What sets Marmot Tours apart is the level of support provided en route.
The landscape between Carcassonne, Foix and Perpignan is a delightful place to ride a road bike. It is peppered with deep gorges, vineyards, thick forests and spectacular medieval castles. The narrow roads that link the pretty, sun-baked villages are quiet and generally well surfaced, but the countryside here is far from flat!
This region is often referred to as Cathar Country (Pays Cathare in French) in recognition of its importance in the conflict between those who followed Catharism and the Catholic Church some 800 years ago.
This Classic Cols style holiday is the perfect introduction to cycling in the mountains of Europe as the climbs are relatively short, and the gradients are generally kind, certainly when compared to the Alps, Dolomites or Pyrenees. However, those looking for a challenge will not be disappointed, as every day there are longer routes and steeper climbs to get your heart pounding. It is important to us that you book the right road cycling holiday for you, so please download and read the Trip Notes for all you need to know about how this holiday works: food, accommodation, travel and so on.
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Departure Dates & Prices
We are pleased to offer some tempting discounts off the basic trip cost (not including extras such as single rooms or bike hire):
- Book & pay your deposit more than 6 months in advance of the start of your holiday for our 5% early bookers discount
- Get a group of 10+ people together for a 7.5% group discount and, as the group organiser, receive a £150 voucher for your next holiday
- Be rewarded for your loyalty by receiving a 10% discount from your 3rd Marmot trip onwards
Please note that there is a maximum 10% discount on any holiday.
Day 0: Arrival day
We offer transfers from Toulouse (TLS) airport to our hotel in the centre of Foix at specified times. This is a journey of 1hr 15 min. It is also possible to travel to Foix by train.
Those of you on the morning transfers will have time to explore the historic town and wander up to the Château de Foix, your first Cathar castle.
There are several options for warm-up rides, or those wanting a challenge might be tempted by the climb to the Prat d’Albis (1460m), a climb made famous in the 2019 Tour de France.
Day 1: Day ride from Foix
We begin our cycling adventure by heading west to Mas d’Azil. Here the road follows the river Arize for 0.5km through a cave, complete with stalagmites. Not surprising, this unique bit of road has been included in quite a few TdFs. This takes us to the Chapel of Saint Roch (577m), where we get our first spectacular view of the Pyrenees. Nicely warmed up, we then take on the day’s main climb, through the forest to the Col des Marrous (990m). From here, it is all downhill back to our hotel.
As always on a Classic Cols style holiday, there are options for those wanting more, and the vast view from the Col de Péguère (1362m) makes it the obvious extension. This col infamous for being where a disgruntled spectator sprinkled tacks during the 2012 Tour de France. You will be pleased to hear that we take on the gentle side, but there is the option of descending to the Col des Caougnous (957m) and taking on the 18% gradients of the Mur de Péguère (translates as Wall of Péguère).
Classic route: 82km with 1330m ascent [ride profile]
Easier route: 67km with 1000m ascent [ride profile]
Harder route: 99km with 1720m ascent [ride profile]
Challenge route: 106km with 2140m ascent [ride profile]
Day 2: Foix to Limoux
Today’s destination is the historic and pretty town of Limoux on the river Aude. It is famous for its carnival and for being the birthplace of sparkling wine (known as Blanquette de Limoux).
To get there, we head east on a series of delightful roads past Lac de Montbel to Chalabre. We then start ticking off our (so-called) Cathar castles with a detour to the Château de Puivert, which leads us into our main climb of the day, over the Col de Festes (678m) and down through the vineyards to our town centre hotel.
As always, there are options to extend your ride, and a loop over the Col du Bac (620m) from Chalabre makes for a delightful ride through rural France.
Whatever route you take, a degustation of Limoux’s bubbly might be in order tonight!
Day 3: Limoux to Rivesaltes
Deep ravines, vineyards and holm oak forests dominate today’s ride as we continue our journey through the Corbières towards the Mediterranean on a network of quiet lanes. There are various options today, but they all take us via the remote Château de Termes, which was the scene of a 4-month battle during the first Albigensian Crusade back in 1210, and a highlight of the region.
The Classic route takes us over the Col de la Loubière (599m), whilst the other options head to Arques (detour to the Château) over the Col de Valmigère (700m). Our Harder route then heads over the appropriately named Col du Paradis (627m), whilst the Challenge route embarks on a spectacular loop over the Col de La Fage (731m) via Rennes-Les-Bains.
From Termes we undulate between remote villages with some views of the Mediterranean to our resort hotel (with a swimming pool) on the outskirts of Rivesaltes. Despite being a long way, the gradients are generally kind, making it a pleasurable ride.
Day 4: Rivesaltes to Quillan
As cyclists we are used to the idea of bagging cols, but today we become “Château baggers”! Nearly every rocky outcrop is adorned with a semi-ruined castle balancing precariously on the clifftops, maximising its defensive position. Once inaccessible, they now have narrow roads snaking their way up to their gates. These climbs are all optional and make up our Challenge route.
We start by heading to Tuchan, where you have the option of detouring up the Château d’Aguilar (261m). This leads us through the vineyards into the gorge of the Grau de Padern to Cucugnan at the base of the Château de Quéribus (612m) and onto Duilhac overlooked by the Château de Peyrepertuse (699m). This is truly wonderful riding through rural France.
A short climb over the Col d’en Guilhem (498m) lines you up for a spectacular descent into the Gorge De Galamus on a narrow road that has been hewn into the cliffs of this deep canyon – this is a real highlight of this cycling holiday. Our final (optional) climb to the Col de Saint-Louis (696m) is another remarkable bit of road building, gaining altitude with loop-the-loops and some challenging gradients. From here it is downhill to our hotel in Quillan, where we will spend the next two nights.
Day 5: Day ride from Quillan
Being based in Quillan affords us many options, both on and off the bike. The town is charming, and there are some lovely walks into the surrounding countryside. Those wanting to enjoy the full Cathar experience could take the bus to the medieval citadel of Carcassonne. There is also a lot of fun to be had white water rafting down the river Aude!
However, this is a road cycling holiday, and there are a few delightful circular rides to be done in the foothills of the Pyrenees. All routes take in the Gorges de la Pierre-Lys, the beautiful Rebenty valley, climb over the Col d’Aunat (960m) and descend through the Gorges de Saint Georges. The Challenge route takes you past the Château d’Usson and then on a beautiful road over the Col des Moulis (1099m) and Col du Garavel (1256m).
Alternatively, or in addition, cycling over the Col du Campérié (514m) to “bag” the mountain top Château de Puilaurens (610m) is well worth the effort.
Day 6: Quillan to Foix
We climb straight from the hotel to the Col de Portel (601m), where we descend gently over a beautiful high plateau to Château de Puivert and then over the Col de Babourade (658m) to Bélesta. This is a good place for refreshments before taking on the Col de Montségur (1056m). The col is at the base of a ‘pog’ (local dialect for a massive rock formation) dominated by the Château de Montségur, which is famous for being the final stronghold of the Cathars back in 1244. The siege lasted for 10 months and ended with 200 Cathars being burned alive, having refused to renounce their faith.
You will be pleased to hear that there is no road going all the way up the castle, but there is still a bit more climbing to the base of the Château de Roquefixade (756m). This beautiful balcony road with spectacular views takes us all the way back to our town centre hotel in Foix. Time for a much-deserved beer at the riverside microbrewery!
Those wanting a longer ride have the option of climbing over the Col de Coudons (883m) and the Col de la Croix des Morts (898m) first thing or challenging yourself up the Prat d’Albis (1460m) – a climb made famous in the 2019 Tour de France.
Day 7: Departure day
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. We offer transfers back to Toulouse (TLS) airport in the morning (journey of 1hr 15min).