Follow the Carol valley from Bourg Madame to the Col de Puymorens and the end of the Pyrenees Orientales. It is grand and beautiful.
High mountains form the frontier with Andorra, huge granite boulders and small waterfalls are scattered down their sides to the banks of the fast running Carol river.
A single track railway snakes through the valley beside it. Latour de Carol is the last station stop of the Yellow Train, and from there connecting trains take you Toulouse or Barcelona.
It is farming country. The mountain meadows are full of sturdy horses, peaceful cattle graze and, higher up are sheep and small shelters for the shepherds.
Just a fifteen minute drive from Pas de la Case, tax free haven and purpose built border town between France and Andorra, the ski resort of Porte Puymorens has 16 pistes for skiing of all levels and 21 kms of cross country.
Para ski-ing and snow boarding enthusiasts are also catered for, with a vast snow park 600m long with tables, slide etc and a half pipe 100m long.
Recent plans to link Porté with the vast skiing domaine in Andorra, Granvalira, making it the largest skiing area in the Pyrenees, were recently shelved, and for the time being, Porté remains very much a one hoss village, with limited accommodation and facilities, but with everything you need for a good day’s skiing.
The Carol valley opening into vast spaces, there are lakes and tiny villages of sombre grey stone houses with fish scale roof tiles, and all around the towering mountains form a spectacular backdrop.
The towers of Carol are actually not in Latour de Carol although an interesting church is. To find them it is necessary to go further up the valley to Carol itself. At 1300 metres, although in ruins, they still stand guard on their rocky promontory above the village.
The road winds its way up to the 1900 metre Col de Puymorens before plunging down either to Pas de la Casa in Andorra or into the Arriège.
Between Bourg Madame and Envieg take the D618 then the D10 to Dorres. The village, as are all the surrounding villages, is made up of ancient granite houses with slate roofs.
In fact there is a granite stone cutters museum (04 68 04 60 69), showing how the granite was cut for use in the tracks of the Train Jaune, the Barrage of Bouillouses, and the Basilique of Lourdes.
A Museum ticket entitles you to free entry to the Roman Baths of Dorres. Rather more rustic than the naturally hot baths of Llo or St Thomas, lying in the 42 degree water and enjoying the magnificent view of Carlit’s peak, and the chain of mountains separating France from Spain, is rather special. 04 6804 6687 for opening hours.
From Dorres the walk up to Chapel Belloc, all that remains of a caroligienne monastery and easily visible on the skyline, is, at 1700 metres, spectacular.
Returning to the D618, the scenery from the road through Angoustrineto to Targasonne and on to Font Romeu, is spectacular, beautiful, rugged and open.
Huge granite boulders, vast views to the mountains, and, about half way, rather spoiling the perfection of the view, “La Centrale Themis” 04 68307788 or 04 68305332. For more than 30 years the solar mirrors on top of the tower have concentrated the energy of the sun. For all interested in renewable energy, a ticket to visit it includes entrance to the Four Solaire at Odeillo as well.