Castles, Countryside, and the End of the Trail ~ La Randonnée Pyrénéenne (day 12) ~ Roquefixade to Foix

Rocky ruins of a French fortress on the top of a steep rock

High on its Pog ~ La Fortresse de Roquefixade

There is something poignant about the end of an adventure.

It was cold on the morning of our last day on the Cathar trail. The pale almost-full Easter moon hung low in the dark sky behind the pog (rock) as we trudged from our accommodation in Cazals d’en Dessus back up the hill to the village of Roquefixade. The spring sun struggled to rise from behind the surrounding Pyrenees.

The quiet gave us opportunity to reflect on our time in the mountains: every day – new terrain, new vistas and new challenges; every evening – aches and fatigue, good food and great wine. While it is true that after almost two weeks of walking over the rugged landscape with what was later diagnosed as severely inflamed osteoarthritis of the hips, part of me was ready for a change, it was also sad to know that by the end of the day we would be at the end of our trail.

Trip Notes:
 Day 12: Roquefixade to Foix

The last section of the Cathar path follows a high ridge from Roquefixade castle to the small town of Foix. This walk combines superb terrain with stunning views.

Points of interest: The ancient fortified town of Roquefixade and its fortified castle. Superb ridge walk to Foix offering some very interesting viewpoints. The country town of Foix with its famous castle.

18.5 kms/11.6 miles. 5hrs. Altitude gain/descent: +350m -720m 

Seen the ruins of one Cathar Castle – seen them all?

We were tired and the wind was rising as we passed through the small town of Roquefixade  (144 inhabitants in 2007) and looked up at the precarious rise to the Château de Roquefixade high above, so we were tempted to bypass the 45 minute climb in favour of shortening our day. But, knowing it might be a long time before we are back this way again, we tied our hats to our heads and clung to the rocks as we braved the winds on the hill.

Composite: Stone cross and fortress ruins on a hill

Cross (MCMDXVI; 1986) in Roquefixade below ~ The fortress (11C) of Roquefixade above.

It was worth it.

Like the other citadels in the area, Roquefixade was built in its day to provide a vantage point over the roads in the region. Today, the rocky ruins allow us to marvel at the hardship of lives in mediaeval times in these windy aeries perched on their rocky outcrops.

Inside the ruins of a French medieval fortress

Inside the Roquefixade Ruins ~ Destroyed in 1632 under the orders of Louis XIII

Close-up: Small dark-blue flowers on rough grass

Flowers cling to the mountain-side in the strong winds.

Flowering plants amid large stones

A natural rock garden ~ wild flowers grow among the rocks of Roquefixade pog.

View: Pyrenees mountains in the background, small village in the plateau

View from Roquefixade: Ariege Midi-Pyrenees

Once we descended from the chateau, we spent the day traversing along paths, through forests, over stony tracks, past ruins and across farmer’s fields.

New oak leaves

Spring Oak

A pile of stones on an overgrown pathway

Un monticule de pierre (a cairn) marks the Cathar Path.

Spring foliage against the sky

New growth along the path

Five chestnut draft horses with white manes in a green field

Draft Horses in the Spring Grass

A sturdy pale gray cow next to a water tank

A sturdy cow keeps an eye on us as we pass.

Dirt path on a grassy plateau

The ridge walk ~ High above Foix

Stone house ruins in a spring countryside

Ruins along the pathway

View down to the city of Foix and the Ariege river

View from the ridge to Foix and the Ariege river below

Memorial stone inscribed with a French poem by France Gall

Memorial on the hillside: "We still laugh - At the foolishness - Just like kids - But not like before" From the song "Evidemment" by France Gall.

Small red flowers on a fresh green shrub

Wildflowers on the path down to Foix

Leafy Green Ground Cover plants

Leafy Green Ground Cover

View of the fortresse of Foix

As we descended the hill, it started to rain, making the fortresse of Foix look like a fairy-tale castle in the mist.

We’d been exceptionally lucky with the weather on our twelve days of walking. Although it had often been windy and cold, for the most part it had been clear and dry. It seemed poetic somehow that, as we descended the hill into Foix, it started to rain – and the rains looked as though they would stay for a while.  We couldn’t help but feel sorry for those people who had their walk ahead of them, in what was forecast to be inclement weather.

A red car drives on the highway in front of the fairy-tale Foix castle.

We knew we were back in the "city" when we had to watch out for the cars passing on the highway. Foix

As we crossed the Ariège river into Foix and towards our accommodation, we met with a man with his backpack going the other way. “I’m a real Pyrenean,” he told me in French. “I live up there.” He indicated vaguely the direction we had come.

Portrait: Gray haired man with a rolled cigarette in his mouth.

The Pyrenean

Text: To your HealthIt seemed a fitting end to our trek – to meet a ‘local’ going back the other way.

We did, of course, visit the famous Foix castle – but that is another story for another day.

Good health ~ À Votre Santé!


  • Signe Westerberg - October 13, 2011 - 10:13 pm

    I note your comment about the rain, which reminds me when I was young and it rained I thought God was sad, perhaps He shared your sadness at leaving this magical place… thanks as always for taking me places I doubt I’ll ever actually walk but am ever so glad you shared them with me.ReplyCancel

  • gabe - October 13, 2011 - 11:16 pm

    Well said and well done both the actual adventure and the story line you created. XXXReplyCancel

    • Ursula - October 15, 2011 - 2:53 pm

      Many thanks to my two most vocal readers. 🙂ReplyCancel

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