A20 exit Noailles. Near Noailles, 2 km to the south, turn left.
APR to JUN Mon-Tue, Thu-Sun 14-18, self guided.
JUL to AUG daily 9:30-13, 14-19, afternoon guided tours only.
SEP to mid-SEP Mon-Tue, Thu-Sun 14-18, self guided.
Vacances de La Toussaint: Tue, Thu 15, guided.
Last entry 1 h before closure.
Adults EUR 9, Children (4-12) EUR 5, Children (0-3) free.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 8.50, Colleges and High Schools EUR 6, Primary Schools EUR 5.
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System|
|Guided tours:||L=700 m, VR=25 m. Guided: D=60 min. Self guided: D=45 min.|
|Address:||Le Gouffre de La Fage, 19600 Noailles, Tel: +33-555-858035, Fax: +33-555-859730. E-mail:|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1890||first visited by workers from the construction of the nearby railroad tracks.|
|1891||explored by Edouard Alfred Martel.|
|1892||explored by Edouard Alfred Martel.|
|1950||cave surveyed and map published.|
Le Gouffre de La Fage (The Fage Abyss) is located on the Causse de Martel, close to the small village Noailles. There is an 25 m deep daylight shaft, which leads into the cave below. Today an iron staircase leads down the mossy pit. At the ground a passage to the south starts, which leads to a chamber which is decorated by speleothems called draperies, which are 15 m to 20 m long. At the end of the trail a collapse follows, behind which one of the most important bat hibernation locations in Europe follows. Every year 14,000 bats of 14 different species hibernate at La Fage, 10 species very regularly. 10,000 Schreiber's Minioptera stay regularly at La Fage, where they hibernate (November to March) and reproduce (May to August). Other important bat species at the cave are the greater murine with 40 cm wingspan, and the lesser horseshoe bat, one of the smallest species in France, with a weight of 5 g and 20 cm wingspan.
The visitors return to the entrance shaft, then follow the northern passage. It is full of stalactites and also has some paleontological remains. The bones, up to 400,000 years old, included mammoth tusk and molars, cervidae legs, and gastropods. Woolly rhinoceroses, megaceros, cave lions, cave bears, and mammoth are extinct now, buffalo, reindeer, wolverine, and wolf have migrated to other countries. Finally, the artificial exit of the cave is reached.
The cave was first entered by workers from the nearby railroad Brive-La Gaillarde to Cahors. In 1890 they climbed into the pit to see the cave. Probably they had the necessary equipment from their work? However, after this the locals gave a try using simple ropes, and soon local intelligentsia followed. The Messieurs Rupin, Lalande, and Valat were so impressed, they immediately told the famous French speleologist Edouard Alfred Martel who explored the cave in the two following years. Monsieur Bouthier, the owner of the cave built a wooden staircase into the cave and started tours. The light was provided by acetylene lamps, and the success was overwhelming. Because of growing visitor numbers he decided to partner with an entrepreneur and develop the cave as a show cave. The first map was published in 1950, after the cave had been surveyed.
This small cave is not as extraordinary as many other caves in France. Still it is pleasant to visit, and with the other karst related sites in the area it makes a fine day trip. La perte de La Couze (the sink of the Couze) is located near the old train station of Noailles. Here the small river vanishes completely underground, flows through a waterfilled cave system, and reappears at the Gouffre du Blagour (Abyss of Blagour), about 20 km to the south. The valley between those two points is a typical karst dry valley with great botanical value. Much of the cave system of the Couze is explored by speleologists, but it is not open to the public.
Nearby is also an important archaeological site. La grotte de "chez Serre" (Cave of the Hothouse) is known since 1880, but was first excavated by the priests Bardon and Bouyssonie in 1902. In May 1903 they discovered a sort of tool. The cave was then again excavated between 1961 and 1965 by Madame Andrieu and Monsieur Dubois. Here and in nearby Grotte de Noailles they discovered some 1,000 stone tools: 250 knifes, 212 scrapers, 51 chisels, and 214 scrapers-chisels. The technology which was used is extraordinary, small pieces of flint were combined to form bigger tools, many tools were useful for different tasks. The location is a type locale, this sort of tools which were produced about 20,000 years ago is today called Noaillian.