The Aude is a landscape of contrasts which transforms from the Pyrenees Mountains in the south western tip to idyllic sandy beaches on France’s Mediterranean coast. This ever changing landscape is complimented by an intriguing history and plentiful outdoor pursuits making the Aude an ideal destination.
The Aude claims its corner of mountain top beauty at Pays de Sault. This high plateau provides the family ski resort of Camurac which takes full advantage of its magnificent setting. In summer the pine forests provide scenic walks, shady picnic stops and numerous mountain bike trails contrasted by spectacular plunging views over the Gorges de la Frau.
Moving north you reach the Haute Vallée where walkers can enjoy the Cathar trail, nature’s ‘Green Labyrinth’, the ‘Eva’ dinosaur trail or breathtaking panoramas over the Pierre Lys Gorge; an extremely popular climbing site and white water rafting stretch. For mountain bikers there are over 30 marked trails to tackle and several hundred kilometres of bridal paths are served by a number of equestrian centres. The ancient landscape of the haute Vallée has revealed an abundance of dinosaur remains which are now displayed at the dinosaur museum in Esperaza, whilst more recent history is evident at the Cathar heritage sites such as Puivert and Quillan castle.
Limoux is a delightful market town on the banks of the river Aude which has been a centre for overseas property buying for many years. It enjoys a lively French café culture and the Friday market is as vibrant as any. Limoux is probably best known for its winter clown festival ‘Fècos’ which runs from February to April every year.
In medieval times, villages of this region were often situated on hilltops and built in a circular fashion for security. Many examples of these ‘Circulades’ exist in Malpere & the Razes and are worth visiting for their characteristic style. The Côtes de la Malpère vineyards spread out over the sandstone slopes of the Massif de la Malpère. Make sure you sample these fine local wines at one the chateaux or wine tasting cellars.
Vineyards also dominate the Corbières landscape where many producers offer vineyard tastings whilst the local restaurants showcase these fine wines. Some of the best wines are only produced in small quantities and are rare to find outside the region but they can be bought locally at very reasonable prices. Corbières’ long and frequently changing past is evident in the local architecture. The medieval abbey at Fontfroide, Romanesque abbeys and village churches reflect a peaceful tranquillity whilst a darker past looms from the ruined Cathar castles at Quéribus and Peyrepertuse.
No visit to the Aude is complete without visiting the fascinating, ancient walled city of Carcassonne, now a UNESCO world heritage site. Built in the 12th century, it famously fell to Simon de Montfort during the Albigensian Crusades. Wandering through the ancient cobbled streets inside the Cité you can relive the past whilst sharing the present with the people who still live within its walls. Make sure you stop into the evening for a meal or a drink at one of its many bars and restaurants.
And finally, let’s relax on the Mediterranean. With an idyllic climate of low rainfall and over 300 days of sunshine each year, the vast sandy beaches around Narbonne are the perfect place to relax, swim or windsurf on the calm seas. The picturesque fishing port of Gruissan is synonymous with French culture as the setting for the cult film classic "Betty Blue". The early beach scenes were filmed amongst the stilted wooden beach chalets here. During the summer months there are many outdoor festivities from rock to folk and jazz concerts.