Château Lagarde could easily have been nicknamed ""Little Versailles"" during its heyday ! Sold off stone by stone during the French Revolution, the site today is a majestic ruin. Originally the main residence of the Lévis family during the 14th century, the castle was later transformed into a palatial residence surrounded with gardens ‘à la française’. The original layout and structure are still visible today. It was said locally that Louis XIV rebuked the Duc de Mirepoix for his lack of attendance at Court, to which the Duke replied : "" It’s obvious that His Majesty has never been to Lagarde. "" The spirit of Lagarde is still very much alive today, so come and enjoy its 800 year old history !
Also in the area… the fortified village of Camon. Close to Mirepoix, follow a fairy-tale footpath along the River Hers past the ruins of Château de Lagarde to the little village of Camon. Originally a fortified abbey in medieval times, the walls of its large houses are covered with pretty climbing plants. In spring, Camon has a spectacular display of windows painted in bright colours, surrounded by hundreds of roses. The village has just one restaurant which is very popular, a large silent, shady church and a château which is now a romantic hotel.
Don’t miss the ‘cave church’ at Vals and Lac de Montbel :
Visit the ‘cave church’ at Vals. What on earth is a ‘cave church’ ? It is a church partly built into the rock, an incredible harmony of nature and man-made construction. Emilie the guide takes you from the car park to the foot of the church which overlooks the village from its rock. The entrance is down a flight of steps built in a fissure in the rock and an immense surprise awaits you when you enter the building : several naves, several levels, a terrace… The interior of one of the Romanesque naves reads like a holy book with a series of 12th century frescoes restored in 2007. The guide explains what the frescoes represent, how Abbé Durant discovered them by chance in the mid-20th century and how the restoration project led by Jean Marc Stouff was carried out at the beginning of the 21st century. The church has an originality about it that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Lac de Montbel. Relax against the backdrop of the Pyrenees or neighbouring valleys in this unusual part of Ariège. Enjoy the quiet surroundings at the lake’s two beaches with facilities, one on the Léran side, the other on the Montbel side. Lifeguards are present in July and August. For those who prefer to keep moving, there are plenty of activities on and around the lake such as canoeing, pedaloes, sailing, horse riding, cycling, bouncy castles and lots more. There are also 16km of footpaths around the lake and when you have worked up an appetite, enjoy something to eat at the creperie, snack bar and traditional restaurant.
Useful information : Office de Tourisme de Mirepoix (05 61 68 83 76).