Tour description provided by World Expeditions
Walking in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this trip delves into the rich history of the area, following the tragic fate of the Cathar heretics, whose "Perfects" or priests were burned at the stake or driven into hiding. As well as its rich and evocative historical heritage, the area offers outstanding scenery, wild flowers and birdlife. Highlights include the Cathar Castle circuits of Roquefixade and Montségur in the foothills near Foix, Puivert Castle (Aude), and castle circuits of Peyrepertuse and Quéribus through the maquis and vines of the Corbières. There will be ample opportunity to enjoy the fruits of the terroir with a wide selection of wines, cheeses, charcuteries and fine local dishes. Based in three charming hotels allows us to fully delve into the Cathar Country of the Foix, Aude Valley and Corbières areas of Southern France.
6 breakfasts, 6 picnic lunches and 4 dinners
6 nights in typical 2-3 star hotels on a twinshare basis with ensuite facilities
Transport to and from the hikes
Transfer to and from toulouse train station
Qualified, experienced, bilingual (english and french) mountain leader, with a detailed knowledge and passion for this area and its history, who will be your guide for the whole week.
Entrance to all historic sights on the itinerary
Day 1 Arrive Toulouse and transfer mid afternoon to Foix
Your guide will meet you in Toulouse at the SNCF train station at 15.00, and then you'll head to the historic town of Foix, arriving at 17.30 in time for a quick walk around the town. We'll check in to a traditional, family run, 3 star hotel.
Our hotel for the first two nights is in the historic centre of Foix, with its winding streets, churches, castle and shops. We’ll enjoy a generous evening meal and breakfast at hotel, eating good down-to-earth French cooking, with a wide range of good local wines on offer. The hotel’s restaurant has views over river Ariège.
Day 2 Roquefixade castle, using a circular ridge route (5hrs)
Today we take a superb off-the-beaten-track circuit on the limestone ridges of the Plantaurel hills, taking in the evocative ruins of Roquefixade castle which towers directly over the untouched mediaeval village.
We enjoy wide views over the Pyrenean foothills including the famous Montségur castle and the snowy peaks of the main range. This area has great wild flowers in the spring with one of France's highest counts of orchids and Pyrenean mountain flower. We should also see some of the region’s many bird species.
Today we’ll walk for up to 5 hours, with a maximum ascent and descent of 450m. After the walk we'll spend a second night in Foix.
Day 3 Short transfer then hike to Montségur (5hrs)
From Foix we transfer east to Sougraigne stopping to hike to the top of the famous Montségur. We will take the traditional northern approach through the woods, far from the tourist trail.
Montségur is the most famous of the Cathar sites, a fortified hill that ended in a siege and tragedy. Today we’ll start at the valley bottom and take the route that the army of Louis IX took in 1243 when the long siege began.
We’ll have unbeatable views to the peak and the castle itself, while we learn why and how this bloody moment in the French Midi’s history occurred.
The final ascent to the castle is a stepped approach and we will then enter the site. The views and the atmosphere of this special place make the effort worthwhile.
Our hike today is up to 5 hour, with just over 700 metres of ascent and descent.
We’ll then check in to our charming and tasteful 2-star hotel in the small, unspoilt village of Sougraignes, in the heart of Cathar country. We’ll share a lovely evening meal with tasty local produce and breakfast, all served at the hotel.
Day 4 Explore the limestone labyrinth and Puivert Castle (4.5hrs)
Today we’ll explore the limestone plateau between the old village of Nébias and Puivert castle before heading in to Puivert’s “Castle of the Troubadours”.
We’ll enjoy the natural, wooded maze of rock on the limestone plateau and maybe even get lost – together! If we find our way out, we’ll enjoy a quiet forest trail, rich in wild boar and deer, which takes us to Puivert Castle.
The castle houses entrancing sculptures of musicians playing medieval instruments and once again, the views from the top make it all worthwhile.
We’ll walk for about 4h30 today with a 200m ascent, before spending another night in Sougraigne.
Day 5 Visit on foot Puilaurens Castle, the Gorges de St Jaume, Fenouillet castle and Galamus gorges (3.5hrs)
Our journey continues east to the Corbières region, taking in sights such as castles, gorges and hermitages clinging to rocky edges.
We’ll begin today with a visit to Puilaurens Castle. This is a fine example of a royal French castle built in the 13th century to protect the southern marches of the newly-French Midi region.
Further East, we enjoy a circuit through the gorges of St Jaume, where you'll notice the change to Mediterranean vegetation. We’ll continue upwards to the ruined fortified village of Fenouillet, with its three separate watch towers.
If time allows, we'll also visit the spectacular gorges of Galamus with its hermitage built into the flank of sweeping rock faces, before reaching our hotel in Duilhac.
Our pleasant and peaceful 2-star hotel for the final two nights is in the very pretty Corbières village of Duilhac. We’ll eat breakfast at the hotel and our dinners in local restaurants with great food and wines.
We’ll walk for a maximum of 3h 30 hours today with an ascent and descent of 400m.
Day 6 Explore the woodlands of Corbières and Peyrepertuse Castle (5hrs)
Leaving our hotel on foot, we’ll enjoy the rich Mediterranean landscapes of the Corbières hills and then head up to the majestic Peyrepertuse Castle.
Today we’ll notice the distinctive change in the landscape and environment, as we enter the Mediterranean Pyrenean foothills. Near the village of Rouffiac we’ll do an enjoyable, though rather tough climb and traverse through bouldery woods.
We’ll then be rewarded with the sight of the majestic Peyrepertuse castle as seen from the northern, traditional approach.
This immense mountaintop fortification includes two keeps, two chapels, rambling ramparts and, of course, splendid views.
We’ll descend through the maquis, which is a blaze of flowers in spring, to Duilhac and our hotel.
Walking for a maximum of 5hours, with an ascent and descent of 550m.
Day 7 Queribus Castle and return to Toulouse (4hrs), trip concludes
Your final morning is a short walk and visit to Queribus Castle. We'll then head to Toulouse, stopping off en-route for a picnic, before arriving at Toulouse Train Station mid-afternoon.
From the charming village of Cucugnan, we hike through the vines and woods up to the last of the fortifications to fall to the French. It was only in 1255 that Queribus was taken and this sealed the fate of the Midi. Today it's a superb, compact little castle with views way out to the Mediterranean and the Spanish border. During the afternoon, we’ll drive back to Toulouse, to your drop-off point. We’ll do a maximum of 4 hours walking, with an ascent and descent of 400m.