A brief overview of just a few of the possible routes for you and your group to experience during your time in the Razès.
Le Lac de la Pène & le Bois d’en Bas (7-12 km circuit). Starting from your Razès gîte, this is a short and easy ramble over gently rolling terrain, down country lanes, old railway tracks and through scarcely trodden woodland trails of pine and oak to emerge at the local lake of la Pène - a great stopping place for a picnic or a leisurely wander through the surrounding woods. The trail continues up and over small hills, past crop fields, vineyards, the odd isolated farm and several copses to complete the circuit. While you may scarcely meet another person walking this route, you can be sure of the sweet singing of the birds and insects to accompany you along the way. Extended versions of this walk take you deeper into the heart of the pine-scented whispering woods closer to the deer and wild boar.
Le Sentier des Crêtes d’Hounoux (17.5 km circuit).Starting from your Razès gîte, this walk takes you across country lanes and past vineyards to exit the village. A steep climb up to the ridge for a breath-taking view of the snow-clad Pyrenees followed by gently rolling trails up and down through garrigue (scrub land), past a myriad of wild lavender, thyme and juniper, fields of horses and farm yards. Down country lanes and back into woodland, passing alongside stream and copses and climbing once again to emerge heading north with stunning views of the Montagne Noire. The walk turns east and passes through the typical Occitan village of Hounoux, down tracks and across an open plateau over-looking the whole of the bas Razès domain, the Malepère Massif and Corbières off into the east. The trail continues downhill through old woods to return.
La GR7 (Grande Randonnée) to Mirepoix (18 km 1-way or 36 km full circuit). The trail leads uphill from your Razès gîte to the GR7, leaving Hounoux on your right and walking parallel to the Pyrenees on your left, you will actually be following part of the age-old route to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in NW Spain. We are not suggesting you go quite that far, but just enjoy the diversity of flora surrounding the peaceful GR7 track as you pass ponds and hamlets, farmyards and garrigue with rolling plains stretching up to the Pyrenees on your left. Woods mix with copses where boxing hares abound in Spring and the deer still gamble. Finally turning south towards the medieval town of Mirepoix for a beer or late lunch in a bistro or perhaps visit to the cathedral, before being picked up for the return to your gîte. Alternatively, to make a complete circuit and day of it (36 km), return via the Voie Verte (old railway tracks) which snakes across cross-country through the lowlands of the rolling valleys back to the village.
Le Tour du Razès (40 km circuit). A magnificent circuit worth contemplating since it encompasses fifty percent of the walkable routes circumnavigating the entire Razès domain. Starting from your Razès gîte, the trail takes you up and down across a variety of country roads, grassy trails and hard garrigue passing many of the Razès natural highlights as follows: the lake at la Pène, the high-point of the Pech des Trois Seigneurs, the vineyards surrounding Alaigne, the Occitan village of Routier. Across more vineyards to Belvèze, a gentle climb up to the Cathar village of Mazerolles, onto another high-point of Fenouillet and the Pech du Mu overlooking the Pyrenees, before trailing back down to Hounoux with its sweeping panoramic views of the bas Razès and downhill return to Escueillens. A challenging 1-day circuit which is also available as a bivouacking option if you fancy spending a summer night under the stars.
Le Chemin de Dominique (15 km 1-way or 28 km full circuit).A 28 km ramble of largely gentle up and downhills, passing through a few villages, two of which offer food and drink at either end. Starting early at the high point of Montréal, through the circular village and past its Dominican Abbey, following the Cathar trail (GR78) past fields of sunflowers, poppies, vineyards or other crops depending on the time of year and two villages, Villeneuve-les-Montréal and Lasserre de Prouilhe. Follow the trail through the valley to Fanjeaux for a light lunch or beer before setting off on the return leg past the Monastère de Prouilhe. The trail leads you through a Jurassic era water-created basin now home to sparsely dotted farms, passing through copses and across open fields, the scenery is ever-replete with vineyards and wine-tasting is even possible en route if you have the time! Views of the Pyrenees are wonderful from the high points in Fanjeaux (this being the only real steep climb) and Montréal. The Montagne Noire looms large and ever-present following the walker on this east-west circuit. A demi-circuit is available should walkers wish to spend more time at Fanjeaux with its atmospheric Cathar-rich historic town, cathedral and excellent restaurant or even a visit to the Monastère de Prouilhe for wine-tasting and honey. Alternatively this circuit offers walkers another opportunity for a bivouacking night under the stars leaving Escueillens to Fanjeaux on the GR7 and returning cross-country via Mazerolles for an additional 25 km.
The Canal du Midi. The nearest stretch of the Canal du Midi is a 20km drive to Bram, itself a market town with a luridly colourful Cathar past. The Canal du Midi is no more and no less than a wonderfully pleasant stroll, stopping whenever you wish to observe life in and on the water, especially around the numerous locks. More of a day’s respite than a walking challenge but wonderfully re-energising by the water’s edge. Castelnaudary is 18 km west of Bram, easily reachable by bike, and worthy of a visit to sample its world-famous cassoulet. Carcassonne is 23 km to the east of Bram and home to the largest fortified castle in Europe, equally worthy of a visit.
Cathar Trail to Montségur (20 – 50 km). Choose to walk the length and breadth of the Voie Verte to Lavelanet (a fairly flat 40 km) and bivouac overnight before setting out on a second day of Cols (10 km), culminating in the ascent of the château of Montségur itself to enjoy the history and panaromic views of the Pyrennees, the Aude and Ariège départements. A tough and physically demanding trip but very rewarding in terms of opportunity to see, hear and smell the ever-changing beautiful and vibrant valleys and mountains, embued with its own rich with history and intrigue. Passing through two towns offering food and drink, the rest of the Journey is very much a walk in solitude embracing the thriving life of the natural world all around. Or, follow the Sentier des Tisserands (20 km) which is a circuitous loop leading up and down the Cols surrounding Montségur, the village and locality following the historic Cathar trails around the area. Equally stunning in peaceful sights and sounds of both scenery and nature, but less of an intensive walk than the overnight bivouac above. Stay at a gîte d’étape overnight in Montségur village before ascending the final Col to the château itself the following day. Return to the Razès gîte that afternoon for a half-day walk or sight-seeing tour of the cite de Carcassonne, the largest fortified castle in Europe.