Pailherols is the very last village on the plateau before reaching a vast expanse of pastureland. It is famous for its Cheese Festival and its family run hotel-restaurant.
Since 2016, visitors and walkers alike can also enjoy an open-air work of art along a magnificent walking trail. This installation pays tribute to the buronniers, farmers who once used to tend to their cattle on the hillsides and make cheese in the burons, stone mountain shelters that are scattered throughout the whole area. We met up with Jean-Pierre Vazelle, a local inhabitant and one of several ambassadors working hand in hand with the team at Carladès Tourist Information Office to promote the area.
“I have always loved my little village,” Jean-Pierre Vazelle says laconically when invited to talk about the village of Pailherols and its 152 inhabitants. It is the very last village on the plateau before reaching the expanse of pastureland, which gives it a unique character. From here onwards, there’s nothing but burons until you get to Murat! ”
Every summer, Jean-Pierre regularly organizes guided tours around Pailherols. Visitors can also enjoy the famous Cheese Festival held during the first weekend in June and that perpetuates one of the only two fairs once approved by King François I. It’s an extremely popular event and welcomes up to 7,000 people. The festival provides the perfect opportunity for food-lovers to discover the summer pastureland and burons. This is also the source of inspiration for a work or art by a French artist called Camille Henrot entitled Ma Montagne. Contacted by members of a local heritage association, the Association de Sauvegarde des Burons who work to protect and restore local burons and others throughout Cantal, the work of art pays tribute to this land and its traditions.
The internationally renowned artist questioned the very last traditional cow farmers. She was touched by what they related, the difficulty they recall moving the ash fences to contain the herds of cows and their calves. “She has installed 40 abstract fences along a 10 kilometre walking trail, all painted white and that disappear against the backdrop of snow in winter.” says Jean-Pierre Vazelle. “To discover this work of art, you have to walk the trail!”
The walking trail begins in a small enclosed garden called the “Vestiaire du berger” at the entrance of the village. This marks the symbolic starting point for a climb to the summer pastureland, and the shapes represent the cow farmer’s tools and a pair of boots stands out. “These boots belong to Julou, the last cow farmer who left around the year 2000. They were so much more comfortable than the clogs that he used to wear”, says Jean-Pierre. He goes on to point out a rain hat and a traditional tool called a “tracadou”, used to separate the curd from the whey.
Never short of an anecdote or a local legend or two, Jean-Pierre also knows a thing or two about where marmots like to hide. “The walks in this area are all superb. When you make your way along the GR 465 walking trail, you can gradually see the Puy Mary and a whole range of other mountains. The best hike to do from Pailherols is the one to the Plomb du Cantal. If you leave your car at Les Fraux it will take 4 hours to get there, but the view along the ridge top is absolutely splendid.”
le 28 September 2020