The Pyrénées mountains extend for around 400km from West to East between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea bordering France, Spain and Andorra. The range contains some of Europe’s finest wild landscapes and provide an outstanding arena for outdoor enthusiasts.
Having long played second fiddle to the Alps as a tourist destination, the Pyrénées have now come into their own. The diversity and sheer beauty of the landscapes, coupled with the more readily accessible peaks and ease with which one can escape the crowds, have all played a part.
The Ariège (department 09) nestles centrally in the French Pyrénées, bordering Andorra to the South. One of the most unspoiled regions in France, it also benefits from easy access with major road and rail links to Foix and Tarascon-sur-Ariège (pictured below). Famed for its prehistoric cave art and Cathar castles, there is also huge appeal for outdoor activities and wildlife watching. The highest peak ‘Montcalm’ at just over 3000m offers magnificent views over the range, as do a number of other peaks in the Ariège. Diverse landscapes offer glistening lakes, wooded hillsides and craggy ridges. Wildflowers abound in the spring and eagles and vultures can be spotted by those with a keen eye.
The exceptional natural heritage of the Ariège has now been accorded the status of ‘Parc naturel régional’. Similar to a ‘National Park’ in the UK, this status recognises the remarkable environment, rare and endangered species, history, culture and built heritage as being of exceptional value.
The village of Bédeilhac is just 5 minutes drive towards the Col du Port from the Tourist centre of Tarascon-sur-Ariège and the end of the main road link from the North. Resting on a plateau between the peaks of ‘Calamès’ and ‘Sedour’ (both 1000m in height) the picturesque village has a tennis court, table tennis, childrens play area and is home to the ‘Grotte de Bédeilhac’ a major regional tourist attraction. The peak of ‘Calamès’ is one of the most important rock climbing areas in the region and walkers of all standards will find the regional walking tour that passes through the village a great starting point for exploring the area.