Have you ever thought about combining a boating and B&B holiday along the River Lot, taking in the beautiful scenery and bastide French villages, visiting the local markets, eating at gastronomical restaurants and drinking the local wine on the way? Below you will find information on the lower Lot, (from Aiguillon/Nicole to Saint-Vite, Lot-et-Garonne), along with details of a charming 17th century Maison de Maitre B&B with pool where you can stay prior to or after your boating holiday.
Information about the 75km of navigable river, (the lower section of the River Lot, France’s seventh biggest river), between Aiguillon/Nicole, (at the river’s confluence into the River Garonne) and Saint-Vite, Lot-et-Garonne, Aquitaine, SW France. Access to this beautiful and quiet waterway from the Canal de Garonne is via the lower River Baise, then a 5km section of the River Garonne and then onto the Lot.
The River Lot is currently divided into two disjointed sections – the Lower Lot, (the subject of this page) and the Upper Lot. In former times the river was navigable for hundreds of kilometres upstream eastwards towards the Massif Central but it was closed to navigation in 1926, ecluses were abandoned to decay and then two large hydro-electric power station barrages blocked all access. This situation started to change when the separated upstream Upper section was opened again to pleasure craft and then in 2002 the Lower section was re-opened following the digging of an access channel in the Garonne’s river bed and the investment of a great deal of money on two deep ecluses to one side of each barrage and the rehabilitation of the remaining smaller ecluses. Environmentalists prevented the digging of a river channel deep enough to ensure a full-season traverse of the Garonne, which means that access is often not possible during July and August. Navigation is otherwise closed between November and April.
Whether one visits for a truncated stay, nipping back across the Garonne before it gets too shallow, or whether one stays on and waits for September (or beyond), this is a very delightful waterway. It is wide, peaceful and quiet. There are many places to moor, including many with free water and electricity; there are beaches where one can swim and the river is exceptionally clean – abundant fresh water sponges are a firm indication of this. There are villages, small towns and one larger town – Villeneuve-sur-Lot. There isn’t a lot of ‘excitement’: there are very few (four) hire boats (one small hire base), which is in itself both good and bad. The drawback is that the huge investment in re-opening the Lot currently looks like a white elephant because of the lack of river tourist activity; small businesses that were initially encouraged have seen trade dwindle to nothing as two larger hire bases closed. Nevertheless, work currently proceeds to re-connect the two sections, with additional locks and biefs being reinstated downstream from Cahors/Luzech every year. One wonders if they will finally meet: when they do two superb cruising waterways will consolidate to create an exceptional, unique, resource.
Sandrahanksguidetoswfrance recommends Charlan, a 17th century bed and breakfast with pool located 2km from Aiguillon on the River Lot, exclusively for adults only. 2 Double guest rooms available with private bathrooms. A perfect opportunity to relax before your boating holiday, or unwind for a few days relaxation after your holiday at this beautiful B&B.
Charlan is located 10km from Buzet sur Baise and can also offer a 3 course dinner with local Buzet wine. Sample the wine at Charlan and then visit Les Vigneron de Buzet where you can purchase the best wine in the area!
The local supermarket, Intermarche is in Aiguillon, it is on the way to Buzet sur Baise, so perfect for purchasing your groceries prior to joining your boat. You will also find tabacs, pharmacies, banking, post office, boulangeries, tourist information centre, restaurants and bars. The village market is held on a Tuesday and Friday morning. There is a large hypermarket, LeClerc, which is located in Tonneins, 10km distance from Charlan.
- River Baise section – 1.50m minimum depth, 3.50m headroom.
- River Garonne traverse – 1.20m minimum depth, 6.00 headroom.
- River Lot – 1.50m minimum depth, 3.50m headroom. The minimum depth most particularly applies to the first 3km ‘canalet’ (canalised) section from the Garonne at Nicole to Aiguillon. Elsewhere the river is often 7m or more deep, sometimes right up close to the bank-side.
- There are, (currently), 5 smaller locks and 2 deep locks. The smaller ecluses are self-operated using a magnetic card that is provided by the eclusiere at Buzet. The card may need to be ‘jiggled’ to get it to read, or in extremis try turning the stop button a quarter-turn (anti-clockwise?) to release it. The deep locks, which each lie to one side of a hydro-electric barrage, are eclusier operated.
- Like many mountain-fed waterways, (Tarn, Garonne, Rhone, Saone), the River Lot used to be difficult – shallow and potentially impassable in summer and subject to rapid-rising, fast-moving water in winter. This is not now the case, the hydro-electric schemes provide fairly complete control, but one down-side is that when it rains very heavily in winter sluices are opened well in advance to preclude any flooding, which means that river levels can drop significantly, (although fairly slowly and steadily) and craft may be grounded for a while.
- The speed limit is 10kph, 6kph within ecluse channels. There are a number of water-skiing areas where fast(er) moving boats and their skiers must be avoided.
- In season, the two manned locks open from 09:00 to 19:00.
- The river is not part of the VNF network. No vignette need be purchased for the period of time one spends on it.
- Using a pilot-guide book is strongly recommended: Breil Guides or Fluviacarte (Navicarte) Guides.
Canal de Garonne – Buzet
A double lock leads off the canal down onto the River Baise.
River Baise – Buzet
Almost immediately after joining the Baise and heading downstream, a weir and an ecluse off to one side. Then 5km of the River Baise, thick Amazonian vegetation on both sides.
River Baise – Saint-Leger
River Garonne 5km Traverse
The trip goes past the confluence of the River Lot proper to the side canal at Nicole. There are no shops at Nicole itself, but there is the Hotel Plaisance which has a good lunchtime menu and is open from Monday to Friday. Panoramic views from the Nicole Cross.
Mooring pontoon above the ecluse and a beach by the weir. Plenty of amenities in the village.
An attractive little town. Big sandy beach below the barrage. Walk into the town by turning left above the quayside, past an historic, pretty, public spring-water source. Excellent restaurants from Pizza to Gourmet food. Carrefour supermarket, (fuel), just over the bridge. If you’re fortunate, you may get a visit from Hugh McKnight (‘Cruising French Waterways’) who lives nearby.
Very nice spot, lovely walk along the river to the attractive little village (good small supermarket and boulangerie) or why not visit the Musee du Pruneau (prune museum).
Big sandy beach opposite, pedalos and electric whale-craft in season.
Adjacent one of France’s national sports centres, specialising, (naturally) in water sports including rowing and kayaking but also a place where basketball and judo teams train and where groups of children try their hand at various activities such as having fun in optimist dinghies. The small village has a supermarket, boulangerie, bar, smart restaurant ‘La Commanderie’ and a famous aquatic plants nursery, Le Jardin des Nénuphars where Monet got his water lilies from.
First-class farm shop, visited by Rick Stein in one of his TV programmes. Very friendly and very good produce including special home-made tarts, a famed local delicacy.
Nice little village surrounded by fruit orchards, with a boulangerie-post office-bar-restaurant. Farmer’s market on Thursday evenings in the summer.
A good small town with a big market on Friday mornings.
The tiny village, (hamlet), is pretty enough but has only a farm shop.
The old part of the village follows the course of the small tributary River Lede that joins the River Lot. Ancient buildings that lean and hang over the stream.
Quiet rural location, a steep walk up to the ‘village’ (10-12 houses and a smart new coiffeur housed in a converted barn) past the little chapel. 5km cycle ride into Villeneuve, along a fairly busy road.
A large town, built new as a Bastide in the 13th century following the destruction of Pujols (its inhabitants followed the ‘wrong’ religion) on the hill about 2km away. Lots of facilities. The old town, within its old walls, is attractive and the old bridge spanning the river is memorable, with two narrow pointed arches on one side and a wider span on the other, replacing the two narrow ones that got swept away in the 17th century.
Sylvestre-sur-Lot/Port de Penne
These two villages face one another across the river. St Sylvestre is the larger of the two, with a supermarket by the river and fuel pumps closer than the shop. Very convenient, as well as being a pleasant place to stop. Port de Penne has a hire base. Above Port de Penne lies the pretty bastide hill village of Penne, (there is also a railway station nearby) and above the village is the landmark 100 year old basilica (Notre-Dame de Peyragude Basilica (Sanctuary) – it’s silver (aluminium) clad domed roof can be seen sparkling for kilometres.
A car journey beyond Saint-Sylvestre, near Fumel, lies the stunning Chateau de Bonaguil, just about everyone’s romantic notion of what a castle should look like and very well worth seeing.
A memorable location – a beautiful restored former mill building, a large chateau and a pretty, small, village (no facilities but there are some at Trentels, a kilometre walk away). A place to linger and reflect.