The view of the church tower surrounded by ancient stone houses in the tiny village of Aubrac never fails to set my heart aflutter! It’s the same view that has greeted pilgrims and long-distance walkers for the last 700 years.
But there is more to Aubrac than historic charm – you’ll also find good food and a choice of places to stop for the night.
(Published August 2013, updated March 2020)
The story of the pilgrim Adalard
In 1120, the pilgrim Adalard was crossing the vast Aubrac plains as he made his way to Santiago from Le-Puy-en-Velay. In the forest, near where the village of Aubrac now stands, he was attacked by bandits. He survived, unharmed, and vowed to build a monastery where future pilgrims could find shelter.
A few years later Adalard returned and between 1120 and 1122 he built the monastery, the church and a hospital where sick pilgrims could be treated. During its busiest times, the monastery dispensed 5,000 bread rolls and sheltered 500 pilgrims each day!
The monastery was destroyed during the French Revolution but the church, Notre-Dame des Pauvres, has survived. The interior features contemporary murals, by local artist Hervé Vernhes, depicting the life of Adalard.
La Tour des Anglais
Next to the church is la Tour des Anglais, built as a fortification during the Hundred Years War with the English in the fourteenth century. It is now a gîte and still shelters pilgrims each night (no, there is no elevator). It is named, not after the English, but after the vagabonds who roamed the country after the Hundred Years War and were referred to, derogatorily, as les anglais.
Summer Transhumance from Aubrac to Saint-Côme-d’Olt
Transhumance – the annual migration of cattle to summer pastures – begins here on the Sunday closest to 25 May. The cattle are decorated with flowers and flags and the village erupts in folk music and dancing in traditional costumes. The procession takes a few days to travel from Aubrac to Saint-Côme-d’Olt, following the road and not the GR path. Whether you wish to see it or avoid it, the Transhumance is a major event on the local calendar and accommodation will need to be booked up to a year in advance if your visit coincides with the festivities.
Which long-distance walk in France visits Aubrac?
Where is Aubrac, France? Find it on Google maps
Aubrac is located 125 kilometres (78 miles) along the Chemin de Saint-Jacques. If you are following my suggested itinerary, you’ll arrive in the village in time for lunch on the seventh day of walking from Le-Puy-en-Velay.
Click through to find my suggested itinerary for all five stages of the walk
If you prefer to set your own agenda, I share the steps I take to calculate distances on any long-distance walk (using the Chemin de Stevenson as a case study)
The Compostel’Bus service runs every morning, connecting Aubrac with villages along the path between Le-Puy-en-Velay and Conques and making the return journey each afternoon. Other stops include Montbonnet, Saint-Privat-d’Allier, Monistrol-d’Allier, Saugues, Villeret-d’Apchier, La Roche, Les Faux, Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, Aumont-Aubrac, Nasbinals, Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac, Saint-Côme-d’Olt, Espalion, Estaing, Golinhac, Espeyrac and Sénergues.
Tourist Office in Aubrac
You’ll find the Tourist Office in Maison de l’Aubrac near the Botanic Garden. Opening hours are listed here.
Accommodation in Aubrac
Le Royal Aubrac
La Tour des Anglais
Where to eat in Aubrac
Aubrac is thought to be the birthplace of aligot, a traditional dish made of potatoes and cheese – the ultimate comfort food. It features in restaurants all through this region so be sure to try it while you are here.
There are several cafés and restaurants in Aubrac, including the Tourist Office where you can pick up regional produce for a delicious picnic lunch. If you’ve worked up a hearty pilgrim’s appetite, I thoroughly recommend Chez Germaine where you’ll find the best onion soup and a mouth-watering selection of berry tarts included on the menu.