Cycle along the Canal du Midi with a Cicerone guide

Cover of Cycling the Canal du Midi
14 Nov 2012
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
1st Published
18 Feb 2009
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Cycling the Canal du Midi

Across southern France from Toulouse to Sète

by Declan Lyons
Book published by Cicerone Press

An essential guidebook for anyone cycling the Canal du Midi, southern France. Information is also given on short detours to sights close to the canal, and longer outings into the surrounding countryside. The Canal du Midi meanders through lush countryside rich in history and offers flat, car-free paths, ideal for anyone planning a cycling holiday.

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Size: 17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
Weight: 240g

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Cycling the Canal du Midi is a handy pocket-sized guidebook to cycle touring along the Canal du Midi in the sunny Languedoc region of southern France.

Cars are excluded from most of the towpath; roads are rural and relatively free of traffic. Plane trees shade most of the Canal’s length, giving some protection from the summer’s sun and shelter in wetter weather.

It is easy to divide the cycle into manageable stages. There are plenty of stopping points, allowing you to pace yourself. Fresh water and accommodation are readily available close to the Canal du Midi. Those looking for a greater challenge can make excursions into nearby mountains or explore forest and marsh tracks.

Those planning a week-long cycling holiday should concentrate on the main canal and some of the short detours. Reasonably fit cyclists should be able to complete the canal and the excursions in two weeks.

UNESCO declared the Canal du Midi a World Heritage Site in 1996.

  • ideal for anyone planning a cycling holiday, English-speaking residents of the region who want to explore or anyone passing through on the canal who wants to stretch their legs a little by bike
  • describes the main canal (240km) and its Narbonne extension (37km), with excursions to the Cathar strongholds of Minerve and Lastours, the canal’s water source in the Montagne Noire and the lagoons and marshes in the Aude and Orb delta
  • highlights the attractions of cities and towns along the Canal du Midi such as Toulouse, Carcassonne, Beziers and Sète, and gives practical information about accommodation, cycle shops, markets and festivals along the route
  • Activities
    cycling, cycle touring
  • Seasons
    Suitable all year round. Busier and hot in summer, but with lots going on; ideal temperatures but higher average rainfall in spring and autumn; quietest in winter, but with Christmas markets and fairs.
  • Centres
    Toulouse, Carcassone, Beziers, Sète
  • Difficulty
    Suitable for all abilities - flat and car-free along the canal with optional slightly hillier excursions by road if desired. Described in five stages to fit within a week's holiday.
  • Must See
    Historic towns and cities: Ancient Greek Agde, Roman Narbonne, Toulouse, the ‘Rose City’, Carcassonne’s 12th-century fortified Cité. Real French culture of La France Profonde, including myriad local festivals. Varied countryside with a wide range of animals and plants.

January 2015

We are grateful to John Cronin for the following updates

The towpath on the canal between Agde and Onglous has indeed subsided into the canal but there is now an excellent footpath (cyclists and pedestrians) behind the plane trees on the seaward side of the canal-you can walk/cycle from Onglous to the lighthouse on the Etang-the bar is just to stop vehicular traffic. Marseillan is the home of Noilly Prat - the French vermouth - factory tours with samples are available and the road from Marseillan Plage to Sete was completed 2011/2-it now runs beside the railway-the old road is still there but closed to through traffic.

July 2013

We are grateful for the following updates from our readers

The section from Port Lauragais to Segala should be done on the north bank, as it is well paved. The south bank is terrible and should be avoided. A slight deviation may be needed just before reaching Segala, by following the well-paved route skirting the Riquet obelisk nearby and then rejoining the Canal at the Segala bridge.

Stage 2 - Port Lauragais to Carcassonne:

The path on the approach to Castenlaudary is deeply rutted with a lot of foliage across and the same on the approach to Carcassonne. This is mentioned on page 73, but it would appear to have got worse.

Excursion after Stage 4 - Narbonne and Port la Nouvelle:

Crossing the river Aude at the at the Gailhousty Lock (pages 126/7): The path across the railway bridge is now fenced off with an official notice warning people against crossing on the railway line. Please follow the alternative route described in the guide, in the grey box at the bottom of page 127. The alternative route follows the road from Salleles d'Aude, the D118 to Cuxac d'Aude (4.8 kms) and then the D13 in the Narbonne direction for 2.3km until you return to the canal.

Updates (to 2010 reprint)

Major changes to the final 16 km of the route - Updated November 2011

Those cycling the Canal du Midi will find that there are major changes to the last 16 km (approximately). These result from major infrastructural works to (a) combat coastal erosion and (b) extend the town of Sète. These works are still ongoing and so the information given may change again before the works are complete.

The route from Marseillan to Sète has changed completely. The road N112 described in the guide has been dug up and moved several hundred metres inland. The road is more difficult to cycle as it now has concrete bollards at its edges.

The good news is that the local authorities are developing a cycle route which will run the length of the coast from Marseillan to Sète. Stretches of this cycle way are already in place while other parts are still under construction. On last inspection, it was possible to cycle off-road from Marseillan to Sete using the proposed route of the new cycle way but this is not officially sanctioned and there are signs and small boulders blocking the track. The new track is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

The section of the cycle track from the car park at les 3 Digues to the town of Sète is complete and open for use. Cyclists must use this track as it is forbidden to cycle on the equivalent section of the N112 road.

The guide advises readers on how to cycle to the centre of Sète from the end of the beach road. This route has also changed significantly. The authorities are developing a new quarter at the edge of the town close to the beach. Cyclists will find the cycle route described in the guide if they follow the temporary signs for the town centre.


Regions of the canal
Why by bike?
When to cycle
How to use this guide
The construction of the canal
Culture: festivals and sport
Getting there and getting around
Your bike
Health and safety
Eating and drinking
Money, phones and email
Stage 1 Toulouse to Port Lauragais
Stage 2 Port Lauragais to Carcassone
Excursion: from Guerre lock to St-Férréol reservoir
Stage 3 Carcassone to Homps
Excursion: from Trèbes to Lastours
Excursion: from Homps to Minerve
Stage 4 Homps to Béziers
Excursion: to Narbonne and Port la Nouvelle
Stage 5 Béziers to Sète
Excursion: to Vendres salt lagoon
Excursion: across Portiragnes marshes and to Séringnan
Appendix 1 Stage planning table
Appendix 2 Accommodation
Appendix 3 Tourist offices
Appendix 4 English–French glossary
Appendix 5 Market days
Appendix 6 Bike repair shops
Appendix 7 Further reading
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