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Guide to over 30 walking routes around the Cathar castles of south-west France, reminders of religious turmoil from 1000 to 1250. Routes from 16 centres, including Béziers, Minerve, Lastours, Foix, Roquefixade, Lordat, Montailloe, Puivert, Montségur, Usson, Puilaurens, and Rennes.
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|Buy your choice of routes or chapters to read online, on your mobile device or to download as a PDF to print or read.||Browse Routes|
The guide offers 30 walks based on the once strategically important castles that dominate the foothills of the Pyrenees. Each walk has as its focal point a castle or other location associated with Cathar history (mostly the 13th century). Summaries of the historical connections of each location with the Cathar period are given, and together these relate the story of the downfall of the Cathar Church, from the massacre in Bèziers in 1209 to the siege at Montsègur in 1244, which ended with the burning alive of over 200 believers who refused to renounce their Cathar faith.
A reader has reported problems on the route of Walk 15, Rennes-le-Château. With reference to the route map on page 187 of our book, the difficulty (which was of the barbed wire variety) was encountered on the section between points 7 and 8. It seems as if one or more owners no longer want people to walk on this route (which may not be a public right of way).
There is at present no convenient alternative route here. Two other options are suggested:
- Walk from Couiza up to Rennes-les-Château, as described in the book between points 1 and 5, then return by the same route. That is a good morning's walk. For an afternoon outing on the same day, walk from Couiza out to Coustaussa and back, also on the route described in our book, between points 1 and 9. The route between Couiza and Coustaussa is indicated by yellow waymarks and is described in a leaflet that you can find on this web page: www.paysdecouiza.com/randonnees/pdf/fiche-randonnee-4.pdf.
- Try a completely different walk, starting at Rennes-le-Château. This is a circuit of 13km, known as the Circuit du Ritou, which follows a waymarked route in the hills south of Rennes- les-Château. It is described in a leaflet that you can find on this web page: http://www.paysdecouiza.com/randonnees/pdf/fiche-randonnee-7.pdf.
Since the latest printing of the guide, the following website addresses have changed:
http://perso.wanadoo.fr/tpcf has changed to www.tpcf.fr
|Who were the Cathars?|
|Languedoc, the ‘Cathar castles’ and the Pays Cathare|
|Weather, equipment, risks|
|Waymarked walking routes|
|The walks described in this book|
|How to use this guide|
|16 The Pech de Bugarach: final walk, final thoughts|
|1 Useful addresses|
|2 General publications|
|3 Summary of the Walks Described in this Book|
The sketch maps accompanying the walk descriptions in this book are intended only to offer an indication of the key features in the areas crossed. It is strongly recommended that walkers also equip themselves with the relevant 1:25,000 maps published by the Institut Géographique National (IGN), the French equivalent of the Ordnance Survey in Britain. These excellent maps contain very detailed topographical information. Each walk description specifies the 1:25,000 map (or maps) which cover the relevant area.
There are two types of 1:25,000 map. Maps in the Serie Bleue series each cover an area of about 15km x 20km. Maps in the Cartes topographiques TOP 25 series vary in size but typically cover an area of about 27km x 22km.
The TOP 25 maps show long-distance paths, local walking routes and a lot of other valuable tourist information, much of which is not shown on the Serie Bleue maps. They cover coastal, mountain and other tourist areas. In Cathar castle country, most of the 1:25,000 maps are in the TOP 25 series.
A grid of numbered kilometre squares covers the maps of newer editions of both 1:25,000 series. The newer editions can also be used with global positioning devices (a GPS symbol is shown on the front). At the time of writing, about two-thirds of the 1:25,000 maps referred to in this book are GPS-compatible. The newer editions of all 1:25,000 maps are also being marketed as Cartes de randonnée (walkers’ maps).
Many newsagents, bookshops and supermarkets in France sell IGN maps. TOP 25 maps cost around 10 Euros each (about £7), while a Serie Bleue map costs around 8 Euros.
The publisher Rando éditions has produced a series of 1:50,000 maps covering the French Pyrenees and their northern foothills, using IGN cartography and also called Cartes de randonnées. In this series, no 9, Montségur, covers an area between Quillan and Foix and is useful for planning walks in the area. It costs around 10 Euros.
The IGN also produces a series of 1:50,000 maps, but these are not usually available in shops and, for walkers, are no adequate substitute for 1:25,000 maps.
For route-planning purposes the IGN’s series of 1:100,000 maps (the Cartes topographiques Top 100 series, or Cartes de promenade) is very helpful. Nos 71 (St-Gaudens Andorre) and 72 (Béziers Perpignan) cover most of Cathar castle country.
IGN’s 1:250,000 maps (Cartes régionales series) are also designed for route planning by road. Cathar castle country is covered by Midi-Pyrénées (R16) and Languedoc- Roussillon (R17). In France, the 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 maps currently cost around 5 Euros each.
IGN’s website is www.ign.fr (in French only). Their maps and other products can be bought via that website using a British credit card. But, with the additional postage and cost of currency transfer, their final prices seem to work out a little higher than those charged by British suppliers of the same maps.
British Map Suppliers