Over the past two months we have made day-trips to lots of towns and villages in Department Aude that are less than an hour’s drive from Quillan. Here are the top 10 towns that I have enjoyed visiting, with my favourite being at the end of the list (number 1).
Don’t leave town till you’ve seen the country. Quillan is by far the biggest town on this list. There are lots of reasons tourists visit Quillan, including cafes and restaurants for people on road trips or Pyrenees hikers, and a good old ruined castle. But for me, there are two things that I would recommend trying to experience in Quillan. First, walk down the traditional main street (Grand Rue) and notice just how gorgeous the buildings are. By western European standards, this is a poor region, but you can see that Quillan was once, not so long ago, an economically successful and proud town. I would love to have seen it in its hey day, whenever that was. Second, pause on one of the town’s three bridges over the river Aude and gaze down at the river for a while. It’s a beautiful river. In the summer or autumn it’s well worth doing one of the adventure trips on the river. We did a guided rafting trip and loved it. I would never grow tired of the view of the river at Quillan.
Serres has a large old stone arch bridge over the stream and pleasant picnic areas around it. It was hot the day we were there. There are good options for walking in the mountains nearby.
The mountain Pech de Bugarach is jaw-droppingly beautiful, when viewed from any angle, including from Bugarach town.
A gentle town with large shady main square beside a stream. The Auberge du Faby on the main square is friendly and comfortable.
If you like roses, visit Camon. The town prides itself on the roses that decorate every street.
The castle at Puilarens is one of three amazing cliff-top castles that we visited in the region. The others are Montsegur and Queribus. Below the castle is the town of Puilarens, which is almost continuous into Lapradelle. Both very small, mind. A shady stream flows down through the town.
Termes is in the remote Corbieres region north-east from Quillan. Allow more than an hour to reach Termes from Quillan. For me, the most remarkable thing about Termes was that the stream had lots of trout. In most famous trout rivers, including the Mataura River in New Zealand, or the Aude at Quillan, you might stare at the water for an hour and not see a single fish. At Termes, we saw thousands of them! I’m not exaggerating. A blind person could catch fish here by simply dipping a net into the stream. I assume fishing is prohibited there, or there would no longer be so many fish. We paddled in the stream, in among the fish.
This town has a very pleasant feel to it. It has the ruins of a significant thousand-year-old church.
This town has been a magnificent and wealthy town that has largely been abandoned. Huge houses in the middle of the town appear to be uninhabited and neglected. The few places that have been done up for tourists are great. There are at least two very good cafes in the old town. The cafe that we stopped at, the Cafe du Jardin, was partly in the roofless shell of an old stone house, and partly in what used to be a large back garden.
Just a kilometre or two up the road from Quillan, Ginoles has views to die for. It’s my favourite.