One of the region's "don't miss" sights is CORDES, perched on a conical hill 24km northwest of Albi, from which it's a brief trip by train (as far as Cordes-Vindrac, 5km away, with bike rental from the station) or bus (daily except Sun). Founded in 1222 by Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, Cordes was a Cathar stronghold, and the ground beneath the town is riddled with tunnels for storage and refuge in time of trouble. As one of the southwest's oldest and best-preserved bastides, complete with thirteenth- and fourteenth-century houses climbing steep cobbled lanes, Cordes is inevitably a major tourist attraction: medieval banners flutter in the streets and artisans practise their crafts. The Musée Charles-Portal (July & Aug daily 2–6pm; 4) depicts the history of the town. Also of interest is the Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (daily: April– May & Oct 11am–12.30pm & 2–6.30pm; June– Sept 11am–12.30pm & 2–7pm; Nov– March 2–5pm; 3.50), which features works by the figurative painter Yves Brayer, who lived in Cordes from 1940. The best hotel in town is the splendid AGrand Écuyer (Tel:05.63.53.79.50, Web:
; closed mid-Oct to Easter; Price: 101-120) – from its gargoyle-studded facade to the ponderous stone of the interior, this former palace of Count Raymond VII of Toulouse is an evocative combination of medieval atmosphere and modern amenities. Just down the street, the Vieux Cordes (closed Jan; Tel:05.63.53.79.20, Web:
; Price: 41-50) is housed in a medieval building. There's also a campsite (Tel:05.63.56.11.10, Web:
); closed Oct– March) 1km southeast down the Gaillac road.