Enjoy the best of France far from the crowds, in this sunny and welcoming department
By the sea on the cliffs of Leucate, along the Canal du Midi, in the heart of the Corbières vineyards or on the slopes of the mythical peak of Bugarach, a holiday in Aude is sure to be spent out in the open air. For those who wish to visit the south of France without the clamour of summer crowds, Aude Tourisme has compiled a list of the best places to see and stay in department 11.
Enjoy a nature trail and winegrower’s meal in a Corbières village
The Corbières Massif is dominated by expanses of vines and is the region’s largest AOC. At the end of a walk through the beautiful countryside, why not visit one of the many passionate winegrowers to taste their produce?
In the village of Tournissan, Francis Lastenouse, a local passionate about his home, has created a trail to help others discover the nature, villages and landscapes of the region he loves. The itinerary makes a loop of 7.7 km from Tournissan, and the perfect place to finish the walk is at the adorable Taverne Vigneronne owned by Didier Roux, who offers delicious dishes and wine. You can enjoy them out on the terrace while the winemaker tells fascinating stories about his wines and the way he runs his vineyard at the neighbouring Château Pierre Guillaume.
In the afternoon, drive to the winegrowing village of Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, seven minutes away. There you can visit the cooperative cellar “Le Cellier des Demoiselles”, where private tastings are offered, as well as, of course, excellent bottles to buy!
And for your accommodation in Corbières, head to the Domaine Grand Guilhem, in Cascastel-des-Corbières, 30 minutes drive from Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse. Winegrowers Séverine and Gilles Contrepois have renovated their 19th-century manor house in keeping with its original character, and guests can choose to stay in the gîte or one of four guest rooms. During your stay you will of course be able to taste the vintages of the estate, which works in organic farming, and it’s also a great base to discover another wine-growing area, that of Fitou, between the Corbières and the Mediterranean.
Visit the seaside resorts of Leucate
Dominating the landscape, Cap Leucate is worth the detour for the calm, the spectacular views and the breath of Mediterranean air it offers, along with the plagette (little beach). This coastal walk can be combined with the “Sentier du Vigneron”, an easy 6.8 km loop that starts in Leucate-Village and zigzags between the dry-stone walls and the vineyards covering the plateau of the Cap. Don’t forget to bring your picnic of local produce and a good vintage of local white wine! Hiking and practical information can be found at tourisme-leucate.fr.
To spend the night by the sea, we recommend the Domaine de Castelsec, in Roquefort-des-Corbières, 20 minutes drive from Leucate. Situated amongst olive trees, the gîte, for two adults and one child, offers a stunning view of the sea, the Leucate lagoons and the mountains. It has been renovated in an ecological way with self-sufficient water and electricity systems, to welcome holidaymakers in search of tranquillity.
Or, to really feel like a local, you could stay in a rental apartment in the heart of the wine-producing villages of Gruissan and Fleury-d’Aude, a stone’s throw from the sea. Decorated to standards worthy of a magazine, many of the charming residences offer terraces or private courtyards, and it’s a great chance to meet other like-minded guests, with plenty of friendly communal areas and places for children to play.
Travel through the vineyards by bike or kayak
The Aude is home to another large AOC vineyard, that of the Minervois, which begins to the east of Carcassonne and extends on either side of the Canal du Midi, a historic waterway classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here there are fantastic opportunities for cycling, following the towpaths or the paths between the vineyards, which showcase pretty medieval villages and offer pleasant gourmet stops.
One of the most pleasant cycle routes starts in Carcassonne and follows the Canal du Midi to the village of Puichéric. It’s about an hour and a half’s ride and, once there, leave your bike behind for a few hours to experience an aquatic adventure on the river Aude. Rent a canoe from Eaurizon and paddle down the river to Castelnau d’Aude, while the rental company takes care of transferring your bike and luggage to your lodgings – everything is made easy for you.
To explore more of the area by bike, continue along the towpaths of the Canal du Midi through beautiful little ports and villages, including Homps, Argens-Minervois, Roubia and Paraza, where you can take a break at the Château de Paraza, now a wine cooperative, to taste the excellent wines. Last stops include the hamlet of Le Somail and finally Narbonne, where you can return by train to Carcassonne.
For more information on touring Aude by bike, contact tourisme-corbieres-minervois.com.
Stay by the Canal du Midi
Le Clos de la Massane, in Castelnau-d’Aude, is a winegrower’s house built at the beginning of the last century, a stone’s throw from the canal. The owners have installed four comfortable and refined guest rooms, decorated on the theme of Art Deco artists. The enclosed garden is composed of beautiful flowered areas, shaded terraces and a heated swimming pool, surrounded by a large beach for sunbathing or resting under the pergola. For dining, a bar and lunch service is offered during the day, in addition to breakfast, which is served outside as soon as the weather permits. Contact +33 (0)4 68120765 or [email protected]
Another excellent place to stay is Le Mas d’Antonin in Argeliers, run by Elena, a truffle olive grower who is happy to share her love of the Minervois and her work with her guests, offering them initiations to truffle digging and cooking workshops. To stay on the estate, you can choose between two gîtes for four people, one of which has a private swimming pool!
Also in Argeliers are the guest rooms of Le Colibri Bleu, a pretty mansion with verdant gardens and a swimming pool. The soothing oasis prides itself on organic cotton sheets which are washed with Marseille soap, the 100% local breakfast, and a culture of well-being.
For everything Aude, visit audetourisme.com/en