Richard Hammond describes this 7-day self-guided, hotel-to-hotel cycling holiday in the Carcassonne to the Mediterranean, through pretty little villages, vineyards and olive groves with plenty of fine wine along the way. This trip is reachable by train from the UK.
In a nutshell:
Explore Carcassonne with a hotel-to-hotel cycling tour. Following self-guided trails, you will take in canal ways, beautiful villages, ancient Roman towns and olive groves. Reward yourself for all that peddling with a stop off (or two) at a local vineyard to sample some of the region’s wines before finishing in the stunning Mediterranean.
Price: £885 per person (not including train travel or transfers)
What's included: 7 nights at four selected hotels (one 4-star hotel; one 3-star hotel; two guesthouses); your luggage transported for you from hotel to hotel; high quality bicycle; route notes and maps; 1 dinner; 7 breakfasts.
Departures: April, May, June, July, September, October
Nearest station to start of trip: Carcassonne
Nearest station to end of trip: Narbonne
How to travel by train to Carcasonne: It's possible to travel by train from London to Carcasonne - take the Eurostar to Paris then change stations in Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse for the connecting train down to Toulouse from where you'll need to catch another train over to Carcasonne (it's just 45 minutes by train from Toulouse to Carcasonne). The total journey time from London to Carcassone is from 8 hours 29 minutes. The transfer in Paris can take 20-30 minutes on the Paris metro (9 stops), but we recommend you leave at least 50 minutes for the entire transfer (see our guide to How to transfer between train stations across Paris). For more details on the train journey from London to Carcasonne, including some suggestions for where to stay near the train stations if you want to break up the journey and spend more time in Paris or Toulouse, see our flight-free journey planner: Train from London to Toulouse.
Optional extra: you can extend or shorten your trip, and upgrade your room.
What's the trip like:
Before the cycling starts, begin your journey on foot, exploring the fairy-tale town of Carcassonne a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world's best-preserved medieval towns. Here you can marvel at 12th-century hilltop castle Château Comtal or enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Canal du Midi (pay locally).
On Day 2 your cycle ride begins with a choice of either a 44km or 42km cycle. The slightly longer route (Carcassonne to Homps) takes you through the slightly newer (13th Century) grid-patterned streets before you take the picturesque towpaths of the Canal du Midi built in the 17th Century.
Offering more varied terrain, the alternative route leaves the canal at around 15km for quiet country lanes through the villages of Rustiques, Badens and Aigues-Vives, passing orchards and vineyards before rejoining the towpath for the final stretch into Homps.
Both routes bring you to your destination at the port of Homps, where you stay two nights at the charming Le Jardin d’Homps.
Day 3 offers a slightly more challenging 52km circular route taking in the foothills of the Montagne Noire before stopping at the pretty village of Minerve for lunch before continuing along the scenic Gorge de la Cesse where you can admire the views across the plain of the Aude.
On Day 4 you will pedal 41km along a series of ports to arrive in Cruzy, with the options to stop off for a swim in the River Cesse or enjoy some wine tasting along the way before retiring at Le Clos Mazerolles.
Day 5 is a relatively easy and relaxing 27km flat cycle along the Canal de la Robine to the Roman town of Narbonne, where you will spend your final two nights at the Hotel La Résidence.
Unless you choose to spend your final day exploring Narbonne's Old Town on foot, Day 6 will be your final cycle. The flat 31km cycle takes you through salt marshes and lagoons south of Narbonne before you reach the Mediterranean marina of Gruissan. All routes are considered easy to moderate, but be sure to reward yourself with the region’s fine fine while overlooking the glistening waters of the Mediterranean.
Here's a taste of what these slow holiday cycling holidays are like:
How to enquire/book this holiday:
This holiday is provided by Inntravel, one of the founding tour operator members of Green Traveller. One of the great things about this holiday is its flexibility: you have a choice of start/end dates and you can add additional nights on to the itinerary. If you'd like to know more about this holiday, please see more details on the relevant page given below and if you'd like to book it, do contact them directly or complete their booking form and a member of their team will be in touch with you: