Things to do
The area has many other attractions far too numerous to list. If you have a particular interest let me know and I will do my best to help.
Walking - The house is situated in an area of stunning natural beauty ideal for gentle rambling straight from the house, or more taxing walks up in the mountains. Local maps are available in the house for visitors to use, as well as a selection of books with suggested itineraries. There are well signposted walks from the centre of Rivel. French signposts for different routes are colour coded, generally clear and easy to follow, giving distances for the route.
Cycling - Large numbers of designated cycle ways for various types of biking criss-cross the area. An old railway line close by, now a path/cycleway, leads into Chalabre in one direction and the next village of St Colombe in the other and is ideal for cycling with children. It could be a good way for the energetic to pick up their croissants in the morning or come back from the café in the evening! Bike hire is available from Velomondo in nearby Leran next to Lac du Montbel, and bikes can be delivered to the house - www.velomondo.com.
Horse Riding - Ponies are available to hire at Pyreneha-cheval at nearby Leran close to Lac du Montbel - www.randonnees-cheval.com.
Swimming - As well as the pool in the garden, 2 local lakes have swimming beaches. The nearby village of Puivert about 15 minutes by car, not only has a Cathar castle but also a small swimming lake with a beach and a little café/restaurant adjacent. The much larger Lac du Montbel also has a beach with a restaurant overlooking it. A lifeguard is on duty in the high season.
Watersports / Fishing - There is ‘Base Nautique’ or water sports centre at Lac du Montbel accessed from the village of Leran. Pedaloes, canoes etc. can be hired in the summer. Fishing is also available at the lake.
Caves And Pre-Historic Sites - Because of the geology of the area, which is predominantly limestone, there are large numbers of caves worth visiting. One of the best is the Niaux cave (http://www.sites-touristiques-ariege.fr/sites-touristiques-ariege/grotte-de-niaux) near Tarascon-sur-Ariège about an hour’s drive away. This is one of the last remaining caves where it is possible to see at close quarters genuine pre-historic cave paintings. The number of visitors is tightly controlled, only small groups are allowed, and the guided tours of around 90 minutes have to be pre-booked.
In the summer some tours are in English. The caves are very large inside and not at all claustrophobic. At the bottom of the road coming out of the cave is a lovely little restaurant (www.aubergedeniaux.com) where it is nice to sit in the sun and discuss the visit over lunch. There is also a museum of pre-history for the children (and adults!)
For The Children
Many of the places to visit can be enjoyed by the whole family but close to the house are several places which may be of interest.
- Adventure Park, Belesta 15 minutes away - www.crapahut-aventure.fr
- Butterfly farm, Rivel 5 minutes - www.papillonsdamarante.com
- Chateau de Chalabre 10 minutes - www.chateau-chalabre.com
- Go-cart track - Lavalanet 20 minutes - www.kartingmidipyrenees.com
Limoux is a nice little riverside town about half an hour’s drive. It is famous for its sparkling wine, Blanquette de Limoux, that has been claimed to pre-date Champagne. It is available in every supermarket and comes in varying degrees of dryness depending on your taste. Details of the wine and various producers - www.limoux-aoc.com/
The Domaine de Gayda about 6km from Limoux offers tastings, courses and has its own restaurant - www.domainegayda.com