With Polly Cannie


Arles-sur-Tech used to be our home…….and we loved it!

Glimpses of the Tres Vents and the Haut Vallespir as I approach the village still make my heart sing.

The ’real’ village isn’t what you see when you drive through the rather uninviting one-way system on your way, perhaps, to Prats-de-Mollo.

Instead, venture into the heart of the village to the medieval centre, the Abbey, the Moulin and maybe on for lunch at one of the pleasant restaurants in the village.

So, at the first roundabout as you approach the village from Amelie, take the 2nd exit and park at the Salle des Fêtes about 200 metres along on the left.

With the Salle behind you, go left and take the 2nd turning, Rue des Glycines, turning left and followIng the road past the Spar and up the hill. Facing you are the lovely Mairie gardens and the beautiful building which now houses the Mairie – pop in and see the reception hall and the Salle de Mariage.

Diagonally opposite the Mairie is the Tourist Information Office. (At the time of writing this has decamped temporarily into the Abbey Cloisters a few steps away and is clearly signposted.)

You can now pick up a collection of leaflets on the village and the immediate surrounding area but today I suggest you collect a village street map and the ’Visite de la Ville’ leaflet which will take you on a walking tour of the historic centre.

Before setting off though, consider a guided tour around the Xth Century Abbey, Sainte Marie d’Arles, (open from 9 til 7 in July and August) and see the mysterious Sainte Tombe.

The recently refurbished Place du Couvent just beyond the cloisters will then start you off on the short walking tour of the ’centre historique’.


rousquillesNext, we’re heading to the top of the main street. Next to the tabac is the Patisserie Touron, makers of allegedly the most famous ’rousquilles’ in the area – stock up while you can.

Now take the lane immediately to your left, turn right at the bottom, then straight on for just over 200 metres, bear left, and facing you 50 metres further on is the entrance to Le Moulin (open 10 til 7 every day throughout summer).

Here are the workshops of several artisans including potters, leather workers, iron workers, the old Catalan textile looms and a large exhibition hall displaying (for sale) the beautiful work of over a dozen very skilled artists, craftsmen and women.

If you look on the Tourist Information website before you come, you could coincide your visit with one of the falconry displays which take place in the gardens behind the Moulin throughout the summer and which are very popular.

CorsavyOn leaving the Moulin, turn right and a short walk will bring you back to your car park.

If you have a little more time, drive out of the village towards Prats de Mollo for a kilometre and turn left at the new bridge, past the rugby ground to the refurbished Fontaine des Buis ’guinguette’ with a picnic area alongside the fast flowing Tech.

There are a couple of little beach areas very good for a cooling paddle. Or just along the main road again and turning right, a few kilometres winding steadily upwards takes you to Corsavy for some stunning views of the Haut Vallespir in one direction and the Canigou range in the other, tantalisingly close.

La Sainte TombeAccording to legend, around about the tenth century, the infamous Simiots, ‘bêtes féroces assez semblables à des chats et même à des singes’ terrorised Arles-sur-Tech. These ‘monkey men’ came down from the mountains, raping, pillaging and destroying crops.

In despair, the abbot of Arles, Arnulfe, decided that the relics of a Saint were needed to balance out the many sins of the villagers, which were surely responsible for their plight.

He journeyed to Rome and returned with the relics of Abdon and Sennen, obscure Persian saints who were eaten by lions in the Arena of Rome, hidden in the false-bottom of a liquor barrel. The Simiots disappeared and peace was restored.

“La Sainte Tombe” in which their bones were supposedly stored has run with pure water ever since, defying scientific explanation. Once a year the monks siphon out the water with silver pump and hand out to pilgrims.



  1. El Simiots closed quite some time ago!

    1. Indeed it did Graham. Thank you. That must have crept in from an old article. Now corrected.

Leave a Comment