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Canal du Midi Tours - Canal du Midi - Castles & Cathar Villages

Few castle cities can be more impressive than Carcassonne - and there can’t be many cycle routes as straight forward as the Canal du Midi which carves its way through captivating Cathar country. Down in the Languedoc, the climate is close to sun-baked Provence, but canal-side, the cycling is refreshingly shady and wonderfully easy-going. Nothing beats a hearty helping of Cassoulet ‘at home’ in Castelnaudry, washed down with a glass of rich, red Languedoc-Roussillion, but this tour lets you put a toe in the Med too. A great linear tour, full of locks and lovely villages, vineyards and vistas, all across easy terrain with an optional climb, but just because the view is truly worth it!

Tour details

Tour Name
Canal du Midi - Castles & Cathar Villages
Tour Reference
FM8
Tour Duration
8 days and 7 nights
Start Day
Any Day
Tour Grade
2-3
Board Basis
Bed & Breakfast
Price
From £881 to £973 per person
Accommodation

is in Carcassonne (2 nights), Homps (2 nights), Narbonne and Béziers (2 nights). Selected properties include two charming guesthouses, one 3 star hotel and one 2 star hotel. We are pleased to discuss details on request.

Tour at a Glance

From Carcassonne’s über-impressive castle to classic Cathar villages and Languedoc vineyards, this linear tour along the historic Canal du Midi makes for a refreshing, easy-going cycling holiday. Here, wonderful open scenery, the sunshine warmth of the Med, historic highlights like Narbonne and Béziers and gems of local hospitality are all locked together thanks to those shady canal towpaths.

Availability
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Itinerary

Day One - Arrive and explore

     Arriving in bustling Carcassonne, it’s hard to take in the sheer scale of this massively impressive castle city. Relax and explore the biggest medieval fortress surviving in Europe today which was significantly restored in the 19th century. Take a wander along the ‘lices’, the grassy stretches between the double walls, for a real introduction to the formidable defensive system with its 52 towers, as well as fantastic views across the beautiful Aude countryside. Overnight in Carcassonne.

Day Two – Castles & Swimming 
     Time to leave Carcassonne’s medieval castle behind you a while and cycle out to Lac de Cavayère. Don't forget your swimming costume and towel for a swim in the lake. A picnic will also enhance the experience with maybe a bottle of something from the local vineyards. After a bask in the sun at the lake, the return allows for panoramic views of the citadel of Carcassonne. Overnight in Carcassonne.
Miles: 13 Kms: 23

Day Three – Tales of the towpath
     Get truly acquainted with the great Canal du Midi today as you hug it almost all the way to the ancient commercial harbour of Homps. It’s a day of shady plane trees and cypresses, vineyards and villages. Look out for Trèbes, the old Roman crossing of the Aude River for the military route from Carcassonne to Narbonne and wonder at the magnificent, more modern engineering of the many locks and canal ‘ architecture’ created between 1666- 1680 such as the fine Orbiel aqueduct. Your route parts company with the canal for a final stretch taking you through some small villages to the south on the way to your overnight in Homps, one of the most important former harbours on the ‘Canal des Deux Mers’ aka the Canal du Midi.
Miles: 29 Kms: 46

Day Four – Truly gorgeous (Cathar villages - circular ride )
     It’s a bit of a climb (320m) – but honestly worth the effort. Take an optional circular ride today up to the ancient village of Minerve, built on a rocky spur above the Cesse and Brian gorges and renowned as one of France’s loveliest villages. It’s an exceptional geological site with the natural bridges of the Cesse Valley making for some awesome scenery. If you’d prefer to pedal out on flatter ground, there’s a refreshing option to the local lake or the nearby villages of Olonzac and Azillanet. Overnight in Homps.
Miles: 23 Kms: 37

Day Five - Harping back to its hey-day
     Pedal out alongside the Canal du Midi, following the boats and barges today to reach Le Somail. This village is home to a real slice of canal history, complete with storehouses, a chapel, humpback bridge and travellers’ rest all dating from the time of the great canal’s construction. A pedal push or two later, you steer off down another towpath, this time alongside the Canal de la Robine which leads to the historic city of Narbonne with its St Just cathedral, Via Domitia and smart 17th century houses. Overnight Narbonne.
Miles: 28 Kms: 45

Day Six - Staircase locks & a time-honoured tunnel
     Heading for historic Béziers, it’s time to retrace your path along the Canal de la Robine before crossing the rural landscape from Sallèles-d’Aude to meet the Canal du Midi at Capestang where there’s a chance to visit the village’s fine collegiate church. Poilhes next, another village full of character, before continuing along to go over the canal’s famous Malpas Tunnel carved into solid rock. There's a short hilly detour if you fancy it, carrying on up to the Ensérune Oppidum ,one of the region’s most renowned Gallic villages. The final shady stretch to the old town of Béziers includes the impressive series of nine locks known as the Fonserannes staircase lock. Overnight in Béziers.
Miles: 33 Kms: 53

Day Seven - A moment by the Med (Circular tour)
     There’s time to admire the fortified façade and Romanesque crypt of St Nazaire cathedral which dominates old town Béziers before setting off towards the coast. Your route leads from the Canal du Midi out via villages and harbours into the open marshlands of the ‘des Orpeillières’ nature reserve, reminiscent of the Camargue with its horses, bulls and even flamingos. Pedal along the Mediterranean southwards past its beaches, and during the summer season (July and August) you can ferry it across the inlet to reach the popular beach resort of Valras-Plage. The cycle path leads via Serignan back to the Canal du Midi for your final overnight in Béziers.
Miles: 26 Kms: 42

Day Eight - Depart after breakfast
     Depart after breakfast , or take time to enjoy the Mediterranean flavours of historic Béziers. There are regional trains from Béziers back to Carcassonne if you wish.

A note about the path:
The surface of the path is mostly good, largely gravel with some stretches of tarmac and others of grass or dirt.  You do however need to watch out for tree roots in places - more of an issue when the leaves start to fall.
The other point to note is path closures for essential maintenance work.  There is usually a signed diversion but we are aware that there were some instances where this didn't happen in 2015.

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