Mont-de-Marsan and Armagnac

The Best is at the Heart of the Landes

Nestled between the vast pine forest and the nearby hills of Chalosse, this is a land full of contrasts, where lifestyle, nature, heritage, culture and gastronomy all blend together in a charming way. It stretches from the shores of the Midouze to the castles and estates of Bas-Armagnac, where one of the most famous eaux-de-vie in the world has been produced for centuries.

From Tartas to Parleboscq

Tartas, situated along the Midouze

The first stop is in Tartas, one of the oldest cities in Gascony. This large town straddling the Midouze river is divided between the pleasant quays and banks of the lower town and the heritage of the upper town: visit the Maison de Jeanne d’Albret from the early 17th century and the church of Saint-Jacques, with its sumptuous interior decoration. At the northern exit of the village, the Ous Pins riding centre is a national reference in eventing but also the starting point for many horse rides for all levels and all year round. In July and August, you can also canoe down the calm waters of the Midouze from Tartas. A real get-away.


Mont-de-Marsan, the town of art and celebration

Mont-de-Marsan is a town on a human scale. It is warm and festive, especially in July during the Arte  Flamenco festival and the Fêtes de la Madeleine, the two major events of the year. The rest of the time, the heart of the city beats along the banks of the Midouze River, with its bars and restaurants, such as the Villa Mirasol, an elegant residence built in 1912 and transformed into a 4-star hotel and gourmet restaurant. A little further on is Les Clefs d’Argent, one of the five-star restaurants in the department. The “city of three rivers” also has a rich medieval heritage, of which the Lacataye keep is the highlight. This 15th century building houses the Musée Despiau-Wlérick, one of the main sculpture museums in France. Numerous works also decorate the streets and squares of the city. Mont-de-Marsan is an ideal base for nature activities in the surrounding area: a bike ride on the Marsan and Armagnac cycle path, canoeing along the Midouze river, pony trekking in the Nahuques wildlife park, unless you prefer to take a dip at the Marsan Leisure Centre.

Fêtes de la Madeleine

Grenade-sur-l'Adour, the bastide by the riverside

Before setting foot in the land of Armagnac, take a short detour through the village of Grenade-sur-l’Adour, a 14th century English bastide which controlled the passage of the river Adour. The central square of Tilleuls, where three weekly markets are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, is overlooked by the two bell towers of the church of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul and lined with shelters and galleries that house cafés and shops. All around, small picturesque streets recall the old fortifications: Rue des Remparts, Rue des Anciens Fossés, Rue du Chemin de Ronde, along which beautiful half-timbered facades are lined up.
 On the other side of the Adour, at Larrivière-Saint-Savin, stands the Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Rugby and its small adjoining museum, while to the north of Grenade-sur-l’Adour, at Bascons, the Landes bullfights are celebrated in a chapel and museum.

Église Saint-Savin-Notre-Dame-du-Rugby
Church Saint-Savin-Notre-Dame-du-Rugby

Hontanx and its Tuscan atmosphere

The entrance to this single-street bastide is through an ancient, fortified gate reminiscent of a Tuscan campanile, with its machicolation and wooden hoarding which houses the bells of the church of St. Martin, just a few metres away. A little further on in the village is the 12th century Saint-Blaise chapel, just next to the Château d’Aon, a 13th century fortified house with an imposing, austere appearance, now converted into accommodation, with catering and entertainment. It overlooks the Grand Etang, on the banks of which there is a 14th century mill, a fishery and the Nasses bridge, built in the 15th century in freestone, in the purest Romanesque style. There are three walking trails, starting from the village square, to discover the surrounding area.


Arthez-d'Armagnac and the Domaine d'Ognoas

To discover all the secrets of Armagnac, head for the Domaine Départemental D’Ognoas Ognoas, in Arthez-d’Armagnac. On the way, stop off at the Château de Ravignan, in the hamlet of Perquie, which houses artefacts from the military, commercial and religious epics of the De la Croix de Ravignan family, and where a famous Armagnac is still produced. At the Domaine d’Ognoas, a guided tour leads to the ancient wine storehouse where the oldest still in Gascony (1804), listed in the register of Historic Monuments, stands. Here you can feel the spirit of Armagnac, learn how to taste the precious beverage and even stay in one of the estate’s farmhouses. Ognoas is also the starting point for several hikes. On the way back, a stop in Villeneuve-de-Marsan is a must, for a drink on a terrace, to enjoy the market on the village square, to stock up on Landes products at the producers’ shop Ô Champs. Or all three at once!

Alambic Domaine Ognoas

Roquefort, the millenary town

An essential stopover for pilgrims on the Vézelay route, the church of Sainte-Marie de Roquefort, built in the 12th century from local limestone, is one of the most remarkable in the region. It overlooks a rocky spur at the foot of which the Estampon and the Doulouze rivers meet. Their banks are the perfect place for a stroll. Visitors can also discover the medieval remains of this pleasant bastide, its ramparts, towers, alleyways, squares, old market halls, houses and mansions, and the old prison. On Saturday, market day, the stalls line up along the avenue leading to the bullfighting arenas, which were built entirely of wood in the early 1950s. Before leaving Roquefort, don’t miss a visit to Marc Darroze’s Espace Découverte, with its collection of 200 Armagnacs, a tasting area and shop. Another stop is highly recommended near Retjons, to discover the 13th century frescoes in its small Romanesque chapel, isolated in the middle of nature.


Saint-Justin, the gourmet destination

The bastide of Saint-Justin, founded in the 13th century, has retained its beautiful arcaded square and half-timbered houses typical of the bastides of the South-West, as well as three octagonal defence towers, a flower-filled parapet walk along former ramparts and a peculiar prison. This is a lovely place for a stroll through the narrow streets, along the Heritage Trail or past the terraces of cafés and restaurants. To the east of the village stands Château de Fondat, a 17th century Renaissance-style building with picturesque charm, nestled in the heart of a park housing an exceptional collection of rare trees, including a gigantic Zelkova elm, classified as a Remarkable Tree in France.

Saint Justin Mairie

Labastide-d'Armagnac, the jewel of Gascony

This town is the jewel of the Landes and one of the most beautiful villages in France. Labastide-d’Armagnac shows off its unspoilt grace around its central square with half-timbered houses, columns and arcades and the imposing fortress-church that crowns the town. Savour this atmosphere at one of the terraces, unless you prefer to go to the Tortoré, a few streets away, a café opened in 1885 which is worth the detour as much for its character as for Colette, the inimitable owner. Artists’ studios and curiosities line the medieval streets, like the Protestant temple built in 1607, now transformed into an exhibition space. Labastide-d’Armagnac is also a member of the worldwide Cittaslow network, cities where people take the time to live! At the exit of the village in the direction of the Gers, stands the Chapelle des Cyclistes, a national temple dedicated to bicycle lovers, which houses many champions’ jerseys.

Armagnac en fête

Gabarret and Escalans, located at the heart of Armagnac

On the way to Gabarret, a stopover Mauvezin-d’Armagnac is a must. A discreet single-street bastide in the heart of the vineyards, straight out of a cloak and dagger film. Gabarret is the last large Landes town on the borders of the Gers and Lot-et-Garonne, and is also the starting point of the Voie verte du Marsan et de l’Armagnac cycle path, which leads to Mont-de-Marsan and the gateway to the Scandibérique trail in the Landes. Visit its colourful bullfighting arenas, the country racecourse and Maison du Gabardan, the last medieval residence in the village, which today houses the tourist office and an exhibition and sales area for crafts, wine and fine food.
 In the small village of Escalans, just a few kilometres away, stands the proud silhouette of the Château de Caumale, with its five imposing towers, and the Château de Buros, with a bistro-restaurant, 3-star accommodation and estate, home to a bull farm raising animals for Landes bullfighting.


Parleboscq, the village with seven churches

To complete this journey through the Landes Armagnac region, set off to discover Parleboscq, a village with no fewer than seven churches. Sarran, Saint-Martin d’Espérous and Saint-Cricq are the most remarkable. A hiking trail takes you through vineyards, agricultural estates, ponds and oak groves. Another church, Laballe, belongs to the winery of the same name. A splendid château where the eighth generation of descendants of the Laudet family perpetuates a love affair with Armagnac that began two centuries ago, in 1820, by their ancestor Jean-Dominique. Just a short distance away, the Château de Lacaze, a recently renovated 16th century building, has a cylindrical keep-tower behind its five-storey crenelated turrets.