A delightful circular walk of approximately 2h 20mins with good paths. The ascent of approximately 360m is in the first two thirds of the walk and the descent is a good gradient. Walking boots recommended.
Waymarking patchy but route is cairned. Suitable at any time of year.
Access: map IGN 1:25000 Prades St Paul de Fenouillet 2348ET
Plaque at Parking
Start: N116 from Perpignan to Prades then continue on in direction of Villefranche de Conflent/ Vernet les Bains. Just before entering Ria and just after high wall supporting railway on left, take D26 on right, signed Conat/ Nohedes. Conat is 5 kms along valley. Car park is up a steep slope on left at entrance to village. Toilets available outside the Mairie/ village hall.
Leave car park past the pretty mural giving details of history of Conat. Turn left along D26 then right alongside the first house, down to the river, crossed by a metal bridge. An old wooden sign says Llugols.
The path rises upwards on the side of the valley, first looking down on the fertile areas of land and later the rugged gorges.
Views of the Massif de Canigou and beyond it, to the Roc de France, open up and only improve as height is gained.
After a series of zig zags, about 35 minutes into the walk, reach a bifurcation.( The main path continues to Llugols – you can see the Chapelle de Llugols across the valley)
Take the left turn and rise steeply up cairned path. The path levels off and rises more gently along a ridge. You will see the ruined Chapelle de St Marguerite across the valley but the path moves to the left of the hill and onto a more grassy area before bending right at a cairn marked with blue paint to reach hilltop. See the Chapelle ahead and follow path to arrive there about 1hour 15 mins into the walk.
This is a good spot for a short break. Afterwards, redescend the path for 150 metres to find a large cairn on the right. Turn right across grassy area to find the ruins of a bergerie on left.
Approx 30 metres from the bergerie take path on left, signed Conat. Follow this cairned path downhill for about 15 mins. Look out for a right turn away from a large rock with a cairn on it (most misleading! – but it is a warning not to venture to the rock which stands above a steep drop.
A few minutes from the right turn, descend to meet main path along the valley, which bends left.
Continue downhill along this excellent path. Notice the ruins of Chateau de Conat across the river. Cross 2 wonderful Roman bridges over the river d’Urbanya at its confluence with the river Caillan to enter the village of Conat. (Celtic word Condate = confluence – the orgin of the name of village)
As you rise from the riverside to enter the village continue onwards or explore the upper reaches of Conat to find the restored chapel and dungeon within the ruined Chateau.
Descend from the site to explore the village, if you have time. The houses, built of schist rock have interesting features like a bread oven in the wall.
Drop down to cross the bridge over the river Caillan and turn left along the D26 to reach the Parking area.
It is also possible to make a longer walk by continuing to Llugols, past the chapelle de Llugols and turning left uphill to reach pistes which go along the hills to the left and eventually pass through pine woods to look down on the Chapelle St Marguerite.
Cross fence to find path down to the chapel and pick up remainder of walk from there.
Chapelle de Llugols