Itinerary 'Sources of the Canal du Midi'

Route 'Bronnen van het Canal du Midi'
Itinerary 'Sources
of the Canal du Midi'

Number of kilometres: 85 to 100 km
Total visiting time: 5,5 hours
Suitable for: everyone

  In the heart of the Montagne Noire, the area around Saissac offers preserved calm open spaces. The typical villages, on the mountain sides, give a panoramic view over the Pyrenees mountain chain. In this sunny land, water is omnipresent : canalised, tamed in the 17th century by the genius that was Pierre Paul RIQUET.
"At the Sources of the Canal du Midi!"

Map - At the Sources of the Canal du Midi
click to enlarge
  The water supplies the Canal du Midi by the channel of the mountain from the Alzeau water supply to the large Lampy dam. This exceptional historical treasure is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list!!
  Saissac >> Leaving Carcassonne, follow the RD 6113 towards Toulouse.
2 km after the village of Pezens, turn right towards Moussoulens, then Montolieu Village of Books to arrive at Saissac:

Typical village of the Montagne Noire, Saissac is built in a semicircle above the confluence of the Aiguebelle and the Vernassonne streams. The streets, one above the other, all face exceptional scenery and give an incomparable view over the Pyrenees mountain chain.

At the southern end of the village, near the church of Romanesque origin, the Château is built on a rocky outcrop.
The Castle of Saissac

The Castle of Saissac, which is one of the largest in the region, was rebuilt after the crusade against the Cathars at the end of the 13th, early 14th centuries. From this period the remains of a powerful keep and quadrangular towers remain on the first terrace.
  Blason de Saissac

Castle of Saissac
In the 16th century, Renaissance style additions were made. One of the main buildings from that period, has been restored and now shelters the Monetary Treasure Museum of Saissac. This treasure amounted to 2000 deniers (coins) dating from between 1250 and 1270 and is one of the oldest buried royal treasures to be found in the Languedoc. This modern and entertaining exhibition deals with medieval moneys : mining of metals, striking of coins, exchange, and their role in trade and conflicts…

The Wars of Religion also brought about modifications to the buildings when openings were pierced in the walls to cater for cannons. Recent digs have brought to light the outbuildings of the Château with their ovens. At the foot of the fortress the vestiges of the former walled village of Saissac remain. This village was at the centre of a large network of shaded pathways and was protected by the Toulouse gate.
These old stones tell us the story of the changes at Saissace throughout time: Roman occupation, Crusade against the Albigensians, development from the 15th to the 19th centuries with the wool business. Wander through the narrow village streets and admire the corbelled halftimbered houses, the fountains, the medieval gate and the defence towers.
The Picarel deer farm
>> Leave Saissac on the D4 (indicated Arfons) to go to the Lac de Lampy. Make a stop at the Picarel deer farm. (450 stags, dams and brockets live in the grasslands and forests, see them from very close-up, try some brocket meat or some deer paté or dried deer sausage).
  Lac du Lampy: Lac du Lampy
The Lampy-neuf dam which was completed in 1782 is the second water reserve for the Canal after the Saint Ferréol Lake. Construction of the dam was necessary to supply the Canal de la Robine between Narbonne and Port la Nouvelle. The dam and the lake constituted part of the extension of the ingenious system of the Canal du Midi, one century after it opened.

On the edges of the lake, the Arboretum du Lampy tells the stories of the Fables de la Fontaine in their natural setting, surrounded by centuries-old trees.
Or explore the village of:
  Les Cammazes Les Cammazes:
Gateway between the Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon regions. In the High Languedoc Regional Nature Park, the village of Cammazes is situated at 610 metres altitude in an environment where water and greenery are omnipresent . There are hiking tracks and the GR7 goes through here (tour around the lake, holy crosses circuit, walk by the water and through the pine needle forest with its charcoal cauldrons and its 300-year-old beech tree...).

The waters of the Montagne Noire at the crossroads of history : As early as the 17 th century the rigole de la Montagne (Mountain water channel), work of p ierre  p aul Riquet , made it possible to supply water to the Canal du Midi (UNESCO World Heritage listed). The channel passes under the D629 road in a vaulted or pierced tunnel designed and realised by Vauban, ‘’la voûte de Vauban’’ that you can admire from the village. During the 20 th century the Cammazes dam was built at the entrance to the village. It supplies drinking water to 230 towns and villages.
  << Go back to Saissac, go through the village to take the road to Saint Denis (along the way sheep, cattle and horse farms), then in the village take the road to Lacombe to make your way to La Prise d’Alzeau et la Rigole: Arboretum du Lampy
  La Prise d’Alzeau et la Rigole
La Prise d’Alzeau et la Rigole:

More than anything else, the Montagne Noire is the Mountain of the Waters. The density of the hydrological network is what made it possible for Pierre Paul Riquet to build the Canal du Midi.
Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and listed as a Historical Monument, it is considered to be one of the most extraordinary civil engineering feats of the modern age. At the time the idea of building a canal to join the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea was not new. However, the idea of a regular water supply by canalising the waters of the Montagne Noire, was a major factor in the decision to build the Canal. The Alzeau water supply dam was built from 1667 onwards and it remains the highest supply point (684m) as well as being the departure point for the water which supplies the canal.

Until the end of the 19th century there were no roads into the forests and only the alley along the Rigole channel enabled road transport. This exceptional site remains today a fun place for a promenade.

Above the Alzeau water supply, the old forge has been converted into a restaurant. It used to manufacture iron balls and chains as well as bullets. Just next to it, the guard’s house is an excellent starting point for a walk.

>> Take the road back to Saint Denis (it is possible to explore the lake and its themed walks “the water paths”). Continue towards Brousses, then arrive at Brousses et Villaret Paper Mill:
  Located at the end of the Dure valley, in the middle of enormous granite blocks, between chestnut tree and scrubby green oaks, this paper mill is the last one in the Languedoc to still function.

Le Moulin à Papier de Brousses et Villaret
Le Moulin à Papier de Brousses et Villaret
In a place with its old machines where you can feel history, the Mill proposes: the discovery of a product which is extraordinary and yet very common: paper.

Experiment with a thousand-year-old craft: hand-made paper and you will have the opportunity to make your own paper!

Without forgetting the enchanting and romantic surrounds of this place!

>>Go back to Carcassonne on the D118 via Villegailhenc.
  Tasting Wines: A.O.C. Cabardès

Red Wine
= Red Wine

White Wine
= White Wine

= Rosé
• Villegailhenc - Vignobles Alliance Caveau - Phone
• Villegailhenc - Domaine de Cazaban - Organic wines - Phone /
Caudebronde - Maison de la Montagne Noire, Boutique produits du terroir Local Produce:
A.O.C. Cabardès
• Caudebronde - Maison de la Montagne Noire, Boutique produits du terroir (juillet/août)
- Phone
• Saissac - Le Cabas d’Oc - Viande et charcuteries de cerf Picarel - Phone
  Activities: Montolieu, Village du Livre
1st category fishing - at the lakes of Laprade, le Lampy and Saint Denis. Trout fishing at the Saint Pierre lake (snack bar)
2nd category fishing - Lac des Cammazes

Privately-owned lakes at Saissac Lac de Picarel + snack bar (drinks, picnic) - Phone
1st category fishing at the lakes of Laprade, le Lampy and Saint Denis. Trout fishing at the Saint Pierre lake (snack bar)
Boat rides on the Canal du Midi
Boat ride on the Canal du Midi
Brousses et Villaret - Artistic workshops at Brousses Paper Mill - Phone
Le Moulin à Papier de Brousses et Villaret
Cooking classes and photography tours at the Domaine de la Bonde with Nathalie Grandin
- Cuxac-Cabardès
- Phone
Domaine de la Bonde with Nathalie Grandin
Fontiers Cabardès - Musical events end of week, year-round at the Club 620 - Phone
Club 620
Les Cammazes - Poterie Alibeu (stoneware, ceramics) Phone
Les Cammazes - Le Salon de Vauban Cultural and artistic workshops, boutique, reading and exhibition area - Phone
Poterie Alibeu
Saissac - Picarel deer farm - Phone
Saissac - Picarel deer farm
St Denis - Montagne Noire mountain bike hire
Phone /
Location de VTT en Montagne Noire
Worth seeing nearby:
Cloître de l'Abbaye de St-Papoul
“Les Chemins de l’eau ”(Water pathways) walking paths and the Laprade-Basse interpretation trail.
Les Chemins de l’eau ”(Water pathways) walking paths and the Laprade-Basse interpretation trail.
• “Eaux apprivoisées ” (Tamed waters) village circuits
Eaux apprivoisées ” (Tamed waters) village circuits
Les Cammazes, Vauban vaulted tunnel, Cammazes, Laprade-basse and la Galaube dams
Les Cammazes
Montolieu, Village of Books
Montolieu, Village of Books
Aragon, typical Cabardès village.
Abbaye de Villelongue at Saint Martin le Vieil
Abbaye de Villelongue at Saint Martin le Vieil
Lakes of Saint Ferréol (swimming), Montagnes (swimming), Pradelles (swimming)
Lac de Saint-Ferréol
Museum and Garden of the Canal du Midi at St Ferréol
Museum and Garden of the Canal du Midi at St Ferréol
Cubserviès waterfall
Cubserviès waterfall
  Calendar - Festivals: Fête de la courge à  l'Abbaye de Villelongue
« Farmers' Festival in Saissac (1st Sunday in July) »
« Cultural events at the Château de Saissac »
« Fireworks at the château de Saissac (13 July) »
« " Jazz à Fontiers " (concerts & classes) (second fortnight) »

« Fête des moulins - Brousses paper mill »
« Art Exhibitions market square in Saissac »

August (1 st fortnight)
« "Guitares à travers chants" » Festival in Montagne Noire (+ guitar classes)

August 14
« " La Nuit des Papyvores " » Brousses paper mill (jazz, French songs...) Phone

« " Indian Summer market" » at Cammazes (producers and artisans)

" De Ferme en Ferme en Montagne Noire " » (1 st Sunday) Phone -

« Le brame des Cerfs à Picarel (Saissac) »
Confit de Canard

Alzonne - Restaurant Table Ronde des Chevaliers - Phone
Aragon - Hotel Restaurant La Bergerie *** - Phone
Bram - Chez Nena * - Phone
Bram - Ferme Auberge du Pigne * - Phone
Bram - Le Clos saint Loup * - Phone
Bram - Le petit Gourmand * - Phone
Bram - Pizza Pedro * - Phone
Bram - Pizza Rapido * - Phone
Bram - Saveurs d'Asie * - Phone
Brousses-et-Villaret - La table du Rebombier ** - Phone
Cuxac Cabardès - La Table d'Orélise ** - Phone
Fontiers-Cabardès - Club 620 * - Phone 04.68 26 53 48
Lacombe - À La Prise d'Alzeau ** - Phone
Lastours - Restaurant "Le Puits du Trésor" *** - Phone
Lastours - Bakery “ Le Moulin de Lastours” * - Phone
Lastours - Rural auberge "Le Diable aux Thyms" * - Phone
Montolieu - Restaurant tea salon Les Anges au plafond * - Phone
Montolieu - Casquette et Chapeau * - Phone
Montolieu - Bar Lounge Apostrophe * - Phone
Montolieu - Le Café du Commerce * - Phone
Moussoulens - La Farigoulette * - Phone

Pezens - Restaurant l'Ambrosia *** - Phone
Pezens - Pizza Occitane * - Phone
Saint-Martin-le-Vieil - Le Garde-Piles * - Phone
Saissac - Auberge de la Montagne Noire - Phone
Saissac - Restaurant Lafage
Villesèquelande - Le Relais Romain * - Phone
Bon voyage!!
La table du Rebombier

La table du Rebombier - Brousses-et-Villaret

La Table du Rebombier, halfway between the hamlets of Brousses and Villaret and situated at the foot of the Montagne Noir, overlooking the Pyrenees and the vineyards of the Cabardès. La Table du Rebombier offers meals which vary with the seasons, especially its cuisine and its grills fire place. In season, enjoy game and wild mushrooms. You will find a dining room with beamed ceiling, wooden furniture and a large fireplace. In n eat outside in a beautiful park where your grills are prepared in your presence....

Le Bout du Monde

Campsite Le Bout du Monde - Verdun-en-Lauragais

Make your holiday one of discovery. Make moment of rest an opportunity to regenerate yourself, to have fun, share moments excel and live new emotions... Within the campsite les Mimosas, you are at liberty to choose the nature of your holidays : sporting, the great outdoors, discovery... In the heart of one of the sunniest regions of France, everything is here to offer you the best holidays, the one you dream of, the one you love....

Hotel Restaurant  
La Bergerie

Hotel Restaurant la Bergerie - Aragon

Located on the site of an old and completely renovated sheep fold, everything has been thought through to pamper your five senses. Sight: a vista that opens up as you look out from the terrace over the landscape below. Sound: a tranquil setting just 10 minutes from Carcassonne. Touch: nature is bountiful here, with rock, wood, earth, materials and colours all blending to paint a picture that changes with the seasons. Smell: take your place at the table and breathe in the tantalising scents coming from the kitchen. Taste, of course: Fabien and his team prepare traditional cuisine with a modern twist. What is more, even the illustrious Michelin guide was impressed, awarding the young couple their first star in 2009 in recognition of what they have achieved with their team. Come and enjoy a relaxing stay with inventive cuisine at La Bergerie hotel...

Hotel Restaurant Montagne Noire - Saissac

Hotel Restaurant Montagne Noire - Saissac

Hotel, bar, restaurant located in the center of Saissac. A welcoming restaurant just across from the car park. Friendly, family-style welcome. Traditional cuisine and regional specialties, all in a family atmosphere and friendly....

Le Relais Romain

Restaurant Le Relais Romain - Villesèquelande

You've probably passed by this restaurant without even seeing it, it is true that we are far from the beautiful stone buildings in the very special character "showy" which appear to be sometimes, mere "tourist traps". In the restaurant Ghislaine Jean and their daughter, Delphine, offers the basics: the generosity, friendliness and authenticity. Ghislaine kitchen, every day as if it received friends, the kitchen is traditional with quality products . Menus, hearty salads such as "greedy", foie gras mi-cuit house, beautiful steaks and grilled specialties around the fish like monkfish with shrimp and scallops or salmon-Jacques à la plancha cooked sauce Dill, served with wines from local producers. In Summer you will share the terrace in the shade of a weeping willow with visiting tourists and regulars....

Les Chais du Château

Les Chais du Château - Pennautier

Set in the former sheep-fold of the château, boasting vast beams and lovely stone walls, the restaurant welcomes you all year round for meals or gourmet snacks. By the fireside in winter or on the terrace in summer, you can enjoy our simple yet delicious fare. The restaurant offers both regional specialities (delicatessen, cheeses, cassoulet, duck magret) and fresh, flavoursome Mediterranean cuisine....

Restaurant Lafage

Restaurant Lafage - Saissac

Located 20 km from Carcassonne in the heart of the Montagne Noire, in a unique panorama, you will discover our renowned gastronomy. We aim to create a cosy, welcoming atmosphere to enable you to enjoy traditional cooking based on local quality products simply prepared, but not excluding a little sophistication and elegance. Our restaurant has a beautiful view of the chateau saissac...

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