I know some of the classic "Cathar Castles" are
on mountain tops. How difficult are the climbs?
None of the sites we visit are inaccessible for participants
of average fitness. While sites on hill tops typically require
uphill walks on rough paths, most involve uphill walks of less
than 30 minutes. (Incidentally, in photographs the walks tend
to look harder than they really are).
The walks are not particularly steep or dangerous, but stones
can be slippery in wet weather. Montsegur is significantly more
difficult a climb than the other sites. In the past I would have
said that Peyreperteuse was also verging on the extremely difficult,
but on a recent tour one participant who was partially sighted
and in his eighties happily climbed to the castle. The paths we
use are maintained in a relatively natural form meaning
that you will find few concrete steps or railings, but they also
lack chasms, pot-holes or slippery gravel. They are often lined
with box trees that serve as hand rails in turns and other key
points. The things we caution guests about include the occasional
tree trunk semi-buried on the path and narrow portions of trail.
French standards of maintenance and the provision of safety rails
might not be what you are used to at home, so we recommend bringing
For ratings showing the relative difficulty of all sites included
on our tours, see: Locations
Could you give me more detail about what James does on a
tour to a château or other historic site versus an ordinary
James offers the insights of a historian to Cathar Country Tour
participants rather than addressing the full range of cultural,
recreational and entertainment options typically offered by tour
guides. While we will gladly assist with hotel bookings, transportation
options, restaurant recommendations and your other travel-related
needs, think of him as the history teacher you always wished you
had back in your school days. Better yet, James brings his deep
knowledge of the history and the sites of the Cathar region out
of the classroom and to the very places where history was made.
His broad and deep understanding of the regions history
is based on decades of meticulous, unbiased research into the
theological, academic and scholarly sources that illuminate the
region and its history. Our clients praise his erudition, enthusiasm
and flair for addressing the level of his audience.?
James will paint a coherent picture of both the specific events
and personalities linked to each site you visit with him and its
contribution to the bigger historical tableau. His combination
of wit and erudition enable him to make complex historical themes
accessible in a way that is unique and memorable.
We have children of various ages, can they be accommodated
on a tour?
As the father of a very inquisitive 7-year old son, James is
comfortable answering the many questions younger family members
have (in fact, he reports that they pose some of the best questions).
So feel free to include them in the tour if you feel they would
benefit from the experience (children under age 16 are half price).
On the other hand, because not every child is looking for this
kind of experience we can arrange day-care with a trusted and
Cathar history is fascinating, but our interests extend well
beyond that to include other historical periods, architecture,
the Languedocs legendary natural beauty and much more, can
James include those topics in a tour?
While our tours will always highlight key Cathar sites and history,
James has lived in the region for decades and shares your passion
for those (and many other) topics. He is delighted by the opportunity
to explore these themes with our guests. Ancient hominids, Greeks,
Etruscans, Romans, Celts, Visigoths, Moors, Templar Knights, Medieval
Counts, Troubadours and others have all left traces behind and
James is uniquely qualified to bring this rich heritage to life.
The Languedoc is studded with spectacular mountains, megaliths,
caves, castles, churches, abbeys, wildlife, thermal springs and
even dinosaur fossils. As an Oxford-educated scholar like James,
this region is a living library of human and natural history that
he passionately believes must be shared with a wider audience.
What about regional cuisine, wine, contemporary culture and
the other opportunities that can enrich our scholarly pursuits?
Because our goal is to make your visit the most memorable experience
possible, we offer tour options that include aperitifs, meals,
wine tasting and other enhancements in carefully selected venues.
For example, our guests have often joined us for wine and cheese
tasting (and other dining) experiences at our 16th-Century Château-Fort.
Where else can you find this combination of scholarship and cultural
We will be part of an organized coach tour of the region and
would like to have James join us for a day or two; what arrangements
can you make for us?
James can meet your group anywhere in the Languedoc and adjacent
regions to provide expert insights tailored to your touring plans.
Because we are a small, family-owned business we have the flexibility
to adjust to your needs. In fact, part of what makes Cathar Country
Tours unique is our ability to work with guests (and tour organizers)
to customize our services. Pricing information is available for
a variety of options.
We want James all to ourselves for a day or more of touring;
what arrangements can you make for us?
In addition to scheduled tours, which generally accommodate up
to 7 guests, we offer customized tours limited to you and other
members of your party. We guarantee both exclusivity and the flexibility
to match your specific interests. To explore all the options available,
Where and how do we meet James to begin our tour?
Because we are long-term residents of the area, we can work directly
with you to arrange to either pick you up at a convenient location
(such as your hotel) and transport you to tour sites or to meet
you at a specific site. The latter approach works especially well
if youre visiting Toulouse, Carcassonne or other urban areas.
In addition to our week-long Original and Advanced Cathar Country
Tours, we offer a variety of day-long tours (scheduled and customized)
to over a dozen Cathar sites. Given the many variables involved,
we will coordinate with you to arrange the most convenient meeting
time and place to begin and end your tour.
We are headquartered in a semi-restored 16th Century castle located
in the charming hill-top village of Saint-Ferriol, about an hours
drive from Carcassonne. Convenient, low-cost train and bus options
are available to towns in the immediate vicinity and throughout
the region. When you arrive at Carcassonne airport you have a
choice of a taxi or an airport shuttle to the train station. Fortunately,
the taxi option to the train station is also very affordable (less
than 12 euros, versus 5 euros for the local bus). Given the convenience
and time savings offered by taxis, we encourage visitors whose
plan ito join us here at our private château or nearby to consider
that option. If you have a car, we can discuss the many options
available for you again Contact Us.
What happens if Im the only person who signs up for
a scheduled tour?
We set the scheduled tour dates ourselves and are committed to
doing each of these tours regardless of the number of participants.
What happens if the weather is bad?
Fortunately, the weather here is good most days of the year.
Like everywhere else, blustery weather occasionally occurs but
it is rarely severe enough to cancel an outing. On those rare
days when weather conditions force a cancellation, the tour can
be either rescheduled or a full refund will be offered. Participants
are encouraged to wear sensible walking shoes for all weather
conditions and to bring wind breakers or other suitable attire
in the case of showers or windy weather. To date we have never
had to cancel a tour.
What happens if I get ill or have some other emergency that
prevents my participation?
Should you have unexpected, unavoidable alterations to your holiday
plans we can provide any letter required for your travel insurance
Does Cathar Country Tours offer special arrangements for
Yes, we have found that pre-existing groups work well for all
parties and we can offer discounted rates. Contact us to discuss
Do the scheduled group tours offer opportunities to shop,
buy postage stamps and do other non-tour related activities?
Many museums, abbeys and castles we visit sell themed items and
time will be available to do some quick shopping in those cases,
but to accommodate the schedules of all participants, post office
stops and the like are limited on scheduled group tours. Adequate
time is allowed in all our schedules for rest stops. Customized
tours can, of course, be designed to address any of your special
wishes, including our insights on shopping for wine, cheese and
other local temptations. Please enquire in advance.
Is there a way of avoiding the summer queues?
Yes. We make special arrangements to avoid queues and crowds.