Set in the rugged red Pyrenean Mountains with panoramic views en route, we offer an adventurous week long trail exploring this mountainous area redolent with history while staying in chambre d’hôte farm houses or small guesthouses along the way.

This trail can be undetaken unguided by experienced riders who are prepared to take full responsibility for themselves and their horses. Set departure dates are led by a qualified, experienced guides are also available.

There are 20 horses ranging from schoolmasters to lively Arabs and Warmbloods. There is also a short break programme available which caters for novices upward (experienced riders separated). Please follow this link: Carcassonne Pyrenean Short Break

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from MC of Warrington on 18/09/2019

Ride Summary
FAB HORSES, BEAUTIFUL SCENERY, POOR FOOD SOMETIMES
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
All of the horses were very well mannered, forward going, good natured and fit. They all rode together well too which was very noticeable. I would love to ride the same horse again if I returned. I thought the horses were a delight and a a true credit to the owner / trainers.
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
What could we do to improve this ride?
The accommodation is basic but I think that is reflected in the price. I think the food however wasn't good enough sometimes in terms of quantity and quality. The food and hospitality at Collette's place was super (one lunch and one dinner) but examples when the food was inadequate include - one day we had a breakfast of only bread and jam (no cheese or eggs) which is not enough sustenance for a morning ride which was more than 4.5 hours. The lunch that followed was only sandwiches and white rice with a few vegetables in it and I thought this was disappointing in terms of quantity and quality. A sausage and hunk of cheese could have been included in the saddle bag.
The food was also poor in the place we stayed for two nights. It was prepared by a restaurant hours before we ate it and then reheated for a very long time on a slow burn stove so it was very overcooked. The room we ate in was also very 'unfriendly'. The starters and desserts on these two nights were good but the main dishes were very poor and very overcooked.
The food in the hotel we stayed at on the first night was also very poor but we gave feedback and it improved considerably on the following nights.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
5
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
I didn't find the ride difficult at all. I do think some of days are longer than described though (which I loved) so you do need to be fit. One day we rode for more than 4.5 hours in the morning and then possibly 3 hours in the afternoon. The other days were less than this but still a good number of hours.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
I have recommended Unicorn to other riders and brought riders with me e.g. I brought three riding friends with me this time.
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
I definitely do recommend this ride, the leader and the horses. I just think the food needs to improve.
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you enjoyed the ride! :) I will discuss meal and accommodation improvements with Nicole.

Day 1
Transfer and afternoon arrival in Granes. Check-in at your overnight accommodation. Your guide will meet riders for an aperitif and to discuss the week's ride ahead over dinner.

Day 2
Granes: Today is a 'test' ride with a guide to see how well riders can read their maps and  handle their horses both while riding and on the ground. This is essential as on the following day the unguided trip starts and the riders will be on their own. Ride through woods past the mysterious village of Rennes-le-Château. After a picnic lunch, return to Granes through a green oak forest for dinner and overnight as on the previous night.

Day 3
Granes to Puivert (about 5 hours riding).
Traverse the vintard studded upper valley of the Aude River to arrive on the plateau of Puivert. Riders cross the plateau and ride into the courtyard of the castle ruin where the travelling troubadours used to enchant the lords of the castle with their songs and tales. Overnight lodging is in the village nearby.

Day 4
Puivert to Labau (5 to 6 hours).
Today's route goes through the forest of Picaussel with its huge hemlock, deciduous and pine trees, climbing to a lake, then down through forests and clearings to the ancient village of Labau on the side of a hill.

Day 5
Labau to Ayguebonnes (5 hours).
Follow the valley of Rebenty where there are some good places to canter and really appreciate the qualities of your horse. You have a chance to visit another famous castle called Puylaurens perched high on a mountain, almost in the clouds, which is a textbook example of military architecture.

Spend the night in a home of local cattle farmers. 

Day 6
Ayguebonnes to Cubieres (6+ hours the longest day).
After crossing the valley of Fenouilledes with its small castles, you will ride up to the plateau of Malabrac at the base of Bugarach Peak (4,500 ft.) and then down to Cubieres, a picturesque village where you will stay overnight.

Day 7
Cubieres to Bouchard (5 hours).
Ride through the reserve with deer and wild boar, following the valley of Bugarach at the north base of Bugarach Peak, and on through pine, beech and oak forest, following a small valley with large calcareous rocks before returning to your starting point in Granes.

Day 8
After breakfast a last goodbye as we depart to the airport. This route is for unguided trails. On the guided trail we go directly to Puivert on day 2. The itinerary on this horse riding holiday is for guidance only and may be altered due to weather or other local conditions.

Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Carcasonne Pyrenean Trail

Only two single rooms are available. A single supplement is obligatory for any booking of one person

This trip covers steep mountain terrain and you will need to dismount and lead your horse for up to 15 minutes at a time in a few places.

Unguided Trail

Please note that for unguided trails it is necessary for the group to have good map reading skills and be able to read a compass. It is also very important that the group has a certain degree of horsemanship, you will be required to ensure the well being of your horse at all times.
 
If either of these factors are compromised your host reserves the right to send along a guide with the group. This will incur an extra cost.

It willincrease your enjoyment if you can speak some French. It is necessary to carry a mobile phone. Your luggage is transferred for you by vehicle every day.

 


Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

The French - Theodore Zeldin
Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan
A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence - Peter Mayle
Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes and the Amateur Emigrant - Louis Stevensons
Citadel - Kate Mosse

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

There are 20 well schooled horses of all shapes and sizes to choose from. From school masters and cobs to fast Arabs and 2 ponies, there is certain to be a horse to suit you. The riding can vary in pace depending on the rider's ability. English tack is utilised and the riding style is English. Spanish saddles are used too. Saddle bags will be provided for your water bottle, camera and immediate necessities. You are advised to bring your own riding helmet as there may not be any available on site. Tack is well-used but serviceable. The terrain is very steep in parts and you will need to lead your horse in some sections.


Rider requirements

Participants should be comfortable at walk, trot, canter and have some experience in rough terrain. Expect to spend an average of 4-6 hours a day in the saddle. You must also be fit enough to be able to dismount and lead your horse on steep sections and remount on the trail.

This is an opportunity to see a seldom seen part of France off the beaten track. There is spectacular scenery en route. You will be staying with local families in their comfortable homes. Some French or the used of a French dictionary and phrase book will add greatly to your enjoyment of the hospitality on this trail.

For the unguided trail you need to be comfortable caring for your horse – feeding, grooming, catching and saddling them daily. You need to be able to follow a route on a map, use a compass and will also be given a written trail description. If, after the inital assesment ride, your host feels that a private guide will be necessary a supplement of will apply. It will also be beneficial to be able to speak some French in order to be able to get maximum enjoyment from the unguided experience. You must carry a mobile phone with you at all times.

There is a minimum riding age of 10 years for this ride.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation is in B&B style home stays known as gites. This means a comfortable room and hot shower are available each night of the trail. This also gives a unique opportunity to meet local people, who are invariably delighted to meet you. Bathrooms may be shared and there may be 3 beds in one room. Please note that is the gites are fully booked during peak season and hotels may be used instead where wine is not included.



The food features home cooking, French style. Picnic lunches are prepared by your hosts for you to take along in your saddle bags each day. It is recommended you bring a water bottle to take with you. A 3-course dinner is prepared by your hosts.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

Passport and Visa requirements can change regularly depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.

Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/france

In the USA: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/France.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/france

Climate Summary

The climate in the mountains are always changeable so you should come prepared with a raincoat and warmer jacket even in summer time. The temperatures below are for the nearest town on the plains and are cooler in the mountains, although it can be hot during the day in July and August.

Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in France and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.


Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

The emergency phone number in France is 112. If you need to contact other emergency services, call 15 (medical), 17 (police) or 18 (fire).

Health (ride specific)

No special health precautions are required for visits to France, for further details please see your local doctor. We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!

Electricity

In France the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Film and Camera Equipment

Good quality film is widely available for purchase as well as batteries (normal, alkaline and lithium).

Packing List

It is recommended that you bring clothes that air-dry quickly.
Riding pants - jeans or breeches
Endurance type riding boots (for walking beside your horse over rough terrain)
Lipbalm with sunscreen
Half chaps (optional)
Insect repellent
Riding gloves
Sunblock
Riding hat with brim
Sunglasses
Hard hat (recommended)
Plastic bags for wet clothing
T-shirts and shorts
Mobile phone
All terrain sandals
Camera and film
Long sleeved shirts
Binoculars (recommended)
Heavy sweater or sweatshirt
Informal wear for evenings
Lightweight rainwear
Water bottle
Copy of your passport

Programmes

This is an 8 days / 7 nights programme with 6 days riding. Unguided trails are available on request throughout the year, guided trails are available on set dates. For safety reasons a minimum of 2 persons must book the unguided trail to depart together.


On the guided trail we go directly to Puivert on day 2. On both trails your luggage is transferred by back up vehicle to your accommodation daily.

Departure Dates

2023 Guided Trails: 9 April; 7 May; 11 June; 9 July; 13 August; 17 September. Other dates available on request for minimum of 4 riders.
2023 Unguided Trails: weekly dates to suit between 15 April and 15 October, any start day for minimum of 2 people.

Pricing
Single supplement must be paid if booking alone.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6twin or double room per person1,075
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6single supplement155
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6supplement for a private guide385
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation per person959
2022 - Guided8d/7n6double pp1,065
2022 - Guided8d/7n6single supplement135
2022 - Guided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation949
2023 - Guided8d/7n6double pp1,155
2023 - Guided8d/7n6single supplement165
2023 - Guided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation989
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6twin or double room per person1,175
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6single supplement165
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6supplement for a private guide549
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation per person1,009
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6twin or double room per person1,225
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6single supplement175
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6supplement for a private guide439
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation per person1,095
2022 - Guided8d/7n6double pp1,215
2022 - Guided8d/7n6single supplement149
2022 - Guided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation1,085
2023 - Guided8d/7n6double pp1,315
2023 - Guided8d/7n6single supplement189
2023 - Guided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation1,125
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6twin or double room per person1,339
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6single supplement189
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6supplement for a private guide625
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation per person1,149
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6twin or double room per person1,355
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6single supplement195
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6supplement for a private guide485
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation per person1,209
2022 - Guided8d/7n6double pp1,339
2022 - Guided8d/7n6single supplement165
2022 - Guided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation1,195
2023 - Guided8d/7n6double pp1,449
2023 - Guided8d/7n6single supplement209
2023 - Guided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation1,245
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6twin or double room per person1,479
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6single supplement209
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6supplement for a private guide689
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation per person1,269
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6twin or double room per person13,545
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6single supplement1,935
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6supplement for a private guide4,839
2022 - Unguided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation per person12,095
2022 - Guided8d/7n6double pp13,409
2022 - Guided8d/7n6single supplement1,659
2022 - Guided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation11,955
2023 - Guided8d/7n6double pp14,515
2023 - Guided8d/7n6single supplement2,075
2023 - Guided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation12,439
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6twin or double room per person14,789
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6single supplement2,075
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6supplement for a private guide6,909
2023 - Unguided8d/7n6dormitory accommodation per person12,715
Recommended Reading

Theodore Zeldin ‘The French’, Francoise Sagan ‘Bonjour Tristesse’, Peter Mayle ‘A Year in Provence’ and ‘Toujours Provence’, Louis Stevensons ‘Travels with a Donkey’ and Henry James ‘A Little Town In France’. For an excellent selection of equestrian travel and adventure books visit www.horsetravelbooks.com (part of the Long Rider’s Guild).


Other Activities

Walking and with car rental exploring the local towns and villages.

Other Information

While in Carcassonne you might like to stay on in the town before or after the ride - we have experienced 2 of the hotels in Carcassonne;

Hotel L'Octroi
A very basic 2* hotel 2 minutes walk from the main gate of the city. The bus from the airport goes right past the hotel so ask the driver to stop for you. The rooms are small and basic, but clean and have everything you need. There is a lovely breakfast area and a comfortable seating area with loads of information on the area.
email: hotel-octroi@ataraxie.fr

La MontMorency
A lovely 2* hotel with views of the walled city. Very pleasant rooms, some with balconies. A lovely terrace area with plenty of seating. An outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi. A large breakfast area/bar. This hotel is at the foot of the main gate to the city and is one minute walk from where the airport bus stops. Highly recommended.
Website - www.lemontmorency.com

Things to do in Carcassonne. There are lots of things to do in the old city, including a train or horse and cart tour around the outside. Inside are numerous museums as well as the castle itself. There are lots of lovely cafes, bars and restaurants, the nicest being in the main square. A good value and great service restaurant is La Troubadour in the main square where french singers sometimes perform. It has a nice atmosphere in the evening.

Other Country Information

The French wrote the book on la vie en rose and gave the world champagne and camembert, de Beauvoir and Debussy, the Tour de France and the Eiffel Tower. It is a country steeped in history. Staggering monasteries and castles dotted all over the country are a reminder of a turbulent and often violent past, especially in the Carcasonne region where the Gnostic Christian organisation the Cathars held fast against a crusade launched in the 11th century by an angry and vengeful Catholic church for over twenty years. Despite their vow of non-violence they had a strong support base, including the Knights Templar, and their name often pops up in the legend of the Holy Grail.

The French character has undoubtedly been influenced by their past, today they are a proud and patriotic people famed for enjoying the finer things in life and displaying a great generosity character in their willingness to share their country with the millions of visitors they receive each year.

Food is very important in French culture, almost puritanical. Families eat dinner together late in the evening and their diet is usually very healthy, packed with home grown fruit and vegetables. You will hardly ever see anyone eating on the street; if you do chances are they're not French!

France is one hour ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram. The international dialling code for France is +33.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Carcassonne Airport (CCF) or Town
Transfer:
2023: €45 return per person payable locally. Transfer time approximately one hour from the airport, town or train station
Flight Guide:
London - Carcasonne return from £50 with Ryanair. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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