The Old Mills of South West France

A maybe less known and visited, but by no means less interesting, tourist attraction of the south west France is formed by the chain of water and wind mills scattered all over the region.
Visiting the old mills of the south west regions of France can be an interesting tour idea (especially by bike!).
Not in use anymore, the mills are decorating the hills and rivers of the French countryside, testimony to the life the way it was in century past.
Many mills are restored to their original shape and are functioning mostly for history educational purposes by local associations created around them – usually called “friends of the mill”. The mills form now a part of the local heritage.
Each year two events are dedicated to the mills and their related trades in May and June: the “European Day of Mills” in May and “France’s Countryside Heritage and Mill Days” held in June (June 15th, 16th 2013).
A little bit of history
Historically the watermills were the first ones invented. They appeared around the 3rd century BC in Greece. The water powered grinding technology was developed later by Romans who built true watermill complexes – the biggest of which that can still be seen being the Barbegal aqueduct and mill located on the territory of the commune of Fontvieille, near the town of Arles, in southern France. The complex has been referred to as “the greatest known concentration of mechanical power in the ancient world”.
The windmills were invented also by Greeks but in the 1st century AD. Traditionally they were used –as were the watermills – for grains grinding but throughout the centuries their use extended to water pumping for drainage of for bringing ground water to the surface.
The first windmill of France recorded by the archives is that of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte in Normandy. It dates from 1180.
At the peak of their times, before the advent of the technological revolution, there was an estimated number of 200,000 wind-powered mills in Europe compared with 500,000 watermills.
Touring the mills around Toulouse
Around Toulouse one can visit at least 4 beautifully preserved mills.

  • The watermill of Saint Orens (Quint Cayras)(on the east side of Toulouse). The attractiveness of this mill that is not in function anymore is … the enthusiasm of its current owner that not only lives in the house above the river but opens it each Sunday from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6pm and shares with the visitors her outstanding knowledge of region’s mill history. The Quint Cayras watermill dates from the early 17th century. Toulouse Quint-Cayras Watermill /li>
  • The Montbrun Lauragais windmill dates from 1680 and is listed as a Historic Monument. The windmil’sl high location offers a beautiful panorama of the surrounding Lauragais region up to the Montagne Noire range.
    The windmill is open to the public from mid-July to late August every Thursday (4:30 pm-7pm) and Sunday (3pm-7pm) and some Sundays from May to September. It is open to groups all year by reservation. It offers flour making demonstrations, exhibitions, books etc. Phone: 05 34 66 25 94Montbrun Lauragais Windmill
  • Nailloux Colaursud windmill – with its 6 sails and red painted walls it is the most flamboyant of all the old mills. It is open Saturday and Sundays from 11am to 1pm and from 2pm to 6pm. Phone: 05 34 66 97 98Nailloux 6 sails windmill
  • Saint Lys Windmill called also the mill of “Bélard” from the name of its last miller dates from 1626. It is wonderfully restored and recreates in front of its visitors the work of wheat grinding as it was done in ancient times.
    Saint Lys Windmill
    Saint Lys Windmill

    Can be visited entrance free: each Sunday from 3pm to 6 pm from June to September and from 2:30pm t 5:30pm from October to May. Web site:

Other mills in Haute-Garonne department of Toulouse:

  • Saint Beat village windmill, in the heart of the Pyrenees Mountains. The mill is entirely renovated and displays also a collection of 19th century cooking utensils. For opening hours contact the Tourist Office at: +33 (0)5 61 79 45 98
  • Brignemont village windmill – The mill built in 1740 is listed as a historic monument. For more information go to its: web site
  • Montesquieu Volvestre watermill built in 1450. For more info contact Mr. MEDALE at: 05 61 90 40 16
Lauragais region of south west France
Lauragais region of south west France
Montbrun Lauragais Village
Miller’s Tools
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