On the borders of the Corbières region, where the Pyrenean chain begins, lies a network of secret trails leading to the mysterious Cathar castles. From the 12th to the 13th centuries, Catharism was entrenched in the region, a sect that shunned conventional Christianity and materialism. The Cathar crusade against the people of Languedoc (southern France) lasted for more than forty years and effectively ended the Cathar reign. Whilst many of the castles have since been destroyed or built over, there remains a few good examples including the castle at Puivert (green peak), Chateau de Troubadours. This week long walk follows ancient trails through forests, vineyards and orchards to the medieval castles. Whilst the intrigue of the region is the secrets of the Cathar sect, the stunning scenery and interesting villages makes this a richly rewarding experience for walkers and history buffs alike.
MODERATE – GRADE 3
This is a self guided walk with average daily stages of around 5-6 hours (not including rests or visits to the castles enroute). The trip is graded moderate as the paths are well defined and generally clearly marked. There are many ups and downs as you would expect in a mountainous region, and walking poles are definitely a good idea. A good level of fitness is required and the trip is considered suitable for experienced walkers only. Map reading skills are essential and you will need to use a compass/GPS at times in order to navigate the route. As with all of our trips it is important that you are well prepared. We suggest that you undertake regular exercise – swimming, cycling, and jogging, two to three times a week for three months prior to your departure.
You will be picked up from Perpignan SNCF train station or airport and transferred to Queribus Castle, probably the best preserved of the border castles. After spending some time exploring the castle you begin the hike to Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse or nearby Rouffiac through oak forest and past small villages.
Ascend: + 300m, descend: - 500m - 10km
Accommodation: At the foot of Peyrepertuse Castle, a comfortable 2*hotel built from the local stones. The rooms are en-suite.
The day begins with a climb to the magnificent Peyrepertuse Castle, where the ruins are extensive and impressive. The route continues through the soft-leaved scrubland to the deep and spectacular Galamus gorges. Transfer to the small and pretty hamlet of La Bastide de Camps.
Ascend: + 550m, descend: - 300m , 19km
Accommodation : The guesthouse is part of a farm located right next to the famous Mount Bugarach. The rooms are simple and not en-suite,but the hostess prepares delicious dinners, mainly from the farm products. The lovely garden is her pride and joy.
Leaving your hosts you make your way by the Corbieres ridges. From the Col de Pechines (915m) there is a panoramic view of the Pyrenees. Continue on to the imposing Puylaurens Castle. Following a visit to the castle you will be transferred to Quillan.
Ascend: +1028m, descend: -956m, 18.2km
Accommodation: A guesthouse with beautiful en-suite rooms. The host cooks superb meals.
The route today takes you through farmland, ascending the Col de Brenac and village of Brenac where Petrus Amelius, a key religious figure in the 14th Century was born. Enroute to Puivert there is an option to extend your walk along a nature trail. Afternoon visit to the Puivert Castle, well known as the Troubadour castle. It was here that the 12th century poet-musicians sang the praises of new values and ideas to the villagers.
Ascend: +1012m, descend: - 825m, 16-21km
Accommodation: The guesthouse in Puyvert has a lovely garden, and you will be eating an excellent dinner, along with other guests. The rooms generally do not have toilets, but will have a basin and a shower.
Morning transfer to Montsegur where you can visit the castle (fortress) which acted as the last stronghold of the Cathars. It also holds many myths and legends. The walking route today takes you through the Mondini forest before traversing to Roquefixade via a scenic ridge. On arrival in Roquefixade you will be picked up and tranferred to St Cirac for your overnight accommodation.
Ascend: +1088m, descend: - 1246m, 17km
Accommodation: A lovely convivial guesthouse, at the edge of St Cirac, with private bathrooms. The garden has got a swimming-pool.
After a short transfer back to Roquefixade, you start your morning with a beautiful ridge hike to the Roquefixade castle. Whilst the original cliff-side castle dates back to 1109, the present-day ruins are much more modern. Continue across the limestone escarpment and along royal forest trails to the beautiful township of Foix with its imposing castle.
Ascend: +765m, descend: -1150m, 18.5km
Accommodation: A comfortable 3* hotel overlooking the Ariege river, and a 5-minute walk to the hilltop Castle of Foix. Rooms are en-suite.
There is some time in the morning to visit the Foix Castle before transferring back to Perpignan. The last major town before the Spanish border, this sunny city of palm-lined squares is quintessentially Catalan. For an idea of its prosperous past wander through the network of narrow lanes in the Saint-Jean Quarter and take in the splendour of the fourteen and fifteenth century mansions and stately homes which make up this atmospheric part of town.
Accommodation: A refined 2* hotel in a 16th century building, in the centre of the old town. The rooms feature traditional furnishings and en-suite bathrooms. Other amenities include a bar and a garden patio.
Departure from Perpignan after breakfast.
Take a taxi or local bus to SNCF bus station or airport.
Per Person, Twin Share