Cathar Trails (Guided or Unguided) riding holiday in France - Far and Ride
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Cathar Trails (Guided or Unguided), France




Programmes


• Unguided Trail

• Guided Trail

 

Reviews



The transfer from Carcassonne is enjoyable and you soon get to see what a great area this is. I was reassured by the information, maps and directions given to those taking the unguided trail. The horses here are fit and well suited to the trail ride and the countryside is diverse and spectacular. A fabulous ride for the experienced rider.

Sue W
We had a great time. The horses were fantastic, the scenery wonderful and we had delightful hospitality where we stayed. I would recommend this holiday to others with a spirit of adventure. As indicated in the joining instructions, you needed to be fit but overall it was lovely. The days were quite long and it was sometimes tiring but it was a marvellous experience.

Christine D.
We had a great trip. Nicole and Charlie made sure we both were happy, the food in the gites was terrific, and our hosts were wonderful people. Thanks so much for your help in putting this together.

Richard W.
We had a great time. It was at walking speed most of the time, due to the stony tracks, which suited us fine, amidst beautiful scenery, mountain views and many wild flowers (orchids). Good food and good beds.

Barbara F.
It was wonderful. Much more wonderful and exciting than we ever could have imagined - so glad we went unguided! Favourite memory is riding through the sun dappled woods on a mountain track and thinking "now I know what it is like to travel in medieval Europe." Horses were entirely suited to the terrain and very willing.

Peppy B. (Unguided Trail)
Wonderful experience, beautiful horses and scenery. Great hospital in the gîtes and a friendly team working over there.

Charlotte C. (Unguided Trail)
The unguided tour was an adventure from start to finish. The area we rode through was rugged, beautiful, hilly and way off the beaten path. Our French hosts each night were friendly and welcoming and we enjoyed excellent home-cooked meals. The horses were sure-footed and responsive over six long days of riding. This tour requires resourcefulness, strong map-reading skills, basic French language skills, strong horsemanship skills in a variety of challenging situations and a can-do attitude. Fortunately we rose to the challenge and had some unique experiences that we will never forget. It was fantastic!

Laura D. (Unguided Trail)
An experience to treasure, so much so that I have just about finished writing it up as a memoir!

Canny D. (Unguided Trail)
 

Horses



Type of horses:

Arab and Arab X, Andalusian

Nature of horses:

Footsure, well schooled and fit

Height of horses:

14 - 16h

Weight limit:

95kg

Tack type:

English and trekking saddles

 

Weather



 

Ride Description

The Cathar Trail takes its name from the religious group who inhabited the area during the medieval period. The trail runs between various towns and villages in which they lived, showing the ancient Cathar castles which they built to defend themselves against crusaders. Catharism was seen as heretical by the Catholic Church and Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against this group, also known as the 'Albigensians'.

The rides here are in the Aude department of France, located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees Mountains. Each region here has its own particular landscape but the area features beautiful forests of oak and beech, deep valleys and coastal lakes. Combined with the rugged mountain tops, this scenery makes enjoyable viewing from horseback and also provides the habitat for an array of wildlife. There are several species of delicate orchid here and the exquisite Pyrenean Lily is a delight for plant lovers. The region has a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers, perfect for the cultivation of vines and olive trees. In fact, the local Corbiere area is known for its wine, as well as its wild landscapes and low population density.

The horses here are chosen for their ability to navigate the tough terrain whilst also remaining a pleasure to ride. They will take you safely through the region and offer you exhilarating canters as you travel between lodgings, exploring this unspoilt part of Europe. The comfortable accommodation in family homes brings a wonderful end to each day.

See Programmes.

 

Food & Accommodation

Accommodation is in various lodgings, all of which are comfortable. They are usually small gites and family homes with dormitories or private rooms (optional supplement). The accommodation is charming and in lovely locations with welcoming hosts.

Food consists of good breakfasts, picnic lunches and excellent dinners at your lodging for the night. Food is usually traditional family style meals and is prepared by your hosts. These meals are often complimented by products from the local area.

 

Activities

There is lovely hiking available in the area and most nights bring a new destination to explore.

 

Further Details

Languages: English & French

Health requirements: Very fit

Age limit: 12+

Tuition: No

Included: Accommodation, full board meals, wine with evening meals and riding

Not included: Flights, insurance, extra drinks and transfers from airport/train station.

 

Travel Information

Flights are to Carcassonne where we can arrange your transfer. Transfer is 35 euros per person return. Airports flying to Carcassonne include East Midlands, Liverpool, Stansted & Glasgow Prestwick

Airport: Carcassonne

 

Programmes


Unguided Trail



This is a fabulous opportunity for confident riders to ride unguided, on a well trodden route, through the beautiful mountains and forests. You will be riding very fit horses that are well trained to cope with the difficult terrain and who will safely carry you onto your new destination every day. Whilst this may sound daunting, you will be well equipped with map and compass. At the end of the day a warm welcome and delicious meal will be waiting for you.

Day 1:

You will arrive at the stables in the quaint little village of Granes. This village is surrounded by forests and vine groves with a natural spring in the village square - the water is a delight to drink. You may well be introduced to your horse today and will certainly have a look at a map and a description of the ride.

Day 2:

Today is a 'test' ride with a guide to see how well you are able to read a map and compass. You need to be very comfortable with your horse before embarking on this trail as well being competent handling him/her both in and out of the saddle. If all goes well, you will be able to head out on your own on the following day.

You will ride through woods past the village of Rennes-le-Chateau. After a picnic lunch, you will make your way back to Granes through a green oak forest for dinner and overnight as on the previous night.

Day 3:

Today will you start your adventure and leave Granes to make your way to Puivert (about 5 hours). You will cross the upper valley of the Aude River, studded with vineyards, and arrive on the plateau of Puivert.

You ride across the plateau and up into the courtyard of the castle ruin. The Chateau de Puivert was subjected to a three day siege in 1210, by the army of Thomas Pons de Bruyere, and became property of the northern barons (having originally belonged to the Cathar family of Congost). After visiting the castle you make your way to Michel and Francois in the village nearby where you will spend the night. Michel and Francoise make and sell puppets from the workshop in their gite.

Day 4:

After getting your horse ready you will ride through the forest of Picaussel with a variety of majestic trees, climbing to a lake then towards the ancient village of Labau on the side of a hill. The region is famous as the base for the Maquis during WW2. The journey from Puivert to Labau takes 5 to 6 hours. Labau is a small hamlet situated at the top of the valley and has the most fantastic views. Tonight your host is Patrice who rears Merens horses, famous for their trekking ability.

Day 5:

Today you ride from Labau to Ayguebonnes (5 hours). You will follow the valley of Rebenty where there are opportunities for faster riding. You will be able to visit another famous Cathar castle called Puy Laurens. This is an amazing castle described as a true masterpiece of military architecture and design. This magnificent fortress is placed high on a mountain top, surrounded by dark forests, and was once an impenetrable stronghold.

You will spend the night in a farmhouse where the owners Collette and Christine raise cattle. The home cooked food here is delicious.

Day 6:

Today is the longest day with over 6 hours in the saddle. After crossing the valley of Fenouilledes and observing its small castles, you will head towards the plateau of Malabrac situated at the base of Bugarach Peak (4,500 ft.). Having explored this area you will ride into the Bouchard estate where deer and wild boar are often roaming the lands. Overnight is spent at Bouchard.

Day 7:

Bouchard to Granes (5 hours). Today you ride through a reserve with deer and wild boar, following the valley of Bugarach at the north base of Bugarach Peak. Here you will traverse forests of pine, beech and oak, progressing into a small valley with large rocks of chalk and limestone. From here you return to your starting point in Granes.

Day 8:

Departure after breakfast.

This trip will often take you over steep and difficult terrain. Riders therefore must be fit, able and willing to dismount and lead their horse in places. French speakers will be at an advantage on this trail, even those who know just a few words.



Minimum group size: 2
Maximum group size: 6
Ability description: Experienced in riding AND horse care, confident and fit. Riders MUST be competent at map reading and using a compass. This would suit those with TREC experience or with a spirit of adventure. Some paths are narrow and steep and riders must be comfortable with this.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 5-7 hours a day
Departure dates: 2017: Dates available to suit for a minimum of 2 riders. Please contact the office - dates can be flexible so a mid week start may be possible.
 
Pricing: 2017:
Twin/double room: £991 per person
Single room: £1097 per person
Dormitory room (3 or more beds): £884 per person

Price includes 7 nights of accommodation, full board, riding, use of equipment and maps, transport of luggage. If a guide is still required after the test day then there is a supplementary fee of £256 to be paid on site by the group.



Guided Trail



This is very similar to the unguided trail but here you are accompanied by a knowledgeable and worthy guide. They will lead you through this gorgeous region as you ride a safe and trustworthy horse. Each night sees you relax in the warmth and comfort of a welcoming family home or gîte with a delicious meal at the ready.

The itinerary varies from that of the unguided trail (which can be seen above) as there is no 'test ride' on Day 2. The trail gets underway a day earlier so you are given an extra day of exploring on the end which is as follows:

Day 7:

Today you cross the Bouchard Estate and pass by the Pech de Bugarach and the 'white valley'. You eat a delicious picnic by the river before travelling through the '4 ritous' valley. This leads you back into Granès where you will enjoy your last night and have a farewell meal with your companions.



Minimum group size: 2
Maximum group size: 12
Ability description: Strong, confident intermediate with good level of fitness, capable of walking and leading your horse over difficult terrain.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 5 - 7 hours per day on average.
Departure dates: 2017: 16-23 April, 21-28 May, 18-25 June, 9-16 July, 13-20 August, 17-24 September
Short Breaks: 27-30 April, 11-14 May, 8-11 June, 20-23 July, 7-10 September, 9-12 November
We can tailor make a programme

Other dates possible for 4 or more riders.
 
Pricing: 2017:
Twin/double room: £970 per person
Single room: £1076 per person (2 single rooms maximum)
Dormitory room (3 or more beds): £863 per person
Prices include 7 nights of accommodation, full board and riding as per itinerary.

It is possible to ride a shorter 3 night trail
Twin/double room: £443 per person
Single room: £575 per person (2 single rooms maximum)
Prices include 3 nights of accommodation, full board and riding