We adore the majestic scenery of Occitanie and like to take our guests on an unforgettable journey off the beaten track.
This month, we took MC from Brittany around the Cathar country. On a cool, cloudy day we set off for the Châteaux de Lastours, 50 km south of Castres. We went along the ridge through the dense forest of the Black Mountain and down towards Cabardes and Minervois, where the scenery becomes rockier before giving way to vineyards.
The four châteaux de Lastours – Cabaret, Tour-Régine, Fleur Espine and Querthineux – are perched on 300-metre high rocky outcrops. A winding path leads to the castles, offering breathtaking views of the Orbiel Valley and majestic cypresses. For many years during the Cathar period, the Lord of Cabaret held out against the Crusaders (from 1209) but was finally forced to surrender to Simon de Montfort in 1229. The castles were razed to the ground after the Crusade then rebuilt. During the religious wars in the 16th century, the citadels were used by the Protestants. Each time we come here we are hypnotised by the sheer beauty and serenity of the place.
After this rather energetic hike, it’s time to relax and reward ourselves at one of the restaurants in and around Lastours. There’s Jean-Marc Boyer’s gourmet restaurant, Le Puits au Trésor (1 Michelin star); alternatively, try some family cooking at the Auberge de l’Orbiel or, a little further way in Minervois, meat spit-roasted over the fire at La Table du Vigneron.
“Thanks for taking time out to share this wonderful experience with me.” MC
We then went on a leisurely meander about the countryside: on the way to Minerve, we stopped at La Rouviole, an independent vineyard, whose La Livinière you may sample at our set-menu dinner.
In under an hour’s drive, we went from lush forests to Mediterranean scenery and took a different route home to explore the beautiful countryside of the South-west.