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The Pays d'Olmes and Cathar Pyrenees


This far eastern corner of the département is particularly rich in historically and architechturally important sites, including the cathar castle at Montségur (in photo). There are several interesting museums, including a museum of textiles (an important local industry) and horn combs ("peignes de corne"--horn comb fabrication was established by returning Protestant exiles in the 18th century).



mirepoixppMirepoix is a classic medieval bastide town, its encircling walls pierced by several arched entryways and its streets of half-timbered houses converging on a large central square. The surrounding countryside and that of the Pays d'Olmes is the heart of cathar Ariège: before its conquest by Simon de Montfort in 1209, this land was divided among several lords who embraced catharism. The original settlement of Mirepoix lay next to the Hers River. It was swept away in a great flood in 1279 and the present town rebuilt well away from the river.

At nearby Vals, the Carolingian church is carved out of the rockface.

The Montbel lake is the largest in Ariège and is a popular spot for fishing. For winter sports the ski station is Les Monts d'Olmes.

Many thanks to these photographers

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