Its department number is 12, it is one of the largest departments in France but has one of the lowest population density. It stretches from east of Milau to west of Villefranche de Rouergue, a distance of about 340 kms. In the north there are the wild, remote mountains of the Aubrac, rising to more than 1400 m. and in the south the uplands of Rougier de Camares.
Rodez, until 1789, was the capital of the historic district of Rouergue; it is now the capital of the département of Aveyron. It is located at the confluence of the Aveyron and Auterne rivers on the Plateau de Segala. The Département of Aveyron was formed in June 1790 from the old province of Guyenne. It is located in the southwest sector of the Massif Central with fertile valleys to the south and west, renowned for its veal, reared at foot in open fields. Orchards and vineyards are found in the low valleys of Marcillac and Dourdou which enjoy their own micro-climate. The higher plateaux are dedicated to sheep grazing.
It is bounded by the départements of Cantal, a region of Auvergne, on the north and the Languedoc-Roussillon départements of Lozère and Gard on the east and Tarn on the south. The départements of Tarn-et-Garonne and Lot are located to its west.
Aveyron in known as the Département of Ramblers with numerous specialist maps and well signed routes. The fields of wild flowers lie in abundance with the narcissi in the Spring followed by a wide variety of wild orchids. There are many rivers for fishing, canoeing and rafting. The lakes to the south of Rodez are superb for swimming, sailing and other water sports. Skiing is available in Winter in the Aubrac area, where the Junior downhill championships have taken place.
The architecture is striking for the wonderful use of lauzes (stone) and ardoise (slate) on the high pitched roofs and pigeonniers. The stone walls are blueish/grey containing a mixture of other colours. There are a number of Bastides such as the 13th Century Villeneuve d’Aveyron, Sauveterre de Rouergue and the Royal Bastide itself, Villefranche de Rouergue.
You can’t really talk about one typical wine for this region but Marcillac comes from the valleys north west of Rodez and is one of the best known. Great with lamb, it’s a simple and unpretentious table red. There are also small appellations of Entraygues and Estaing.
Roquefort, a sheeps’ cheese, is among the top three best-known French cheeses. Its subtle softness comes from the grottos in the rocky outcrops around Larzac. Others include Laguiole from the mountains of Aubrac, Cantal, Tomme du Levezeu and many others. Aveyronnais delicacies which the visitor must sample are aligot, from the mountains, pastis, foie gras, tripoux and the superb beef of the Aubrac. It is a land of walnuts, chestnuts, honey and ducks.
The summers are hot and usually dry with electric storms arising in August. The winters can be warm by day in the SE of the department with clear, bright blue skies but with cold and frosty nights. As you go up into the Massif Central, it becomes gradually colder with snow in the mountains.
Communications are excellent. Ryan Air has regular flights to and from Rodez to London (Stansted) and a number of airlines fly to Toulouse. The extension of the A20 autoroute has cut the journey time from the north considerably. http://www.aveyron.com/english/travelinfrance.html