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Historical and Cultural Sites of the Midi Pyrenees and Pyrenees Orientales, South-West France 2020

Languedoc - The Cathar region: Aude and Ariege


Languedoc-Roussillon Now re-named (in 2016) to the old French name of the region to 'Occitanie' (Occitania)

Much of France, especially the south-west, is a veritable treasure chest of historical and archaeological gems. From the prehistoric cave sites, to the Roman and medieval periods, one can find a plethora of intriguing and interesting sites to visit, and to unwrap the layers of history and archaeology.

The region that encompasses Languedoc-Roussillon is no exception, particularly the areas of Ariege and Aude, where one can locate the many so-called 'Cathar' sites, often perched aloft a high hill overlooking the villages.
The Cathar faith came into being around the 12th Century AD, and while Catharism spread all over France, it was in the Languedoc region it had its most popular and widest appeal.
It was especially popular amongst the peasants who liked the simple life of the priests or 'parfaits' with their lack of riches and who appreciated the fact that their teachings were given in the common language rather than in Latin.

It was Pope Innocent III who has gone down in history as having started the fight against and systematic extermination of the Cathars, making a call for a crusade against them to be led by Simon de Montfort - the only crusade ever led on Catholic lands. It commenced at Beziers on 21st July 1209 where the crusaders set fire to the city and massacred nearly all the population, almost twenty thousand. The abbot of Citeaux who was the 'spiritual' leader of the crusade was famously reported as shouting out “Kill them all, God will recognise his own”.

There are few material vestiges of the Cathars. Mainly, because they rejected and despised all material possessions, having no church buildings, no chapels, cathedrals or abbeys. Castles where Cathars sought refuge are mostly destroyed, often replaced by later French castles that are themselves in ruin. The one castle that could lay claim to being a "Cathar Castle" in the sense that it was fortified specifically to protect Cathars (Montsegur) was destroyed by the French and replaced by a new Royal castle, only the ruins of which survive.

However, there are numerous remains of castles and chateau sites that exist that are termed as 'Cathar' and the 'Cathar industry' is seemingly alive and well, and thriving today, and it these sites that will be visited on our cultural journey in June 2020.

The intention of our 'trek through history' is to demonstrate the variety and importance of these historical sites, such as the old fortress town of Carcassone, Montsegur, Roquifixade, chateau de Puivert (location set of the film 'The Ninth Gate' starring Johnny Deppe), Chateau Queribus and many more. In addition the tour will include the famous Rennes-le-Chateau, which is located about an hour's drive from our centrally based accommodation.

There are no upper age restrictions, but be advised than many of the site locations are situated on hill tops, and some hill walking on rough trails will be experienced, especially the steep ascent to Montsegur. However, all walking will be at a leisurely pace to enjoy the scenery and there will be a number of 'pit stops'.

Link here to view the gallery of a number of sites we visit on the tours

Accommodation at Auberge du Belastie

Flights to Carcassone via Ryanair

Tour details:

Price of tour to include 7 nights bed and breakfast, two evening meals, one packed lunch on Wednesday, transport in France, cost of entry to sites and guide, 1425

Does not include air fare to Carcassonne

What is included

Pick up and drop off from/to Carcassonne airport, bed and breakfast, ( including 2 evening meals) for 7 nights based on two people sharing a room daily travel to each site and guided tours, entry to all sites.

Not included - flights to/from Carcassonne, daily lunches and evening meals, except for the first and last evening meal which is included

Accommodation will be at Auberge du Balestie, near Mirepoix

Maximum of 6 to 7 people

Historical, archaeological and Cultural tour

HAC tours

No upper age restrictions, but be advised than many of the site locations are situated on hill tops, and some hill walking on rough trails will be experienced, especially the ascent to Montsegur. However, all walking will be at a leisurely pace to enjoy the scenery and there will be a number of 'pit stops'


Subject to revision and alteration.

Dates Thursday June 9 to Thursday June 16 2020

A possibility of a further tour date early July

Thursday May 21 p.m. arrive Carcassone pick up and transport to accommodation, evening meal provided

After evening meal, transport to watch the sunset at the viewpoint in Roumengoux

Friday 8am Breakfast, provided

9 am Visit to the famous Montsegur, museum, village and Chateau.

Lunch options available in the village

Evening - transport to Mirepoix the market town

Saturday 8am breakfast

Puivert Chateau, Lac Montbel and La Garde Chateau

Evening transport to Mirepoix

Sunday 8.30 breakfast

Roquifixade chateau - lunch options available in the village

PM visit to the rock church of Santa Mario Vals

Evening transport to Mirepoix

Monday Breakfast 8 am

Mirepoix market day - at leisure to stroll around this famous market town and check out the stalls

12.30 Meet up for lunch

PM Visit to Camon known as the 'Rose Village' of France.

Walk around the perimeter of Camon Chateau, now a private luxury chateau and used as a centre for wedding functions etc

Tuesday 8am breakfast

Morning at Rennes les chateau

Lunch options available at nearby town of Quillan

PM Quillan chateau

Evening Mirepoix

Wednesday Breakfast 8am

Morning Transport to the Gorge de Galamus and the rock cut 'Ermitage St. Antoine de Galamus'

Visit to Queribus Chateau - packed lunch provided

PM Lac Montbel and La Garde Chateau

Evening- Mirepoix

Thursday final day

Breakfast 8am

Morning at Carcassone - old town and historic area

Lunch options available

Afternoon - Carcassone airport for return flights

Payment and deposit:

Payments may be made either by PayPal (payable to or cheque to H.Middleton-Jones

Non refundable deposit of 250 to be paid on booking (to ensure we have the accommodation booked for the dates of the tour)

Balance of full payment to be made 12 weeks prior to departure


Our accommodation and arrangements in France have to be set up well in advance of the tours, any cancellations causes expenses and disruptions with our hosts, however, If you wish to cancel after payment has been made, please inform us by email or letter asap

Cancellation charges:

If cancelled more than 60 days prior to departure 25% of tour cost

Less than 60 days 50% of tour cost

Less than 30 days 100% of tour

Alternately, you may find another person to take your place but not less than 30 days prior to departure.

Travel insurance;

It is highly recommended you take out holiday insurance for the duration of your holiday

Under no circumstances travel against medical advice

Booking Form

Accommodation at Auberge du Belastie

All about Your guide Howard Middleton-Jones

H.A.C. Tours France Summer -May - September

Useful Information:

What to bring:

Weather - while the weather in general appears increasingly unpredictable, the Languedoc/Aude area of France is usually warm and sunny at this time of year, and often can be very hot, especially at altitude.

Bearing this in mind, it is advisable to bring suitable light clothing, preferably of cotton material:

Sun hat
Shorts, or light trousers,cotton dresses
sun-tan cream (minimum factor 30 with factor 50 for face)
Water bottle and bottle carrier, or light rucksack

Light water-proof/wind-proof jacket
Mobile phone
Walking sticks may also be useful

Foot ware

Sturdy shoes to cope with the uneven and often loose surface of the paths. Bear in mind after wet weather, stones and rock surfaces may be slippery.
Sandals or leisure shoes for evening

How difficult is the access to the sites?

A number of the site locations are perched on the summit of hills, so some moderate hill walking will be involved, with occasional short steep ascent (Montsegur). There will also be site locations which involve easy walking.

Walking pace is casual with plenty of pit stops& in order to take in the breathtaking views and opportunities to take many photographs.

More details of the sites can be found under each site description

Adequate time is allowed on the tours to visit local shops, a market and cafes/restaurants to sample the regional wines and cuisine.

For further information contact Howard Middleton-Jones