The little known region of Ariège epitomises everything we love about France. The landscape is beautiful and varied, with majestic mountains, ancient forests and abundant wildlife; people live in tune with the land and a traditional culture has been proudly maintained for centuries; festivals and celebrations abound; the food is delicious and there are outdoor activities to enjoy all year round.
Ariège, our region of the month, is located in the very south of France, next to tiny Andorra. It’s at the centre of the Pyrenees mountains and the highest peaks are visible all the way from Toulouse. The mountains make for a climate that rarely gets too hot, so you can enjoy all the light and atmosphere of southern France without extreme summer heat, making it great for walking, cycling, climbing, fishing, golf, skiing in winter and sightseeing in any month of the year.
Although the feel here is of a remote land that time has almost forgotten, travel is actually quite easy. Several European airlines fly to Toulouse and Perpignan and the drive from Calais to the local town of Foix is about 10 hours.
Ancient cave paintings reveal a very long history of habitation and cultivation in this region, which was a centre for the Cathars and provided mountain escape routes during World War II. Modern residents are proud of their history and mindful of conservation. A few bears still roam the forest, marmots can be seen and butterflies abound. People also love a celebration.
One of the most famous festivals is Jazz at Mirepoix. It’s at Easter this year, running from 19th to 21st April and is not confined to indoor concerts, but embraces a New Orleans style parade through the streets and arcades of the town, with a fringe programme including gypsy jazz.
In July there’s a festival of art creators which is now repeated in October for the benefit of the many autumn visitors to the region. The famous Apple festival takes place in September – and all year round there are markets where you can sample locally produced organic cheeses, sausages, breads and many more delicious goodies.
Our Ariège holiday lets are at beautifully restored farmhouses and stone cottages that really reflect the character of the region and give you maximum freedom to get out and explore.
Typical is Le Cazal, a farmhouse and converted barn with pool shown in the photo, along with views captured by the owner of Ariège scenery and the town of Mirepoix, which is just a few minutes’ drive away. Take a look at our complete guide to Ariège, with links to all our holiday lets in the region.