Great days out in and around the Aude
Where does one start? From the Mediterranean coast to the peak of the Pyrenees and the Spanish border all within easy driving distance. Added to this the Minervois and Corbieres wine regions are on our doorstep.
So, we thought we’d begin by listing a few places that we’ve personally visited, and which appealed to us, so that it might provide you with a flavour of the area. The list is, of course, not definitive as we’ve still got loads to visit ourselves and you will also find additional ideas elsewhere on our website. The times shown are the average, most direct, driving times…but what’s the hurry!
The mediaeval Cité (a listed World Heritage site) is a must see, with it’s ancient buildings and narrow streets crammed with touristy shops and good value eating and refreshment places. The kids will have a whale of a time running around the perimeter walls.
The main (lower) town is well worth a visit too, with a reasonable shopping centre and several attractive squares and monuments. If you visit during Bastille day (14th July), the firework display over the Cité is not to be missed!
Lac de la Cavayere
A superb leisure lake, signposted as ‘Carcassonne plage’ – because it has sandy beaches! It is a wonderful family venue in a very attractive setting with some nice picnic areas too. As well as swimming, canoes, pedalos and a fantastic ‘inflatables’ experience there is also an excellent ’tree top’ adventure course to suit all ages and skills.
This town has a true Mediterranean atmosphere (even though the sea is a further 10 minutes’ drive) with its central piazza style square, set around an exposed section of the Via Domitia Roman road, surrounded by street cafes. Just off of this are the magnificent cathedral and many attractive narrow streets housing a multitude of interesting shops and a superb covered market open most mornings.
The Canal Robine runs through the centre providing a setting for weekly markets, held on Sundays and Thursdays.
The Med Beaches!
The Mediterranean coastline is easily reached passing across the beautiful scenic Montagne de la Clape, just beyond Narbonne. The nearest resorts are Narbonne plage with it’s kilometres of sandy beaches and (our favourite) Gruissan with it’s attractive Marina (offering boating day trips) and ancient village, both well served with restaurants to suit all budgets (many serving excellent traditional local fish dishes).
There are also several secluded beaches, a water theme park, go karting, horse riding and great cycling paths situated along the pleasant unspoilt coastal road.
There are a series of lagoons to the South of Narbonne, beautiful in their own right, a natural home to Flamingos and other exotic wildlife, but also the setting for the picturesque fishing villages of Bages and Peyriac-de-Mer.
Bages has an active traditional fishing industry with small boats and fishing nets laid out along the lagoon coastline.
Peyriac has a novel wooden walkway across the Etang and both have a selection of superb (locally caught) fish restaurants.
Canal du Midi
This incredible engineering feat (and another listed World Heritage site) links the Atlantic with the Mediterranean although, these days, is used almost entirely by leisure craft. The old tow paths facilitate excellent cycling and walking routes. The nearest access point from us is just a few minutes drive/10 minute cycle ride to a lock just beyond our neighbouring village of Blomac. It also runs through many towns and villages near to us including Marseillette, Puicheric (which also offers canoeing on the river Aude) and Trèbes. The latter is a pretty town and a base for boat day trips with several canal side cafes and eating places (one beside an attractive flight of locks).
There are several canal side cycle hire points, the nearest to us is at Homps (where there is also a marina basin and good restaurants). We can also suggest several driving ‘tours’ which shadow the canal passing through pretty villages such as Le Somail and Ventenac-en-Minervois, with it’s elegant canal side Chateau whose wine cave provides good value ‘en vrac’ wines.
This historical town (just across the Aude border in Herault) is located on a promontory and accessed via a spectacular drive through Minervois wine country. The surrounding scenery is quite stunning and offers great venues for picnics.
The town itself is well presented, with interesting ancient streets and quaint restaurants. The more adventurous can explore the attractive natural bridges and caves from the (usually) dry river bed.
Our favourite route to this appealing town runs from our neighbouring village of Capendu, climbing across the Monts d’Alaric, into rugged Corbieres wine country and follows the Orbieu gorge before finally descending to a sweeping view of the mediaeval town of Lagrasse.
The town itself is full of interest with it’s ancient bridges, historical houses and magnificent abbey. There are many artisan shops (including a favourite pottery studio), cafes and restaurants. During the summer months the Orbieu river is dammed to form a swimming area next to the abbey.
Now this is a place with a story! Readers of Kate Mosse’s ‘Sepulchre’, Steve Berry’s ‘The Templar Legacy’ and Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci code’ will relate to the mystery of this unusual village.
Set high on a plateau with spectacular views towards the Pyrenees and across the Aude valley, it’s mystery is based around a late 19th century local priest, Bérenger Saunière, whose sudden mysterious wealth enabled him to build a sumptuous estate and lead a very lavish lifestyle. The source of his wealth is rumoured to range from the discovery of buried treasure to a reward from the Church for recovering ‘damaging’ ancient documents. The story has inspired many books and there is good public access to the key elements of the mystery, which are presented in a pleasant low key not-too-touristy manner.
We could go on and on (and usually do!) about this fascinating region, but it would be easier for you to visit us to hear about, and experience first hand, the variety of venues and places of interest to suit all tastes and age groups – all within easy reach from Domaine de Barthe.