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Cathar Trails (Guided or Unguided)

Overview

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 hereti…

Highlights

  • Adventurous guided and unguided trails
  • Explore the Cathar Trail
  • Mountains, forests, valleys and lakes
  • Very fit endurance horses

Essential Facts

  • 2 itineraries available
  • Max 6 riders per group
  • Average of 5 - 6 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 95kg / 210 lbs / 15 stone

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.

Horses & Riding

Tack

English and trekking saddles

Horses

Arab and Arab X, Andalusian

Riding

There are 2 itineraries:

  • Unguided Trail is a trail ride
  • Guided Trail is a trail ride

Ages

12+

Health

Very fit

Weight

95kg / 210 lbs / 15 stone

Food & Accommodation

Food

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.

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.

Itineraries

Unguided Trail Standard accommodation.

Guided Trail Standard accommodation.

Other Activities

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

Travel

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

Testimonials

Canny D. (Unguided Trail), Nov. 27, 2014

An experience to treasure, so much so that I have just about finished writing it up as a memoir!


Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

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

Riding: 3 - 5 hours

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

Riding: 5 hours

Today you will 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

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

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

Riding: 5 hours

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

Riding: 6 - 7 hours

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

Riding: 5 hours

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

Riding: No riding.

Departure after breakfast.

Accommodation

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

Experience Experienced

Experienced in riding and horse care, confident and fit - you should be comfortable riding at all paces and happy to dismount and lead your horse on rough ground. 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. Some spoken French, even just a few words, is also helpful.

Minimum group size 2
Maximum group size 6
Departure windows

At any time during: April 15, 2021 - Oct. 15, 2021  (Dates available to suit, for a minimum of 2 guests, with flexible arrival and departure days.)

Pricing

2021
Twin/double room
£1040 $1435 €1210
2021
Single room (2 single rooms maximum)
£1180 $1630 €1375
2021
Dormitory room (3 or more beds)
£930 $1290 €1085
Included 7 nights of accommodation in shared rooms, all meals from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day, wine with evening meals, 6 days of riding, use of equipment and maps, transport of luggage between overnight stops.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, extra drinks, transfers from the airport or train station, tips and other personal expenses.

Extras

2021 - Airport Transfer €35
Paid locally
Carcassonne transfers can be arranged from the airport and occasionally the city
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

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

Riding: 5 hours

Today you will really 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 3

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

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 4

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

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 5

Riding: 6 - 7 hours

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 6

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Today you ride through a reserve with deer and wild boar, following the 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 Granes.

Day 7

Riding: 5 hours

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 though the '4 ritous' valley. This leads you back into Granes where you will enjoy your last night and have a farewell meal with your companions.

Day 8

Riding: No riding.

Departure after breakfast

Accommodation

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

Experience Intermediate / Experienced

Strong, confident intermediate with good level of fitness, capable of walking and leading your horse over difficult terrain.

Minimum group size 2
Maximum group size 6
Departure windows

May 9, 2021 - May 16, 2021

June 6, 2021 - June 13, 2021

July 4, 2021 - July 11, 2021

Aug. 8, 2021 - Aug. 15, 2021

Sept. 19, 2021 - Sept. 26, 2021

Pricing

2021
Twin/double room
£1030 $1420 €1200
2021
Single room (2 single rooms maximum)
£1155 $1600 €1350
2021
Dormitory room (3 or more beds)
£920 $1275 €1075
Included 7 nights of accommodation in shared rooms, all meals from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day, wine with evening meals, 6 days of riding with a guide, use of equipment and maps, transport of luggage between overnight stops.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, extra drinks, transfers from the airport or train station, tips and other personal expenses.

Extras

2021 - Airport Transfer €35
Paid locally
Carcassonne transfers can be arranged from the airport and occasionally the city
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.