Aubrac, the land of knives

The Aubrac region of France: where the craft industry is elevated to an art. 


The Aubrac plateau, and more specifically the village of Laguiole, have lent their name to one of the most emblematic products in French tableware: Laguiole knives.

 

Vaches en Aubrac "When they leave home to go far away, some people take a little soil with them in their handkerchief. The people of the Aveyron are much cleverer than that. Around 1850, when they left for Paris or for the Americas, they placed in their handkerchiefs the most fabulous talisman, their infallible lucky charm - their Laguiole knife."

 

When the farmers of the Aubrac plateau - the cowherds and the Laguiole's very first clients - needed an awl to work the leather for their straps and harnesses, it was added to the Laguiole knife.

In Paris, bars and restaurants became the major new employers of people from the Aveyron. But the workers didn't need to carry a corkscrew to open their bottles - it was incorporated into their Laguiole knife.

Aubrac: where the cows have the best quality horns. And where the craft industry is elevated to an art.

 A knife served on a plateau

The Aubrac region is a plateau of basalt and granite situated in the départements of Aveyron, Lozère and Cantal, at an average altitude of 1000 metres.

 

The plateau is arid, almost austere at first sight, and covers an area of 1300 km2. Yet its soil is rich with thousands of plants, and its undulating and slightly steep surface changes according to the seasons. It is also rich in wildlife. With the Aubrac plateau before you, beneath a changing sky, it's a place to escape to, a place of contemplation that fills you with abundance.

Just follow the  « drailles », the rocky shelves that criss-cross it, to take in the atmosphere. Or roam the dense forests of beech and oak planted in the foothills, above the valleys of the Lot and La Truyère, the home of stags and deer that you hear bellowing at the end of September. You can then walk alongside the  « boraldes », narrow streams that wind their way playfully across the landscape, before discovering the peatland, an ancient repository of time. Following routes taken for centuries by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, there is nothing more peaceful for the soul.
 

 

If you were to plan the ideal trip to the Aubrac, it would have to take in all the seasons. At the end of spring, when the narcissus cover the landscape in a carpet of undulating white; the gentians, the Aubrac tea plant, rowan trees, the colored blooms of thousands of flowers that have found the ideal flowerbed, unique in Europe. In summer the grass turns brown, the daffodils vie with the sun to provide the brightest glare, the sky becomes an intense blue and native rarities such as orchids appear. 

In autumn, when the bright colours fade but the landscape gains a coat of varying shades of brown, mushrooms of many varieties spring up. In winter, winds from all directions interact playfully with a peaceful carpet of snow that envelops the Aubrac, covering it up for a long night's sleep. Here the spectacle of mirrors and reflections between sky and snow provide a constant picture, between a foggy rumbling and pure white tranquility. You'll no doubt bump into the queens of the region, the brown cows with their gentle eyes. You can rest in a buron, traditional barns where cheese is made, and where you'll be served the famous aligot, a local dish. You can also take in the Picades lake, the dôme d’Aubrac with its improbable forests, venture across deserted expanses and follow the tracks of the legendary beast of the Gévaudan.

The Aubrac is a land of contrasts, a holy place, an alto braco as it was called by the monks who were the pioneers of the region. A place for discovering a historic corner of France with its rich traditions, spectacular landscapes and typical gastronomy. And home of the symbolic Laguiole knife, steeped in the history of the Aubrac region.