Available: April, May, June and October 2020/2021 /2022
Enjoy a 4 day cultural journey following in the footsteps of the Cathar people. You will begin in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Carcassonne, before setting off on the Cathar Way escape route into the Pyrenees. Immerse yourself in the culture and cuisine of the area, all in the company of your knowledgeable guide. The Cathars were a religious group who appeared in Europe in the eleventh century, their origins something of a mystery though there is reason to believe their ideas came from Persia or the Byzantine Empire, by way of the Balkans and Northern Italy. Records from the Roman Catholic Church mention them under various and in various places. Catholic theologians debated with themselves for centuries whether Cathars were Christian heretics or whether they were not Christians at all.
This trip long weekend trip is available in April, May, June and October 2021 and June – October in 2020. Please enquire here if you are a group or family, we run bespoke trips throughout the year guided: https://freedomtrailtreks.com/about-us-ready-to-make-your-adventure/contact-us-to-begin-your-adventure/
Cathar Exploration & Carcassonne
Duration: 3 days – 3 nights of Cathar castle visits and a chance to really explore their dramatic history. Walking 2.5 days.
About the Cathar Way:
Ariège was a stronghold of the Cathars. ‘Bonshommes’ or ‘good Christians’ was how the believers of the Cathar movement referred to themselves. But the Catholic Church thought otherwise and launched a crusade against them in 1209, followed by an Inquisition to complete the job of rooting out these ‘evil spirits’. From around 1230 to 1310 or so, countless bonshommes sought refuge in the mountains of Ariège and across the border in Spain rather than risk prison or being burned at the stake. This superb escape route follows in their footsteps as they fled persecution. Along the way you will experience a smorgasbord of culture and wine tasting, while enjoying fabulous mountain scenery.
Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defences encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral. Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, one of the founders of the modern science of conservation. A visit is a fascinating experience. In the spring there will be plenty of wildflowers, summer is warmer but should never be really hot, especially when you are in the mountains and the autumn is a fantastic time to go when the fruits are ripening and the days are still warm.
June – October 2020 and 21 (Guided) £695 / Self – Guided £575
Transfer from Carcassonne airport to the stunningly beautiful Carcassonne fortified city. Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defences encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral. Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, one of the founders of the modern science of conservation.
Set high up on a hill, Carcassonne’s ancient walled city is Disneyworld-perfect. This fairytale collection of drawbridges, towers and atmospheric cobbled streets was reputedly the inspiration for Walt Disney’s The Sleeping Beauty, and it’s a must-see on any trip through this part of southern France. Its medieval core, the cité, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997.
Although both the Romans and Visigoths were here, Carcassonne really flourished under the well-to-do Trencavel family of the late 12th century. In 1355 the lower town was burnt to the ground by the Black Prince, one of the key figures in the Hundred Years’ War of the Middle Ages, miffed at his failure to capture the citadel. Carcassonne’s key role in cross border trade with Spain, however, dried up with the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, when Roussillon was restored to France.
We stay the night in one of the following splendid options: Hotel du Pont Vieux ***, La Rapière or Hôtel Montmorency & Spa ***
Foix – Roquefixade 5hrs 30 18km, 5h30, +660m, -770m
In the morning we visit Carcassonne castle after having explored the city the previous day. There is a chance to visit the Chateau de Foix on the final day of our trip. We transfer to Foix from Carcassonne and the trail begins in the Gorge de la Frau heading towards Roquefixade and its ruined castle. At the end of the 13th century, Roquefixade became a stronghold at the end of a line of royal fortresses built along the Corbières hills, to keep watch on the territory of the Count of Foix. The keep was remodelled in the 14th century, and other alterations were made in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Our first stage brings us to Roquefixade, whose village itself already sits 700m above sea level. Perched atop an impressive 900m-high mound, the fortress of the Château de Roquefixade dates back to the 11th century and provides an exceptional 360-degree view of the pyrenees and surrounding area. This place has witnessed significant events in recent centuries, from the beheading of the Duke of Montmorency to the destruction of the castle, as ordered by Louis XIII.We will stay at the Gite d’Etape de Roquefixade. (B,L,D)
Roquefixade (720m)- Montsegeur via Montferrier (920m) 17km, 4h30, +400m, -760m
We walk towards the mythical village of Montségur. Montségur was considered the sacred heart of the Cathar region and their last stronghold, though some small remnants of the sect hid out for some time after the traumatic events at Montésegur at castles further east. The trail weaves its way to the village of Montferrier through the forest of Modini to Roquefixade, an ancient bastide of the 13th century. You’ll also enjoy an introduction to Cathar history and legend on your visit to this famous castle, before traversing the spectacular Frau gorges where the Mediterranean influence is more present.Accommodation: Hôtel Costes ** Montsegeur or Le Pèlerin twin, double or triple rooms. 3hrs 30 (B,L,D)
Transfer to Carcassonne or Toulouse Blagnac after breakfast. (B)
Night 1 Carcassonne
We will stay in one of the following excellent, elegant and charming hotels. Hotel du Pont Vieux *** La Rapiere with pool with view of Carcassonne castle or Hôtel Montmorency & Spa ***
Night 2 Gite d’etap Roquefixade
Night 3 Hôtel Costes ** or Le Pelerin Guest house Montsegeur
You can use public transport or a taxi to reach your evening destination.
Yes your luggage will be transferred and you will be just carrying your day pack with water, food, waterproofs, personal first aid kit, map and compass and GPS.
Navigation, Route Notes & Maps – for self-guided participants
Some of the walks will be way-marked with either a red and white GR sign, when on a GR Trail and some also signed with yellow signposts. However you will also need to be vigilant and be able to closely follow your route notes. We can provide you with detailed maps and GPS tracks for those who like to take a GPS.
Grade & Terrain
This tour has a moderate grading. This tour is suitable for walkers with medium to good physical fitness. There are significant elevation gains and losses on the final walk in Montségur and if it has been raining, there might be some muddy trails.