La Foret des Singes

La Foret des Singes

Just above the lovely medieval town of Rocamadour is the Foret des Singes – Monkey Forest – and it’s a treat for the whole family.

The 20 hectare park is home to 150 free roaming Barbary Macaques. This is an endangered species and the park is part of an important conservation project that aims to educate the public and increase the wild population by releasing groups into their natural environments.

Family of 3 Macaques sitting under a tree in RocamadourThe Macaques are free to roam throughout the 20 hectares of woodland and there are no cages. They live as natural a life as possible while protected from predators. A well marked path leads you through the forest and there are several feeding areas where the apes gather to “people-watch” and ask for the pop-corn you are supplied with on entry. At the entrance you are also given clear instructions on how to feed and interact with the Macaques. Over several visits I have found the Macaques to be very “polite” – no snatching or grabbing and very child-friendly.

The park is well staffed with knowledgeable guides who are happy to answer questions and give an enjoyable presentation in french and English. They explain the habits of the apes, the importance of their conservation and the part the park plays in a wider European project to increase the population in the monkey’s native North Africa.

The setting is very peaceful and the forest is well-established and overlooks a lovely landscape. The monkeys are free to approach, or not, and don’t appear at all stressed by their audience. The footpath is well marked and you are asked to stay on it and not approach the animals. If you are lucky enough you might see some of the babies – adorable but carefully supervised by their families and the attentive staff.

There is a picnic area separate from the monkey enclosure, a small shop selling souvenirs, drinks and ice creams, and toilets – no frills but clean and functional. The large car park has some shaded areas and the path is wide and generally flat and shouldn’t prove a problem for small children or the elderly. The walk is an easy stroll that would take about an hour and a half allowing for pauses to feed the residents. If you are a particular fan you could spend longer – there is no time limit as long as you are out of there by closing.

Who is this attraction suitable for?

Short answer – everyone. What’s not to enjoy about a pleasant stroll through a lovely environment looking at cute animals. Children in particular love it but it’s also a favourite with adult visitors. My only words of caution would be that it’s a popular attraction and can get quite busy in the summer months – beat the rush, go early in the day before the heat builds up and the monkeys retire for a siesta.

Make a day of it:

Depending on the time of year and the ages of your party I would allow two hours to enjoy your visit.

The Park is just above Rocamadour so it would be obvious to team it up with a visit the town which itself is a “must-see”. If you feel like making a day of animal attractions the Birds of Prey Park – Rocher des Aigles is just down the road and is also well-worth a visit. A very different experience but another winner with the whole family and the free flight displays above the Valley are stunning.

You can get full information on both attractions, opening hours and prices at: La Foret des Singes and Rocher des Aigles.

Le Moulin du Saut

Le Moulin du Saut

We are surrounded by beautiful countryside and there are any number of lovely routes – perfect for a short stroll or a full days hike for a serious walker. One of my favourites is the route around the Moulin du Saut which stands on the very pretty Alzou River.

The walk is a loop of approx 5 kilometres and is an easy route of approx 2 hours. There are some climbs but nothing too taxing and I would say that the walk is suitable for anyone of reasonable mobility but I would recommend at least a pair of trainers.

Small-waterfall-on-the-route-of-Moulin-du-SautThe original Mill dates back to the  thirteenth or fourteenth century when it was built by permission of the Lord of Gramat. By the sixteenth century the mill was in ruins but was rebuilt between 1736 and 1739 by Raymond de Fouilhac, Baron de Gramat. According to contemporary reports, it consisted of four pairs of grinding wheels driven by the waters of Alzou channeled via three conduits. After the French Revolution the mill changed hands several times until World War I. In 1924 the Mill was purchased by an industrialist from Périgueux who transformed it into a power plant with a modest output but in 1925 the building was heavily damaged by a fire.

 

Wooded-trail-to-the-Moulin-du-SautThe Mill is now owned by the nearby town of Gramat and is cared for by an Association – The Friends of the Saut and the Alzou Valley, which ensures the upkeep, maintenance and preservation of the ruins and the remarkable natural habitat. In an area officially recognised for the quality and sensitivity of its environment and its natural beauty the Mill has been made safe and is now a lovely walk through a beautiful landscape. There is no “mill” as such to visit although the ruins are interesting, this walk is all about the scenery.

The route is very easy to follow with a set of printed instructions but there are also guided visits and animations throughout the summer – 05 65 53 40 00 for details.

Who is this attraction suitable for ?

Anyone of reasonable mobility can enjoy this route – there are some gentle climbs but nothing too taxing. I would recommend you wear at least trainers – open toe sandals or similar would not be practical.

Make a day of it:

Depending on the time of year and the ages of your party I would leave two – two and a half hours for your visit – longer if you want to take a picnic with you.

The walk is between the towns of Rocamadour and Gramat so you could easily combine with a trip to either town. You could also combine with a visit to the Moulin de Cougnaguet, a working fortified mill dating back to 1292. If you have children with you you might like to make a detour to La Ferme Borie D’Imbert – a goat farm and producer of the traditional Rocamadour cheese. The visit is free and the children can see the goats and other animals and watch how the cheese is produced. Word of warning – if you visit in the summer there is a definite “goaty” smell. There is a small shop on site where you can buy the cheeses and other local products.