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Canal boat holidays in the Lot: discover a rich history

If you love exploring places with an interesting history and finding cultural treasures then you need to consider the Lot Valley.

Along the River Lot you’ll find historic beautiful villages such as Cahors and Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in addition to interesting ancient sites such as the cave of Pech Merle or the towpath that’s carved into the vast cliff that towers above the river.

The journey between these treasures onboard your self-drive canal boat is breathtaking – with stunning landscapes and beautiful flora and fauna surrounding the waterways.

Below are our "must see" landmarks to discover during your boating holiday in the Lot.

Le Village Médiéval de Saint Cirq Lapopie - Bouziès


The medieval village of Saint Cirq Lapopie - Bouziès

The first village you’ll arrive at on your boating holiday is Saint Cirq Lapopie which is ranked amongst the most beautiful villages in France. During the middle ages it was shared between three key families (Lapopie, Gourdon and Cardaillac) which is why you’ll find several castles and strongholds dominating the village. Today these make the village a tourist hotspot and a must stop on the map!

Many artists exhibit and sell their handicrafts throughout the season and we can see why the famous poet André Breton spent much of his time here searching for inspiration. After exploring everything Saint Cirq Lapopie has to offer make sure you allow time to taste the regions great foods in one of the excellent restaurants.


Château de Cénevières (13th – 16th century)

After Saint Cirq Lapopie continue down the river until you reach Cenevières. You’ll know you’re there once you see the superb castle – majestically overlooking the Lot Valley almost as if it’s looking down on the canal boats sailing on the river below.

Château de Cénevières

Built in the 16th century around the 13th century keep, the Cénevières Castle is one of the most prestigious renaissance buildings in Quercy. The Castle is home to many luxurious rooms – one of which has a remarkable painted ceiling with views of Istanbul – and even unusual alchemy room.

Today the Cénevières Castle is owned by the Marquis De Braquilanges who opens up his home for visits between April and December. During the summer, on every Wednesday and Thursday, there are evening openings which offer a tour in costumes and by candle light.

To learn more about the tours visit:

Chemin de Halage du Ganil


The Ganil towpath

Another wonder of the Lot Valley is the towpath known as the "Ganil Road". In 1845 it was carved into the cliffs between Bouziès and St Cirq Lapopie and is 300m long and 2m high. Its purpose was for use by horses to haul gabares (a flat-bottomed boat) loaded with goods such as Cahors wines, dried plums and wood products. These goods were transported to Bordeaux by waterway for trade.

After falling into disuse in 1926 when the River Lot was decommissioned as a navigable river, the Ganil Road enjoyed a glorious revival when in 1996 the River Lot was reopened for recreational boating.

The artist Daniel Monnier created a series of sculptures in the side of the Ganil towpath to symbolise the river, its surrounding flora and fauna and historic fossils. Although today horses no longer use the towpath to tow canal barges it is still enjoyed by hikers who climb the cliff between Bouziès and St Cirq Lapopie.


The Pech Merle Caves

Although these caves are located 6km from the banks of the River Lot this world famous prehistoric landmark is definitely worth a visit.

Grotte ornée du Pech Merle


Moor your canal boat at the marked kilometre point 191 and head to the small town of Cabreret. You can either walk or cycle the 6km, or alternatively take a taxi. Once at the Pech Merle cave you’ll see the amazing prehistoric paintings of bison, horses and mammoths that date back over 20,000 years.

Please note: to help preserve the condition of the cave visitor numbers are limited so we strongly recommend you book your visit in advance. 

Le pont Valentré de Cahors


Cahors – a city of art and history

The next stage of your boating holiday in the Lot Valley takes you further west to Cahors. Here you will find the famous Valentré Bridge, also known as "Devil’s Bridge", which rises 40m above the River Lot.

Consisting of three towers the bridge is a remarkable example of medieval architecture. It is classified as a historic monument and, as part of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela, has since 1998 been included on the list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO.

From on board you Nicols canal boat you will be one of only a few who get to see the bridge from a new vantage point below! 

Cathédrale Saint Etienne à Cahors


The Saint Etienne Cathedral in Cahors

A stop in Cahors is also an opportunity to explore the Saint Etienne Cathedral – a true masterpiece of Gothic art.

Its central nave dates from the 12th century with the cathedral displaying a mix of both Gothic and Romanesque style. Visitors can explore the cloister which dates back to the 15th century. 


Caïx and its royal castle

The city of Caïx is a popular stop for holidaymakers for a number of reasons including swimming and watersports. You can find out more about this in our article on bathing in the Lot.

In addition to this though the city is also known internationally – especially in Denmark! The reason for this is that the castle and its vineyard are the property of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and her husband Prince Henry of Denmark.

If on your visit the castle itself is not open to the public you can still visit the wine cellars and enjoy wine tastings of the wines produced at the castle. A shop is also accessible to the public.


Luzech and a visit to the "planet of the mills" museum

The furthest point west on your boating holiday in the Lot region takes you to the city of Luzech.

The fortified city is dominated by a tall tower from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view across the Lot Valley.

Another popular tourist attraction in Luzech is the "planet of the mills" museum. This captivating museum is great for children and adults alike – presenting a multitude of animated models of mills from countries throughout the world.

The Lot region is an excellent choice for a boating holiday in France  as it has history, great gastronomy, fine wines and beautiful clean waters and picturesque outdoor spaces.

For other ideas of things to see and do when hiring a canal boat in the Lot why not read the following articles:



See the cruise in Cahors

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