As a couple, we decided to go hiking for a weekend. We live near Toulouse and wanted to get some fresh air without going too far. Therefore, we picked Volvestre, located less than 45 minutes from the Pink City and very well served by the free A64 motorway.
We are intermediate hikers; we walk at a good pace as long as the difficulty is not overwhelming. The small hills in the South of Toulouse therefore should not frighten us.
We leave the North of Toulouse by car at 9am on Saturday morning, heading towards Rieux-Volvestre, a medieval city listed as one of the “Plus Beaux Détours de France” (“Most Beautiful Detours in France”) and the first step of our short trip. Why this choice? Because we were seduced by the PR12 amongst the hikes listed in the topoguide Via Garona.
We arrived at 9.45 and parked the car in the Paous car park, behind the Mairie along the Arize. The first great moment was this arrival, crossing the Lajous bridge and the view over the imposing Cathedral of Saint-Marie from the XIV century.
By the time we had put our walking gear on, it’s 10am, which leaves us with enough time to complete the 12km loop leaving from the Cathedral and marked by yellow signs. First, we cross the old part of the town, its narrow streets, its half-timbered houses and its historical monuments like the Tourasse (old prison and Italian style theatre) or the Halle. In the modern part, we take our first break. We decided to have a picnic on the way. We stop in the local products shop called “L’antre-pots de Flora” to buy some paté, cold meats and tins, all from Volvestre. We finish our shopping in the boulangerie next door and the Huit à 8 shop. We return to the road and quickly leave the city as we head towards the Garonne through the “chemin des mules” and the cliffs. We reach the Village Gaulois (gallic village) in the early afternoon. It’s an accurate reconstitution of the way our ancestors used to live. This is where we’ll have our lunch as there is a picnic area.
It’s 1pm by
the time we have savoured these local specialities and taken a break, time to
head back to Rieux-Volvestre. The remaining circuit goes through the Via
Garona, on the Saint-James route between Toulouse and
Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. After carefully crossing the busy D25, our walk
will mainly take place in the forest and uphill, before heading down towards
the starting point by footpath. We stop for a moment on the verge of the Arize
after the Auriac bridge and its chapel, opposite the windmill with a
breathtaking view over the Cathedral Tower.
Results of our hike in Rieux-Volvestre: 11.7km in 3 hours 30 minutes, cumulative altitude increase 57 metres, medium level.
time to leave. The journey won’t be long as we’re going to Latrape, less than
10km away. It’s a relief to reach this town by car and not by foot as it’s
perched on top of the hills. We park in front of the Balcon des Etoiles, an
astronomy centre set. We briefly walk around the village before joining the
yellow marked circuit at 3.30pm.
point of this 8km walk is located in a small car park behind the church. Once
we left the village, we discovered a breathtaking panoramic view over the
Pyrenees. We glimpse several towns such as the medieval city of
Rieux-Volvestre, where we’ve come from. We go from field to field over stone
paths and other tarmaced paths. Then we carry on our way down passing near the
old castle of Mailholas, the village below. It’s time to head back to Latrape.
With the heat, the morning tiredness and the large lunch break, it’s already
Results of our hike in Latrape: 8km in 2 hours 30 minutes, total accumulated altitude of 116 metres, easy/medium level.
We spend the
night 5 minutes away from the village, in the Bed&Breakfast of Villa
Montplaisir in the hamlet next to Casteret. Since we did not go far from our
home for our trip we saved money and were thus able to treat ourselves with the
“En Volvestre” package at 80€ per person, which includes one night with
breakfast, private access for 1h30 to the spa area, dinner and a 25 minute
massage called “Evasion”, which really relaxed us before sleeping in the
beautiful Suite “Ô Toulouse”.
clock goes off at 9am, accompanied by the smell of pastries. We leave the place
just before 10am for about 30 minutes of driving towards Montbrun-Bocage, a
quaint enclave of Volvestre in Ariège. We stop for a few minutes in the
beautiful city of Montestquieu-Volvestre to visit its church with its unusual
front facade that caught our attention. We didn’t regret this unexpected break.
It hides some true treasures, such as a huge paintin of Girodet and a sculpture
of the Burial of Jesus from the XV century.
We leave and
arrive around 10.45 at the footstep of Montbrun’s fortified castle remains.
It’s a busy day, it’s market day and it’s very popular! We quickly join the
PR20 path, marked in yellow. We walk past the foot of the castle’s remains and
go through fields. This walk offers a breathtaking view over the medieval city,
which holds plenty of treasures. The hike is shorter (just over 5K). It takes
us up to the chapel of Notre-Dame de Montaut, a nice building but unfortunately
closed. It has been recently restored, as well as the path. We go back down to
the village, following the tarmacked road, then past the lake and its little
windmill. It’s 12.15 when we
arrive in Montbrun.
Results of our walk in Montbrun-Bocage: 5km in 1 hour 30 minutes, total accumulated altitude increase 170 meters, easy level.
We decide to
look around the market, spread across the beautiful Halle, and have some lunch.
It’s a very lively place, a gathering of lots of curious people and artists,
and full of delicious delicacies that will become our lunch.
we leave for our last stop in Montaut, on the way to Toulouse. It takes a
little more than 45 minutes to reach it… To make the journey worth it, we cut
through the Ariège and Daumazan-sur-Arize, then Volveestre and its special
villages such as Lapeyrère, Canens and most of all St-Sulpice-sur-Lèze with its
arches. As we get to Montaut, we park in front of the Marie and leave at 2pm to
start the loop of Saint-Barthélemy, marked in yellow. It is 8km long, our last
effort of the weekend.
crossing Montaut, we have a first viewpoint over the Garonne and its valley.
The light uphill path takes us around farms and hamlets, the one from
Notre-Dame enables us to admire once again the Pyrenees and
Saint-Sulpice-sur-Lèze. It’s a bucolic walk, in a heaven of tranquillity. The
way back takes us along the top of the cliffs overhanging the river and its
valley (refreshing!). Time to get to the car, and it’s 4pm. We’ll be in
Toulouse half an hour later, relaxed, refreshed and certainly stronger!
Results of our walk in Montaut: 7km in 2 hours, total accumulated altitude increase of 95 meters, easy level.