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Cathare Castles, Canal du Midi and much more…

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Situated in the heart of the Limoux wine region and surrounded by mountainous terrain, Roquetaillade is a charming unspoiled medieval hill-top village with narrow streets and almost all houses made of local stone. From the church, which is one of the highest points of the village, you can enjoy far reaching views over the vineyards with the Domain du Moulin nesting near the bottom of the valley.


Famed for the longest carnival in Europe and its excellent sparkling wine “Blanquette de Limoux” which is produced using the Champagne process. Cooking fans should earmark Fridays, the market day, with many delicious local products on sale. Limoux also has a good range of shops and restaurants and a very nice square that invites to chill with a drink..


With its 3 kilometres of ramparts and its 52 towers, the high town of Carcassonne, situated on the left bank of the River Aude, is the largest fortified city in Europe! Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it is one of the most visited locations in France. This fantastic castle inspired Walt Disney and was used in many films including Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood”. Inside La Cité there are many medieval buildings but sadly most of them are now shops or restaurants. The least spoiled are the perimeter walls and indeed worth a tour with its views over Carcassonne and the countryside.

The Canal du Midi

Designed in the 17th century by Pierre-Paul Riquet, the Canal du Midi, which has 64 locks interspersed along its length of nearly 240 kilometres, flows from Toulouse in Haute-Garonne to Thau Lake, near Sète, in the Hérault. This colossal construction made a link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and required the work of 12,000 men over fifteen years, from 1666 to 1681. Today it is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and is an unmissable tourist destination, great for exploration as well as relaxation, whether by boat or travelling along the charming, shady banks: canal boat cruises through the locks, romantic strolls by the waterside, or bicycle rides along the towpath…we like to enjoy a drink on its bank in Homps!


With its cathedral and many more historic sites Toulouse has a very pretty city centre with beautiful parks, flea markets and designer shops. So nice that you could get carried away and not have enough money left to try one of the many inviting restaurants. On the outskirts of Toulouse is the famous Space Museum – entertainment and education for budding astronauts of all ages.


The main attractions in Narbonne are conveniently situated close together in the centre of town, in and around the the Place de l’Hotel de Ville. They include the Bishops Palace and the Cathedral. Nice shops, an attractive area around the cathedral full of cafés, the Canal du Midi (Canal de la Robine at this point) running through the centre of the town and a whole selection of beautiful buildings with interesting architectural features make Narbonne well worth a visit. The market hall is a very animated spot for having lunch!


The bastide town of Mirepoix was rebuilt in the 13th century following a flood. From its medieval past it has preserved a 14th-century fortified gate and a stunning market square surrounded by beautiful half-timbered houses whose first floors jut out over the square creating an arcaded walkway below. The café terraces, shops and traditional market on Monday mornings make it a lovely spot to visit. Make sure you stop and admire the old facade of the Maison des Consuls for its typical medieval wood carvings.


Minerve is positioned on a rock at the confluence of two rivers, the Brian and the Cesse, creating the impression of a peninsula. So the houses are perched on their rocky spur and when seen from above, appear to be suspended in space. It’s no surprise that Minerve is listed among the most beautiful villages of France! Make sure to go down into the river bed and admire the two natural tunnels carved by the River Cesse.


Nestling at the heart of the Corbières, the picturesque village of Lagrasse, classed amongst the most beautiful in France, makes a lovely picture, with its old humpback bridge over the Orbieu, its medieval houses, the remains of ancient ramparts and its abbey overlooked by an imposing bell tower. Before visiting the Abbey of St Mary of Orbieu, take a stroll in the medieval town, a place full of charm, where you can admire an old 14th-century covered market with stone pillars, art and craft shops, and a Gothic church listed as a Historic Monument.

Saint Hilaire

The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Hilaire is located in the picturesque valley of Lauquet. Occupying a dominant position in the heart of the ancient medieval fort of Saint-Hilaire, this monastery is organized around its Gothic cloister. It is here that in 1531, the monks invented the first sparkling wine in the world, Blanquette.


Rennes-le-Chateau is a very small hill top village enjoying splendid views all around. It is where history meets mystery. Rennes-le-Château’s fame rests on a chapter that began in 1885 with the arrival of a new poor village priest, Father Bérenger Saunière. Between 1886 and his death in 1917, Father Saunière would not only completely renovate the village church of St Mary Magdalene and its presbytery, but buy up the land directly adjacent and build a smart new villa and Gothic Revival tower, create a panoramic terrace and lay out formal gardens.


Renowned for the benefits of its spring water, the charming medieval village of Alet-les-Bains has beautiful stone and timber-framed houses, as seen in the picturesque square, the Place de la République. In a corner house stayed Nostradamus for a while. Not far from there stand the remains of an ancient Benedictine monastery, which was founded in the 9th century. Close by you can find La Buvette, an enchanted garden in an ancient seminary with shady trees and romantic pond. They serve drinks and snacks.


Beziers is dominated by the Cathedral of St. Nazarius, built in the 13th century. To admire a breathtaking view of the whole of Béziers and the Orb river and plain, head to the Bishop’s Palace Garden (Jardin de l’Évêché) downhill from the cathedral. Take a stroll in the city centre along its cobbled, narrow streets and visit Allées Paul-Riquet, a pleasant avenue lined with plane trees, shops and lively cafés.


The pearl of the Vermillion Coast, the little town of Collioure, praised by painters, makes an incredibly picturesque, enchanting scene…It is a picture postcard place, with its royal castle by the sea, its port with local boats, its small pebbly beaches, its café terraces, the old town with its coloured façades and its emblematic pink-domed bell-tower! A wonderful scene which you can admire from the chapel of Saint-Vincent Island, from the esplanade at the foot of the château or again from the edges of the Palms gardens.

Some of the villages not to be missed

Bages and Gruissan – the most romantic villages close to Narbonne.

Montagne la Clape – just beautiful rugged landscape, rocks and vineyards.

The Cathar castles

Refusing the Old Testament, the authority of the Pope and the Catholic church, Catharism was a dissident religion that stirred up south-western France until the mid-18th century. Siege warfare and battles of nerves took place in Toulouse and the Pyrénées.

Most of the cathar castles occupy spectacular sites and are perched high on top of rocky mountains with breathtaking views. Peyrepertuse is the biggest and best preserved castle and Lastours the most stunning.

Montsegur castle, the symbol of Cathar resistance built at the start of the 13th century, was once a refuge for Cathars hunted down by the Inquisition. The stronghold was besieged for 10 months before being taken by the royal army in March 1244, the month of the Prat dels Cremats (“field of the burned”) tragedy when 225 Cathars who had refused to renounce their faith perished on a funeral pyre.

The Pyrenees

Marking the border between France and Spain, these spectacular mountains can be enjoyed at any season. Our nearest ski resort is just one hour away. There are many natural parks, activities abound and the places to visit here are too numerous to mention.

The Mediterranean

With its endless beaches is just over an hour away. Some of the beaches appear to have indeed no end. Our favourite is La Franqui with pine trees reaching almost to the sea, its lagoon and little beach houses.

Etang de Bages-Sigean – Along this lagoon of great natural beauty the pitoresque villages Bages and Peyriac de Mer are located as well as the safari park of Sigean. It is also the home of flamingos and many other bird species that can be observed on various walks, one even on a boardwalk across the water!

Gorges and caves

There are many to explore in the Languedoc. One of the most impressive of the gorges is the ‘Gorges de Galamus’.

The Galamus gorges extend over 3 km, a spectacular natural site with vertiginous limestone cliff faces! Carved out over time by the tumultuous waters of the Agly, this protected area can be admired from the narrow road which runs along the gorges, in all its beauty… As photogenic a place as you could hope to find, which you can admire from a specially created belvedere, the Hermitage of St Anthony of Galamus clings to a cliff overlooking the Agly.

Between April and September, the Galamus gorges, with their little waterfalls and pools, are particularly good for canyoning.

In the summer, when the gorge road becomes busy, a system of alternating traffic is in place, to make it easier and safer to cross it. There are also electric shuttle buses (Diablines) which go from Cubières-sur-Cinoble and Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet.

Niaux caves (Les Grottes de Niaux), famous for their Magdalenian era rock paintings, lie in the Vicdessos valley, 7 kilometres from Tarascon-sur-Ariège. A guided tour takes visitors through 800 metres of underground cave system, passing through the Salon Noir, a natural rotunda whose walls are decorated with around 100 animal illustrations. These black line paintings are over 12,000 years old and depict large prehistoric mammals such as bison, horse, deer and ibex. They form an exceptional and incredibly well-preserved collection.

You are strongly advised to book entrance tickets in advance as the visitor numbers are limited for conservation reasons.

Prehistoric Aude

This area of Aude is rich in prehistoric fossils. In Espéraza is an excellent Dinosaur Museum (next to the Hat Museum) where you can see many fossils and reconstructions of local finds. There are often school trips organised to look for fossils in the disused quarry next to Domaine du Moulin.

Grotte de Niaux is said to have the best prehistoric paintings after the Grotte de Lascaux and the Prehistoric Parc nearby illustrates the practicalities of prehistoric life to small and grown up children in a beautifully landscaped parc.

Wine tasting

Languedoc-Roussillon is the single biggest wine-producing region in the world, being responsible for more than a third of France’s total wine production. Adopting New World techniques, there are some splendid wines to be found in this area. If wine is your thing, then a little homework before your visit will pay dividends, as there is so much to choose from and never enough time.


Some French markets with local products and an atmosphere thick with tradition…
Sunday – Esperaza
Monday – Mirepoix
Tuesday – Limoux, night market in July and August
Wednesday – Quillan
Thursday – Carcassonne
Friday – Limoux
Saturday – Quillan, Gruissan, Carcassonne
The market hall in Narbonne is open daily until 1pm


Jump back to Culture

For the more energetic amongst you there are many exciting activities and sports available in the area. Below is a list of some of them…

Mediterranean Sea

With its endless beaches, it is just over an hour away. Some of the beaches appear to have indeed no end. Our favourite is La Franqui with pine trees reaching almost to the sea, its lagoon and little beach houses.

There are several beautiful lakes in our area where you can enjoy all sorts of watersports for example in Arques, lac Montbel, lac du Bugarach and lac de Cavayère in Carcassonne.


Situated close to the medieval town, the Carcassonne Golf Club (30km) well deserves its reputation as a course of international standard. Even the most experienced and demanding players will be seduced by the exceptional quality of it’s fairways and the speed of it’s greens. The course has been created using and respecting the manual rolling relief of the terrain, designed with elegance and balance, the magnificent panoramic views giving an extra pleasure and delight. Its 18 holes totalling 5800 meters, with a par of 71, are open all year round.

Canoeing, White Water Rafting & Canyoning

There are canoe and kayak rental places in Limoux and Alet-les-Bains. White water rafting can be undertaken between Axat and Quillan about 45 minutes away.

A stunning experience is canyoning in the Gorges de Galamus where one can swim in the stream, jump into natural pools and slide down small waterfalls. It is easy enough also for young children and some more mature visitors.


Marking the border between France and Spain, these spectacular mountains can be enjoyed at any season. Our nearest ski resort is just one hour away. There are many natural parks, activities abound and the places to visit here are too numerous to mention.

There are also many easy walks locally. Our area is also very popular with cyclist. The tour de France passes through regularly.


There is a club in Carcassonne, open every day for everyone from 7 years


In the Gouffre de Cabrespine, one of the world’s biggest caves open to the public, one can take part in a 5 hour underground safari./

More swimming

There are several beautiful lakes in the area where you can enjoy all sorts of watersports for example in Arques, lac Montbel, lac du Bugarach and lac de Cavayère in Carcassonne.