If your interests are more cultural than physical, then you won’t be disappointed. The region is rich in history and has sites that span from pre-history, through to the Romans and Cathars, as well as the general historic sites and beautiful buildings that you will find in most villages and towns.
The region was first conquered by the Romans in 123 BC and they founded the first colony outside Italy in Narbonne in 118 BC. During the reign of Julius Caesar Beziers was founded.
The Via Domitia runs all the way into the Pyrenees and it became a major highway for communication and trading. In Narbonne remains of the road can still be seen as well as other Roman history.
In nearby Sallèles d’Aude is Amphoralis, a museum overlooking the excavation of a Roman potter's complex dating from the 1st to the 3rd century. Here construction materials, tableware, and wine amphora (storage vessels) were crafted and the wine was exported throughout the Empire.
As well as the major Roman sites, there are Roman remains in many of the villages in the area including Tourouzelle itself and nearby Escales (which is within walking distance 3-4 km).
The Cathars were obsessed with fear of evil and sought to free man from the material world, restoring him to divine purity, and came into a head-on confrontation with the orthodox Christian church.
Beziers and Carcassonne were Cathar strongholds and the Cathars found refuge from their persecutors in chateaux owned by knights.
The four chateaux of Lastours are perched high on a rocky ridge between the valleys of Orbiel and Gresillou and during the summer months a memorable son et lumière is held here every Thursday and Sunday.
The last stronghold to fall to the Crusaders was Chateau de Quéribus, and after its fall it was converted into a royal fortress to stand guard over the Spanish marches until 1659. On a clear day it is possible to see the Pyrenees and sea.
These are just two of the twelve Cathar castles that can be found in Cathar Country. In addition to these there are numerous other medieval castles dotted around the landscape. A detailed leaflet with maps of all the castles will be available in your gite.
The wild landscape of the Corbières attracted religious orders and evidence of their existence can be found in the many abbeys dotted around the landscape.
Fontfroide Abbey was founded at the end of the 11th century by the Benedictines and was a bastion of religious orthodoxy during the period of the crusade against the Cathars. The abbey is surrounded by cypress trees and is tucked away in a little valley in the Corbières. Within its high sandstone walls is a rose garden with literally thousands of beautiful roses.
Lagrasse Abbey prospered enormously in the 11th to 13th centuries, however it was heavily re-built in the 18th century. The abbey stands in a semi-circle of hills and a 12th century bridge links the abbey to the village with its quaint houses.