Where is Roquefixade?
Julien is a wealth of knowledge of wildflowers and local plants, birds and fauna. So we stopped often to admire the tiny orchids whcin grow in such profusion here, nestled amongst the grasses and shrubs. I won't be able to remember the names of them all, but will add photos of them as I go.
This is where we are heading. The village of Roquefixade is below what looks like a rocky outcrop but is in fact the ruined castle.
We have parked about 3km to the east of the village and are approaching the castle along a cattle path through wildflower meadows. We can hear the sound of cow bells somewhere. As you can see, the weather is dry but overcast.
This is the magnificent view over our shoulders, snow capped mountains and rolling hills. The countryside is absolutely spectacular!
The climb gets pretty steep, and we can look down from our high slope and see the castle, in another fold of the hill.
It's actually rather sad, romantically tragic. Roquefixade was abandoned once taken, as it was deemed of no strategic importance. The castle was a place of refuge for Cathars during the Albigensian crusade. From Wikipedia:
"A natural cleft in the cliff face has been filled in by an arch supported by ramparts. This cleft is the origin of the name of the village, and later the castle: roca fisada (fissured rock) in Catalan. The remains of the castle walls cling to the rock, originally circling an impressive keep built at the highest point of the site.
At the end of the 13th century, Roquefixade became a stronghold at the end of a line of royal fortresses built along the Corbières hills, to keep watch on the territory of the Count of Foix. The keep was remodelled in the 14th century, and other alterations were made in the 15th and 16th centuries. The castle survived until 1632 when the French king Louis XIII rested in the area on his way to Tolouse. Louis took the opportunity to order the destruction of Roquefixade, it now serving no purpose and being costly to maintain."
We stopped and had our picnic lunch looking down on the castle. Then we climbed down to it (I slipped over as the hillside was so steep). We were walking sideways with the help of poles, but it was muddy and slippery with past rain.
Here's a lovely photo as we approached - the clouds looming very moodily
But the sun came out and we left our bags in the outer keep
then went inside.
At the highest point is an old flagpole, with the Occitan flag proudly flying, so we all took turns at hugging the pole and having our photos taken!
I'm putting this photo in because, after we left the castle, we were walking UP the hill to the granite outcrop you can see here!!
You can see how steep the hill is
Here's the view of the town below our feet, from that granite outcrop
We then began our descent towards the village.
Our way took us through a beautiful deep beech forest. I fell over her again, quite spectacularly, attempting to take a photo and use my pole to navigate a steep bank at the same time hahah! This was the last fall, you'll be pleased to hear!
Spanish moss on the trees..
lovely beech trees and quiet greenery
after an hour or so we came out onto a path and eventually came to a monument to a group of French resistance fighters killed by the Germans in 1944. This marks the spot where they were shot, I think it was about 23 of them.
We continued on to the village, the weather still lovely and sunny, and very lazily declared we had had enough walking for that day, and Julien had to walk back to the van alone whilst we stayed for a Kir Classique!!
A last photo of this sad castle
And back to the hotel at Foix for a hot shower, dinner and bed!
We'd probably walked about 17kms today, and that was the tone of the rest of the walk. It had been rather steep, so we hoped we wouldn't have too many mountains like this! The Pays du Cathars is in the Corbières Mountains, which are limestone outcrops, so they appear to jump out of the landscape rather suddenly. A great place to build a castle!! ;-)