The village of Puycelsi seems somehow untouchable – impervious both to time and the influence of mankind. Classified as one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’, it’s been completely restored and boasts not only one of the best views in the region, but also one of its most famous sunsets! You might have already caught glimpses of Puycelsi on the fabulous BBC nature series ‘Wild Tales From The City’.
Puycelsi, a real hilltop village
A little road snakes up to the village, travelling though groves, fields and orchards, until you’re suddenly greeted by the enchanting vision of Puycelsi.
For the more courageous among you it’s a nice idea to park your car at the bottom of the hill and take the path up to the village on foot. You can let your imagination wander as you picture yourself as one of the crusaders off to battle with heretics.
Sold to Raymond V in 1180 by the abbot Pierre d’Aurillac, Puycelsi remained loyal to the counts of Toulouse, to whom the strategic importance of the location was obvious. Despite the 1229 treaty of Paris’s stipulation that the village be demolished, Puycelsi survived – and was able to resist other invaders too. Its ramparts and its parapet walkway confirm the defensive nature of the original village.
Going back in time in the heart of Puycelsi
Wandering round Puycelsi plunges you back into ancient history; so much so that you wouldn’t be surprised to see Errol Flynn spring out in front of you! And while you’re here you really must go round the old parapet walkway with its amazing views across the countryside. You can also see the remains of the castle built for the lords of Puycelsi who were guardians of the Forest of Grésigne, or the old watchtowers, or even the Sainte Corneille church where the statue of a pig at the entrance is a reminder of an old legend.
During a siege by the English in 1386, the locals made their one and only pig squeal each day, so that it would sound like they were slaughtering a pig every day and thus had plenty of food. This trick discouraged the English, who’d hoped to starve everyone into submission, and they finally abandoned the siege.
Mosaic of landscapes around Puycelsi
The countryside around the village forms a beautiful patchwork of colours. From the pale cream of the wheat fields, to the intense yellow of rape and sunflowers, and the red clay of the earth when newly ploughed, it’s a feast for the eyes as you wend your way on a ramble or mountain bike tour. And close by there’s the magnificent Forest of Grésigne, where you can hear the bellow of stags during mating season. Or you might want to make a detour on your hike to take in the pretty village of Laval at the foot of Puycelsi’s hill.
In June the Grésigne cross country race offers a number of different courses for runners of all levels who want to get to know the forest. Another ‘must see’ site is the conservatory that collects and protects ancient species of fruit trees, to maintain the diversity of plant life for future generations. Or if you’re interested in the area’s 19th century industrial past you can always check out the old open-pit iron ore mines at Janade.
Tourist Information Office
Head for the Tourist Information Office to get help organising your rambles and hikes, to find a restaurant, or to book a hotel or chambre d’hôte.
For many years Puycelsi has hosted a music festival in July. It focuses on the power of the voice, with choral works taking pride of place, though string orchestras do also take part. There are workshops that are open to everyone, and people come from all over Europe to take part in the concerts that take place in many beautiful settings around the village.
In August you can enjoy the village festival, with three days of fun and frivolity. Among the highlights are ‘apero concerts’ at the Château de Terride and evening concerts at the Puycelsi Roc Café.