WALKING WITH HERETICS

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It’s a steep pull up to the ruined castle at Montsegur. It’s nearly as tough bumping downhill on our ageing knees. The view makes it all worthwhile.

The site of a bloody religious war is now a gentle, but spectacular walking route through some of France’s  most beautiful countryside.

The revolt of the Languedoc Cathar heretics who dared to defy the Pope and French royalty in the 13th century was brutally put down, leaving only the ruins of their castles perched on rocky hilltops to remind us of their story.

Now the Sentier Cathare, or ‘Cathar Way’, attracts walkers from around the world to tramp sections of the 250km trail that runs between the Mediterranean coast and the handsome castle town of Foix.

We tackle a six-day stage walking west from Quillan.

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Leaving Quillan…for a five hour walk to Puivert.

It’s a walk anyone with working legs can manage (most of our group are the wrong side of 60), through rolling farmland and forest, with the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees as a background.

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Towards the high Pyrenees. We won’t have to climb any of them on this route, but it’s nice to know they’re there.

Each night we arrive in a village, not always a particularly attractive one, and there’s a warm welcome (and spectacular food, and lots of Languedoc wine) waiting for us in each gite d’etape or chambre d’hôte.

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Champers, anyone? A barbecue at chambre d’hôte ‘In Focus’ in St Cirac with super hosts Dirk and Leen. Highly recommended!

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The river at Puivert.

We set ourselves a stage of about 5 hours walking each day, allowing plenty of time for rests and a long lunch. We cover about 20-22km a day, with a vertical climb/descent of up to 700m, which is challenging for anyone, in my opinion.

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No need to scale the peak at Roquefixade, though it’s there for anyone who wants to try it.

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We do climb this one though, the castle at Montsegur, where over 200 Cathars were burned at the stake.

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Puivert Castle is well enough preserved to host arts events these days. Both castle and town are renowned for their mediaeval music and collection of old instruments.

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Early morning in the Languedoc.

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The castle town of Foix, end of our trek. Thanks for the company, Klamie, Agnes, Gre, Marga, Yvonne, Sonja and Peter!

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Let’s keep walking as long as our knees will let us!

The guidebook The Cathar Way by Alan Mattingly, is published by Cicerone. Apart from maps and history it includes practical information on accommodation. 

I particularly recommend staying at In Focus B&B, St Cirac and at the basic but super-friendly Gite des Marionettes, with Francoise and Michel in Puivert.

9 Comments

Filed under France, Hiking

9 responses to “WALKING WITH HERETICS

  1. Enjoying your walk vicariously which inspired us to walk in the Blue Mountains two days ago in perfect walking weather. The Ruined Castle wasn’t a patch on Montsegur and the food and wine wasn’t up to Languedoc standards but it’ll have to hold us till we get to the Tetons and Yellowstone in a couple of weeks time. Keep the reports coming.

  2. Edith

    Great photos. It looks beautiful . Good to see everyone having a great time especialy my dear friend Yvonne👏👏👏. Edith

    • Thanks, Edith. It was a great walk, very comfortable and fun for all us ‘older walkers’. It was very nice to meet your daughter Yvonne in Ipswich last year too. All the best, Richard

  3. Beautiful photos of a beautiful region. The timing of your walk seems to have been perfect, too. Even I am tempted to try this. We spent a few weeks in the Languedoc-Roussillon area once but that was in July and you know how the heat will wipe out all your good intentions. (Finally heading for Oulu this weekend to see the very last performance of your play. I bet you thought we wouldn’t make it.)

    • Yes, May was a good time to do it, TM, and we were lucky with the weather after one very cold day. And anyone who thinks they might like it would certainly enjoy it; it’s not five star accommodation but it’s six star hospitality and company. (Delighted to hear the play is still running and very curious to know what you think of the production. The design in the photos I’ve seen looks interesting and unusual.)

  4. We’ll need to add this to this list of walking trips to take. Thanks for the recommendation!

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