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A prehistoric landscape

Cantal is to be found on the southwest edge of the Massif Central. While most departments are named after their rivers, this one is named after its volcanic mountain range. Cantal's towering peaks reach as high as 6096 ft. The many cows to be found grazing on the rolling pastures below produce the famous Cantal cheese, one of the most popular types.

A rival to Edinburgh

Aurillac is the lively capital of Cantal. It has kept its local traditions and quaint atmosphere despite its transformation into the business and tourist hub of the region. On Wednesdays and Saturdays the narrow, cobbled streets of the town centre are transformed into a bustling market where you can buy everything from clothes to cows. If you think that's busy, however, you should come in August when the international street theatre festival takes place. There are a few interesting museums hidden away in the old town, including one about volcanoes.

Religious roots

The city of St-Flour is located on the tip of the planeze plate at an altitude of more than 3900ft. The saint after whom the town is named was a determined preacher in the region around 4AD. After his death he was buried here and the town grew up around his tomb. The postcard perfect skyline is best appreciated from an eastern approach. The large and imposing 14th Cathedral looks down on the houses below and sets the tone for this medieval town. The inside is made of bare stone with the occasional fresco and some impressive woodcarvings.

Home of the Marquis

Just to the south of the town you'll find an area that was a hotbed of the resistance movement during World War 2. There are a few memorials worth visiting. The most prominent is located on the junction of the D4 and the N9 where over a thousand were killed in one battle.

The market town

Mauriac, perched on the edge of a plateau, is one of the busiest market towns in France. Its houses are made of a distinctive black lava stone. The main market takes place every Tuesday and Friday with a cattle market on Thursday. The square in front of the Notre Dame des Miracles church, meanwhile, has its own market every second and fourth Thursday of the month.

How to get there

The nearest airports with regular direct flights from the UK are Rodez, Limoges and Lyon. The latter two cities can also be reached by the TGV train service. The airports at Clermont Ferrand and Brive also have direct flights, though these are currently seasonal.

Cantal property prices

Despite property prices rising by around 30% in the last few years, the market is active and still contains value for money.

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WHERE IS Cantal?

Cantal is in the south west corner of the Auvergne region.

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