Testimonials from Earlier Tours
James and Sophie have done a superb job with
the Advanced Cathar Tour. Once again you are in the pleasant company
of James, Sophie and your driver, Robert who is always so courteous.
James threads the story of the Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade
into the tour so each little village or landmark comes to life
- the Languedoc is a spectacular backdrop to the saddest of stories.
James links personal Cathar experiences to the
brutality of the inquisitors. He also attempts to balance the
stories when appropriate to do so.
Follow the steps of the Counts of Toulouse and
the inquisitors while you dine in superb restaurants, drink fine
wines and engage in deep conversations with James and new friends.
Sophie's choice of Hotels and restaurants were hand picked for
quality and comfort. Once again visit their beautiful château
for dinner and pinch yourself that this is really happening. Highly
Elayne & Katrina, Australia
Thank you too for the opportunity to experience
13th century Occitan life in a particularly turbulent period of
its history. The magnificent scenery and delicious food, organised
by Sophie, absorbing history by James and all shared with such
good company have given us a perfect week.
Elizabeth & Gerald, Fleetwood, UK
... such gracious hosts and kind souls. The
personal attention to the tour details and to ourselves was outstanding.
James provided a wonderful balance of information on the Cathars
along with general history of the region and to a host of other
topics. Opening your beautiful and historical home was a great
treat and I could not be more pleased with your ability to make
us feel right at home.
Brian, New York, NY, USA
James gave a fascinating presentation that brought
the Cathars back to life. Not only that, he put the whole period
into the context of European history probably known to us all
even it derived from films such as The Lion in Winter and
The Name of the Rose. He also incorporated how the Occitan
region and its language form such an important part of the life
and culture of the South of France of today.
The banquet after, superbly organised by his
châtelaine Sophie, was not only interestingly different
but also delicious. We had the pleasure of sitting with some American
tourists, whom I think were in search of Mary Magdalene. They
were enraptured by the evening and their surroundings, so even
if they didn't find her they, along with my visitor did get a
fount of knowledge to enrich their forthcoming visits to the Cathar
"French Gentleman Farmer"
"Absolutely excellent. We enjoyed every
minute of our tour"
John and Lisa, Boston, MA, USA
"Spectacular castles; magnificent scenery;
splendid food; great hotels; wonderful food & wine; tragic
history; impeccable information. An interesting, informative and
Rupert, Sarah & David. Twickenham, UK
"... an enjoyable and instructive week.
James is a true polymath. His introductions were concise and full
of relevant information. The sites were spectacular. Thank you,
too, for your warm welcome and all the trouble you took over the
La Chaumiere offered very comfortable, spacious
and well appointed rooms. ... Some of the meals out were superb
and the dinner at Couiza an exceptionally happy occasion.
... Altogether a memorable week"
Tony, Norwich, UK
"Thank you for arranging our stay, for
your hospitality, and for the education on the Cathars and Cathar
country. I recommend the two of you for your wonderful warmth
and efficiency. James is a true historian and geographer of everything
Cathar. He is a solid researcher and a splendid teacher. Please
list us as fans."
Karl & Susan, Cornell University
"I loved every minute of it"
Grant , New York
Great talk by James on the Cathars clear,
interesting, well illustrated. A real help to understanding the
Mike Westwood, September 2012, France
If youre looking for an experiential
journey back in time to the 13th century Cathars, I highly recommend
James and Sophie MacDonalds Cathar Country-Languedoc Tours.
James in-depth academic knowledge of their history and the
local terrain is extraordinary well balanced by Sophies
organizational skills in providing client comforts. For the history
buff and researcher alike, this experience is one that wont
I signed up for two day tours with James MacDonald
and figured when I was told to meet at the Dame Carcas statue
at the gate of Carcassonne that I'd be one of five or six on the
tour. I was alone. Imagine my delight to have James personalize
the tour for two full days. Overnight, he even printed up web
sites answering my personal research questions. It was such a
pleasure to have long conversations on everything from plague
to the history of the Eucharist to local folk traditions with
a man with an Oxford education who knows everything, or at least
everything I'm interested in. Not to mention the Cathars, all
of this in breath-taking surroundings--like the top of Montsegur.
This is a pretty demanding tour, physically, and not cheap, but
I'm busy right now trying to figure out a way to sign up for the
advanced tours Sophie and James offer. And I want to stay in their
Ann C, Tripadvisor, Visited September 2014
I have had the good fortune of travelling much
of the world through the years, but I have never had such an entertaining
and stimulating journey as I recently enjoyed with Sophie and
James MacDonald, the founders of Cathar Country Tours set in the
breathtakingly beautiful Languedoc department of Southwestern
France. What they present is an exciting and adventurous exploration
of the 13th Century Albigensian Crusade and the subsequent genocide
of the gentle, Buddhist like Albigensois, more familiarly known
as the Cathars. It is a remarkably dramatic story partly because
they were defended to the death for a half a century by much of
the nobility of that region, the very people who should have joined
in the crusade against them, which found these gentle peoples
beliefs a gateway to a new world of peace and hope in a time of
terrifying darkness. It is also remarkable because of the seemingly
inaccessible castles where so many of the battles were fought
and so many died.
But for me, most remarkable were my hosts, James
and Sophie. James is a scholar and business consultant to start
with, and Sophie, a woman for all seasons to put it mildly. But
both are also lovers of bread, wine, the journey and good company.
I left them feeling as my companions did that they had adopted
Everything is arranged in advance, from the
incomparably charming hotels of the French countryside, lunches
and dinners including all the wine you could wish for, to the
local transportation, and of course to this deliciously versatile
experience. Often, it is a climb to a hilltop fortress to experience
the unique way of castle life that existed 800 years ago and almost
always resulted in its subsequent and devastating demise
a healthy climb but not too taxing for most by the way; sometimes
a visit to the local towns and cities; and even a trip to the
vineyards, especially thrilling at harvest time. And always, always,
in every way, it is a celebration of the French way of country
life, intense, leisurely, passionate, and above all, immensely
For me, my favorite memories will always be
the two occasions when Sophie and James, both Renaissance people
non-pareil, invited us to their awe-inspiring château at the top
of the tiny village of St.Ferriol in the foothills of the majestic
Pyrenees where they presented us with meals and hospitality straight
Anthony Call, Tripadvisor
In September 2014 we joined a small group of
people for a Cathar Country Tour - it was a truly wonderful and
memorable experience, exceeding all our expectations. James and
Sophie McDonald were perfect hosts; James shared his in depth
knowledge and understanding about Catharism in such a captivating
and entertaining way that we were all hooked on the subject!
The itinerary was well planned, visiting a variety of Cathar sites
which illustrated very well the turbulent history of the so called
heretics - complemented by some superb scenery.
Not only did we enjoy the history, but also the fine food and
wines of Languedoc; this included being dinner guests of James
and Sophie at their stunning château in St. Ferriol. The camaraderie
between our hosts and everybody in the group was exceptional.
We highly recommend Cathar Country Tours, 5
stars all round and "thank You" again to James and Sophie
for their attention to detail and individual needs.
Peter C, Visited September 2014, Tripadvisor
We spent a memorable week visiting Cathar Châteaux
and abbeys in the Languedoc - at Termes, Lagrasse, Arques, Fontfroide,
Villerouge, Queribus, Peyrepertuse, Puivert and Montségur,
Toulouse and of course Carcassonne.
I have visited Carcassonne several times before
and thought I knew it. How wrong I was. It turns out to conceal
vast amounts of interesting history that tourists never hear about.
Visiting some of these sites was extremely moving,
especially when you learn exactly what happened and exactly where.
Our historian-guide (James) was exceptional - however far we drilled
down for detail he always knew the answer and could explain the
context. It was especially moving when he read out extracts from
You dont need to be interested in Cathar
history, castle architecture or medieval warfare before you come,
but you will be afterwards.
The walk up to Montsegur is not too bad, but
if youre getting on, you might want to take sticks. All
the other sites were much less demanding.
Jack L, Tripadvisor
James and Sophie MacDonald have succeeded in
combining the best of both worlds with their Cathar Country Tours.
James is a walking encyclopedia on the medieval history of the
region in which they live, and the horrific persecution of the
gentle Cathar community as heretics by the Roman Church.
Sophie's gracious and enthusiastic efforts to
make certain that clients are well looked after in the realm of
creature comforts, is the icing on the cake! I have no doubt that
their continued tweaking of offerings and details in order to
meet client's desires and needs, will guarantee further success
in years to come.