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The Cathar Trail

Probably the best mountain biking trip you will ever do with the combination of superb rides and stunning scenery in an area with a fascinating history!

Relax in one of the many sleepy bars as you sip a glass of local Corbières wine and take in the breathtaking views. Set in the low foothills of the French Pyrenees, the Cathar trail links together a series of ancient ruined castles built by a religious sect against the 13th century Albigensian crusades.

Itinerary (8 Days / 7 Nights)

DayDescription
1Transfer from Carcassonne airport to our tour start point at Granes. There’s time to check over your bike (or meet your friendly hire bike) before drinks and dinner.
2 We take easy single tracks followed by a long gradual climb to our lunch spot with magnificent views over the surrounding area. Then a good fast drop to the village of Bugarach for a cafe stop. We then take forest trails and small lanes to the secluded gîte at La Bastide, with magnificent views of the Pech de Bugarach and the high mountains of the Pyrenees.
3With some great single-track to start the day, we reach a ridge with magnificent views of the castles of Duilhac and Queribus. In the afternoon there are options: quiet road or exciting single-track descents. We stay overnight under the shadow of the chateau at the small village of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse. Nearby in the river there’s a secluded swimming lake and waterfall.
4We climb near to Duilhac castle before an easy descent to the spectacular Gorge de Galamus, one of the finest gorges in France. A road link takes us to several café stops before experiencing the narrow Gorges de St Jaume and on to our overnight stop, a welcoming farmhouse at Aiguebonnes.
5An easy descent by track is followed by a short road climb to visit the stunning castle of Puilaurens, one of the best-preserved castles in the area. After a picnic lunch by the river at Axat, we continue on easy tracks before a wonderful winding single-track along the valley side. Our overnight stop is at the remote farm of Labeau. In September you can hear the bark of stags echoing along the valleys.
6More single-track along the valley then a road climb to the Plateau de Sault. We cross the forested plateau before a long descent to the small town of Puivert, complete with a bar and large swimming lake.
7We visit the castle at Puivert, then follow a ridge before an hour of easy, fast, wooded single-track descent. After a café stop at Esperaza, we climb to the village of Rennes Le Chateau, famous for its legend of hidden treasure and intrigue. We then cross the plateau before a good single-track descent to Granes for a last night's feast.
8 Time to leave. After breakfast we transfer to Carcassonne airport.

General

It’s an area of deep gorges and waterfalls, sun-drenched vineyards and forests of beech and pine, of jagged mountains and gentle green pastures. The scent of wild thyme, rosemary and lavender linger in the air as you brush past on your bike and the Mediterranean climate means reliable sunshine throughout the year.

6 days off-road biking with tuition and guiding. Vehicle support carries your bags and meets you along the route.

Food

Full board including free wine with dinner. Lunch on arrival day/departure day and one evening meal is not included (allow €25-40).

Local delicacies include wild mushrooms, game, lamb cooked with herbs and goats cheese marinated in olive oil.

Accommodation

We stay in characterful rural gîte d’étape with dormitory-style accommodation. They range from renovated hilltop farms to traditional village houses, mostly with wonderful lakes in which to enjoy a refreshing swim. On some nights, subject to availability, there’s the possibility of private chambre d’hôte rooms for those wanting a little more luxury.

Terrain

Moderately hilly on unmade roads, single-track and small lanes with some long climbs. Suitable for fit beginners (can avoid long hills with vehicle transfer), intermediate and experienced riders. Daily distances 15-32 miles, about 4-6 hours biking. Our support vehicle carries your overnight bags and meets the group several times during the day.

The routes include well-graded forest tracks that help you to gain confidence and plenty of single-track to lend a little challenge. Our guide helps you to improve your biking skills and to learn new techniques.

Getting there

Flights with Ryanair from around £85. For flight info visit http://www.ryanair.com. We meet the last incoming Ryanair flight from Stansted-Carcassonne and drop you back at the airport for the earliest group flight.

Alternatively, fly to Toulouse with British Airways, Air France, Flybe or other low cost airline. The train from Toulouse to Carcassonne costs around €12 and take around an hour. A taxi from the rail station to the airport costs about €10 while the regular bus service is under €2.

Prices

Tour cost: £545
Bike hire: £95
Helmet hire: £15
Insurance: £37

Dates