Rugged landscapes and a remarkable coastline frame the Occitanie department of Aude in Cathar country
From the citadel, and Aude capital city, of Carcassone to the impressively perched Château de Queribus and the remarkable Château de Saissac, life in Aude means being surrounded by beautiful examples of medieval France and memories of the Cathars – a Christian sect persecuted in Languedoc during the Albigensian Crusade in the early 13th century. Read more about the Cathar castles here.
The biodiverse Narbonnaise en Méditerranée Natural Regional Park encompasses limestone plateau, lagoons – where you can spot some flamingos if you’re lucky – the charming Gruissan village, marina and beach, and the pleasant island reserve of Ste-Lucie. Aude’s coast is a fantastic low-key alternative to the Riviera.
Food and festivals
Carcassonne comes alive in July and August with its Carcassonne Festival when there are a host of wonderful musical and theatre shows to attend. A particularly magical day is 14 Juillet (Bastille day) when crowds gather at the foot of the citadel to watch the free fireworks display. There’s also a number of food and wine festival around the department including the Cassoulet Festival in Castelnaudary in late August, and Prom’Aude which takes place on Whitsun in Lézignan-Corbières and is a celebration of local terroir and produce.
In the south of Aude, the village of Quillan is set inside a scenic mountain cirque while to the north, the small Montagne Noir range is a wonderfully tranquil area. You will find forests and picturesque hiking trails in both. The highest point in Aude is the Pic de Madrès at 2,469m. You are also only an hour or so from Pyrenees mountains where you can ski in the winter.
The Corbières wine region in Aude is made up of 11 terroirs all blessed by the sun, soil and mix of dry and humid winds from the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The region predominantly produces red wines while there are a variety of grapes grown including Syrah, Carignan and Grenache Noir.
There are direct flights from London to Carcassonne airports, which is just 15 minutes outside the town centre. Alternatively, you can fly to Toulouse or Perpignan.
Value for money
You can buy village houses, stone built with a courtyard or garden; or bright modern villas with a swimming pool, whichever is more your style. According to Notaires de France, the average Aude house costs €1,600/m² which is considerable cheaper than in other south-coast departments.
See the latest properties for sale in Aude on francepropertyshop.com