Soul Journeys - walking in the footprints of the Cathars

Walking holiday with both guided and self-guided options in France

From € 270.- / 8 days

Price per person sharing a double room in a fully equipped gîte

  • Dogs welcome
  • One accommodation
  • Walking holiday with guided and self-guided options
  • Overlooking countryside from a rocky outcrop
  • Track crossing a shallow stream
  • People posing on an eagle-view terrace

Based just 25 minutes south of Carcassonne in the sleepy village of Escueillens, Soul Journeys offers guided and self-guided walking holidays through the gently rolling Razès countryside and up some of the most celebrated and breath-taking Cathar castles.

This holiday offers walkers a wide choice of trails through the gently rolling Razès and up steep peaks in the Corbières and Pyrenees to visit some of the renowned Cathar castles. For those who specifically want to include historic guided walking tours in and around the Cathar castles, including those which formed the backdrop for Kate Mosse’s book, Labyrinth, our Cathar Specials include: Carcassonne, Montsègur, Peyreperteuse, Quèribus and Rennes-le-Château among others. For us, the most important factors of a Soul Journey holiday are that you determine your own routes and thus distance and difficulty and, most importantly, you get to walk at your own pace. For walkers who want to know more about the role of the Cathars in the 13th century, we’re happy to share the history over aperitifs.

Best suited for individuals, couples or small groups, Soul Journeys are about making the walking choices that suit you, walking over unspoilt lands richly steeped in history, following in the footsteps of the Cathar martyrs.

Woman posing on a track, a castle in the background The extensive remains of an old castle seen from above

Accommodation in the Razès

There are three gîtes at the Razès – Soujeole, Corbières and La Cour du Blé. Soujeole and Corbières are suitable for singles or couples; La Cour du Blé can accommodate a further 2 to 4 people. Each has its own private entrance, parking, fully equipped kitchen, dining and lounge areas, double bedroom(s) and bath or shower room. Each gîte individually offers privacy and has its own place and space, and yet, all three can be booked together to accommodate for larger groups travelling together (max 10 people).

There are also several secluded gardens offering areas of shelter from or full exposure to the sun, perfect for your outdoor dining or relaxation; all conducive to quietly snoozing away your cares, keeping you tucked safely away from the outside world.

Living room with stairway Gite seen from garden outside Bedroom

You'll find a collection of books and music within each gîte, as well as an up-to-date supply of local information on events taking place in and around the Aude département. A large and continually expanding selection of films, and local books on Cathar castles are also available upon request. Our extensive range of detailed road and walking maps are kept in the grange. A meditation and yoga room is available for use.

The grange is a great place to stop and stare at the great outdoors, finding cool respite from the summer sun or relaxing in snug comfort next to the wood burner in winter. There are more cooking & BBQ facilities here for outdoor dining in the gardens. The grange also houses a games area for table-tennis and darts. There are boules for use in the village boulodrome 50 metres down the road. You'll find a variety of board and card games in the bar area. A washing machine is also available in the grange.

Jo & Bob live in the adjoining property and are only too happy to help with any queries you may have.

Lagarde castle seen from afar Two women on a track in the winter

If you are hiring a car and wish to explore the local area, your hosts are very happy to give recommendations and make reservations on your behalf. If you've already made your own plans or simply don't want to make any, then you'll be left tranquil in your own peace and space. If you don’t want to hire a car, we can organise airport transfers and trips to the local shops, castles and markets.

Most of the walks are day or half day circuits. This means that you can return to your own safe haven in a Razès Gîte each evening to relax and unwind in comfort.

Walking in the Razès and across the Cathar hills

The Razès is a canton (rural area) in the Aude département of the Languedoc Roussillon region and is about 90 km inland of the French Mediterranean coast and 90 km north of the Pyrenees. Rich in its Occitan heritage, the clocher-mur style churches centred in many rural villages can be seen from the surrounding hill and vantage points.

Montsegur castle on a rocky hilltop Calm river surrounded by green trees

The Razès is famed for its birds of prey and wild orchids as well as its beautiful, rolling landscape decorated with hills and dales, valleys and peaks, rivers and streams. There are occasional steep hills to climb on some trails but generally speaking the Razès offers walkers easy to moderate terrain.

The Aude département is also home to the majority of the Cathar castles (and associated walks). You'll find vineyards, woods and old villages nestled throughout. Copses of oak and pine dot the area's landscape everywhere and contribute to an ever-changing annual show of deciduous versus evergreen. Depending on the time of year, walkers will typically pass alongside vineyards and fields of sunflower, poppies or barley and over rocky garrigue (scrub) outcrops, through country lanes and woods, past farms and crop fields, hamlets and villages.

Persecuted by the pope’s crusade, the Cathars had the choice of resisting or fleeing. Many of those who chose to stay died at the hands of the Inquisition. Those who fled escaped south across the Pyrenees or east to the Mediterranean. The countryside in and around the Razès still carries the many pathways and trails forged by the Cathars. Due to the secretive nature of the Cathars on the run, the paths are generally known to pass through what was considered the most inhospitable terrain to avoid contact with the persecutors. They therefore tend to go up and over steep hills, heavily wooded forests, and around sheer cliff tops edging over ravines, rather than pass through open valleys. Wherever you walk, you walk in the footsteps of the Cathars and, as such, you breathe their lingering message of martyrdom and freedom from the land itself.

Each Soul Journey affords its own spectacular views of the Malepère Massif and the Corbières region to the East, the spectacular Pyrenees to the South and the Montagne Noire in the Minervois to the North.

People walking on a path uphill church seen over a field of sunflowers

Jo leads all the guided walks but should you wish to self-guide, detailed maps and route guides are available. Jo will give a full briefing prior to each walking day and answer any questions you may have about your chosen route, its distance and difficulty. Remember, you get to walk at your own pace, over gently rolling landscapes or scrambling up rocky paths to a Cathar castle.

The Razès walks start from your doorstep at the Razès Gîtes and Jo is happy to drive you to your chosen castle walks. Wherever you walk in the Razès or on the Cathar trails you cannot fail to absorb a calming sense of peace and stillness emanating from the tranquility of the lands.

Razès walking holiday itinerary

Below is a selection of example walks. Please contact the holiday provider for a personalised itinerary.

Le Tour du Roquefixade (8 km circuit) - One of the shorter Cathar walks leading around and up to Roquefixade castle itself, the sister castle to Montségur. This tour offers some of the most impressive vistas looking out south to the majestic Pyrenees looming up at 3000 metres. Leaving the village, the path meanders along open meadows and farmlands, climbs up through ancient woodlands, down steep rocky slopes and emerges on craggy mountain sides offering views of the Pyrenees, Montségur castle, memorials to the Résistance, ruins and shepherd huts as well as looking back on the village of Roquefixade itself. Touring the castle itself takes a further hour. Beautiful in its variety and impressive in its outlooks, it’s a wonderful walk to warm up for some of the longer and perhaps hillier Cathar castle mountain walks available.

Women posing for a picture in the forest Peyreperteuse castle seen from below againste a blue sky

Cathar Trail to Montségur (16 - 20 km circuit) - You may want to follow the Sentier des Tisserands (20 km) which is a circuitous loop leading up and down the Cols surrounding Montségur, following the historic Cathar trails through centuries-old forests which simply ooze with tranquillity and well-being. Return to your Razès gîte that afternoon for a half-day walk or go for a sight-seeing tour of the Cité de Carcassonne, the largest fortified castle in Europe.

The above two can be combined together for a full one day walk.

Sun rising from behind a mountain range in reds and oranges Inside a castle on top of Montsegur hill

Les Tours de Rennes-le-Château (8 km or 12 km circuits) - In the Pays de Couiza, there are many Cathar routes to choose from, some passing through ancient woodlands (where hardly a person ventures these days), others following trails over the open scrublands across the terres rouges (red lands), characteristic of the scenery in these parts as popularised by Kate Mosse in her novels. One option is to leave the town of Couiza below and follow a path that meanders up through a fairly steep, wonderfully shaded, heavily scented and wooded forest, emerging into open meadows which offer unique views of the castle, unseen from the roadsides. Emerging directly under the Tour Magdala, it takes about an hour to tour the house and church. Lunch and refreshments are available as well as souvenirs before descending by the same path back to Couiza.

A second option is to leave Couiza by foot, heading north east into the gently climbing hills and fields of the terres rouges, passing shepherd huts dotted in the garrigue (scrub) lands and heading towards the impressive reddy pink ruins of Coustaussa which affords wonderful views of Rennes-le-Château to the south. As with all the Cathar trails, there is a tangible sense of peace and reverence imbued in these dry lands and it’s easy to slip back through history with each hypnotic footstep. The circuit turns north away from Rennes and then west as it loops back through meadows and farmlands tucked in alongside a prominent range of hills to the north.

Each of these walks is very rewarding for spectacular views over the uniquely red-coloured lands.

Castle Puilaurens on a rocky hilltop Village on a low hill in a winter landscape with a light dusting of snow

Les Tours de Lastours (4 km, 5.5 km or 17 km options) - Moving up past Carcassonne into the Minervois, the terrain is characterized by garrigue-clad hills and vast sloping vineyards for kilometres around.

Starting from the village of Lastours, the shortest of the walking options takes you through a sheer rocky valley, following alongside a stream, then up a fairly steep path into the woods. The path emerges near a campsite and leads you up and down through an olive grove to a belvedere for a fabulous view of the four towers of Lastours. The return journey takes you up and down small country lanes, through the hamlet of Lacombe and back down the valley to the village.

The second slightly longer option takes you on a circuit to the northeast of the four castles. Starting at Les Ilhes, it’s a steep climb up the track leading form the village into the woods behind; by far, the toughest part of the journey. Depending on the time of year, these ancient woods and pathways smell wonderful thanks to the wild thyme, lavender and rosemary but, above all else, because the paths are bordered with beautifully scented and scraggy broom.

The old Cathar trail follows south alongside the edge of the woods, contouring the hillsides and offers marvelous views of the castles from a different angle which can’t be seen by car. Continuing along the trail, a fork turns left to Fournes and right on the Chemin Bas back to Les Ilhes. For this option, turn right and descend back down into the valley to the village of Les Ilhes.

The third longer option would have the walker turn left instead to Fournes village following the Chemin to the Bosc Grand. From Fournes, the route takes you on a circuit over open hilltop fields, through silent woods and small hamlets, up to high viewing points for great views of the Pyrenees, Narbonne, the Mediterranean and Carcassonne. Moving down the garrigue slopes, the track emerges at Marmorières and the GR36. You pass the impressive Grotte du Limousin (cave) after 11 km. It’s worth a visit if you have time. The trail then takes you out to the quaint village of Limousis and on through to the bottom of a dry valley bed which you now climb for some kilometres back up to Fournes. From Fournes, you follow the route back to the Chemin Bas and on to Les Ilhes. A wonderful walk with many stunning views, ever changing scenery and thousands of butterflies.

Combine this walk with a visit to the largest fortified castle in Europe, the famed Carcassonne itself.

Montsegur castle seen from below walking track leading through a low mountain landscape

Dates and availability

Soul Journeys guided and self-guided walking holidays based from the Razès Gîtes are available all-year round - come in the season that best suits you!

You can choose whether you want to come for 7 or 10 days, a long weekend, 2 weeks, even a month if it suits! It is entirely up to you how long you come for and on which days of the week you plan to arrive and depart.

ruins of caste on hillside Rocky mountain in a pointed shape

You can come on your own, with a partner or friend, safe in the knowledge you have the privacy and space of your own gîte. You will be able to go for your guided walks at hours and times that suit you, assured that you will not be forced to participate in a larger group.

If you wish to come and walk as a small group, combining the resources of all 3 gîtes together, the Razès Gîtes can accommodate a maximum of 10 people.

Typically, for two people sharing a self-catering gîte for 8 days costs with 3 Cathar castle day trips included: €540 in Winter; €640 in Spring & Autumn; €695 in Summer.

The number of walks you do is entirely up to you. If you want to walk every day, simply choose your circuits and you will be guided by Jo or self-guided if you prefer. If you want to walk every other day and have a rest day in between, the tranquil gardens offer you a beautiful space within which to relax and unwind.

Pair of walkers huged on a track Fields of yellow rapeseed flowers

Please contact the holiday provider, through the contact form, for more information.

Additional information

Price of this walking holiday

  • Self-catering from €270 per person for 8 days
  • B&B from €305 per person for 8 days

Extras

  • Discounts for single walkers apply!
  • Airport transfers to and from Carcassonne are available.
  • Picnic lunch boxes can be arranged.

Please contact the holiday provider, through the contact form, for more information.


WALKING_HOLIDAY

Holiday type

One accommodationWalking holiday with guided and self-guided options
Walking holiday with both guided and self-guided options
Board basis: Self-catering prices are quoted. B&B is also available at €5 per person per day.

Price

From € 270.- / 8 days

Price per person sharing a double room in a fully equipped gîte

  • Dogs by prior arrangement

Included

- 7 nights accommodation in a fully equipped gîte,
- morning & afternoon tea/coffee,
- welcome drink and introductory information session,
- wide range of walks & maps available, self-guided or guided options,
- unlimited local walks in the Razès countryside,
- 3 days guided walks and visits to 4 Cathar castles (admission fees included).

Not included

- Continental breakfast,
- airport transfer to and from Carcassonne,
- all other personal costs.

Walking holiday reference

WH-SGG-FRSJ02


Walking grade

Walking holiday in hills only
  • Hills
  • Easy walking
Walking holiday in hills to low mountains
  • Hills to low mountains
  • Easy to moderate walking
Walking holiday in low to high mountains
  • Low to high mountains
  • Moderate walking

Remarks

  • Dogs by prior agreement. Tailor-made walking possible

Best time of the year

April - October


Walking Holiday by:

Soul Journeys

Jo and Bob Norton

souljourneys.co.uk

Contact details

Languages spoken

English, French

Getting there

  • Carcassonne Airport (22 mi)
  • Béziers Airport (63 mi)
  • Toulouse Airport (63 mi)
  • Perpignan Airport (75 mi)
  • Carcassonne Train station (23 mi)
  • Bram Train station (13 mi)
  • Castelnaudary Train station (16 mi)

Note: Hire car is best for those who want a self-catering option since the village is remote and the nearest shops are 7km away. The nearest town for restaurants is 15km.



Ask a question

Ask a question about this walking holiday

Fill in the form below if you have a question about Soul Journeys - walking in the footprints of the Cathars. Your question goes directly to the holiday provider.

Your details
Your message
Please prove you are human
Pre-book UK Airport Parking with skypark and save 60%
France's flag

Interested in more France walking holidays?

Go to the France overview page for more walking holidays in France.

Back to top