Via Duilhac to the Gorges of Galamus and Ermitage St-Antoine
Visit the Chateau de Peyrepertuse, then continue on the D14 Duilhac road, possibly stopping at Duilhac for refreshment at the old Olive Mill, before continuing round the back of the castle and winding your way through Soulatgé to Cubières sur Cinoble and through the awesome Gorges of Galamus.
Visit Estagel, then drive straight up the D117 to St Paul de Fenouillèdes and turn right towards the Gorge.
Leave your car in the large parking and take the footpath to the Hermitage of St Antoine. It clings to the side of the gorge above the turbulent waters of the Agly river hurtling between the tall grey cliffs far below.
This Hermitage with its Cave Chapel is well worth a visit.
The first written records date from the XV century, and continue till the last hermit/priest, Père Marie, died of hunger and cold in 1870.
A legend from further back in time tells of two troubadours, Gadamus and Giles, Montardel, who, in 1090, were making their way from castle to castle.
Stopping at Puilaurens, Gadamus fell in love with the beautiful Sylvaine. Unfortunately, as they left, they were accosted by a band of brigands in the Forest of Fanges and Giles was killed before Gadamus could frighten them off.
As he died he made Gadamus promise to carry his soul to Jerusalem. This Gadamus did.
He sojourned awhile in the Egyptian desert monastery of Saint Antoine and, a year later returned to Puilaurens only to find that Sylvaine had died of the plague.
Heartbroken, he spent the rest of his days in the cliff caves named after the Egyptian hermit Saint.
Today you may visit the Hermitage which grew up around the Cave Chapel, carved into the gorge mountain and, in the shady courtyard, buy drinks, biscuits and postcards. A spiritual oasis, it is free of charge and well worth the visit, nestled into the almost vertical cliff overlooking the Galamus gorges.
There are two ways to access the Hermitage, either from the lower car park, following a rocky pathway for about 15-20 mins or from the upper car park, leaving just a few steps down into the chapel, the second being the easier option of course. If you’re frightened of heights, this visit might not be for you.
Nearby a steep and dangerous path descends to the river and rock pools, or you can walk up to the road for easier access further on.
Pot holing and canyoning are popular, the scenery is spectacular and the road hacked out of the towering 500 m cliff face in the 1880s is dramatic. Swimming in, or picnicking by the rock pools is a joy.
If you still have the energy, follow in the footsteps of Gadamus, return to the D117, turn left and drive to Lapradelle.
You will see Chateau de Puilaurens rising high above the village and the valley of the Boulzane. It was used by the Cathars for refuge in 1245/46 and was one of the main defences of the border against the Spanish until 1659.
A noble and fairytale castle, it is easily accessible by a 20 minute shaded walk from the car-park. From the battlements there are marvellous views over the village, the 1904 railway viaduct and the Forest of Fanges.