cycling information including where to hire bikes.
Horse riding is a great way to explore the forests woods and mountains of the Tarn countryside and there are more than 1,200km of clearly signposted riding trails. Many farms in Tarn rent out horses and at least 8 equestrian centres are open all year. Riding schools in the Lacaune Mountains include Les Ecuries du Lac, 81320 Nages, tel: (00 33) 5 63 37 29 25 and Equinature, 81260 La Montelarie, tel: (00 33) 5 63 73 45 06. Travel around the Montagne Noire in a horse drawn wagon, caravan or walk with a donkey at Ferme d’en Gout, Dourgne. Tel: (00 33) 5 63 50 13 23 www.roulottes-engout.com Ferme Equestre la Gresigne www.la-gresigne.com/sejourenfantchevaltarn.phpoffers lessons, pony club and trekking. At Ferme Equestre du Puget book rides from a half hour to a day with picnic. Tel: (00 33) 5 63 55 88 39.
This treetop adventure park in a 10 acre oak forest near Puylaurens has more than 60 games, including walkways, net and rope bridges and creepers, all between 10 and 50ft from the ground. There are 6 circuits of different levels and trained mentors on hand for your safety. Equipment is provided and entry to the park is free. Open from 26 Feb 2011. See www.lecridetarzan.com/accueil.html for details of advance booking, prices and opening times. Tel: (00 33) 5 63 70 81 44.
Tarn has been rugby country for 100 years and is a great holiday destination for fans. Find matches at Union Athletique Gaillacoise in Gaillac, including friendly local games at Stade Laborie-Bernard. Tel: (00 33) 5 63 57 10 65. Castres has home matches once a fortnight. It has an international squad including a number of English players like Phil Christophers and both English and French supporters. See www.castres-olympique.fr for more. Amongst other clubs are Albi, Graulhet and Carmaux.
The 323 hectare lake at Laouzas is a wonderful place to relax. The average water temperature is 22ºC in July and August. How often can you swim from a beach in the mountains? Motor boats are banned but just about every other form of water transport is available for hire, including sailing boats and pedalos. Bring your own boat if you prefer. There are plenty of facilities on shore for all ages, like a children’s playground, volleyball and boules. Entrance to the recreation area is free. There are refreshments on-site and plenty of picnic tables around the shoreline.
You can take a beginners flying lesson or glide at Aeroclub de Graulhet www.aeroclub-graulhet.com. Tel: (00 33) 5 63 34 51 07. There’s also flying at Galliac & Albi Flying Club, Aerodrome de Langueville, 81600 Gaillac. Tel: (00 33) 5 63 57 18 71 and Aero Club Castres Mazamet. Tel: (00 33) 5 63 73 22 45.