Nature lovers and hikers, come and discover the abundance of the Black Mountain (Montagne Noire)! Situated at the southern extremity of the Massif Central, at the edges of the Aude and Tarn departments, this mountain in wild, unspoilt terrain has contrasting types of countryside, as can be seen in the dark forests of pine trees, oaks and beeches towards the north, and the vineyards, garrigue and olive groves towards the south.
The highest point of the Black Mountain, at 1,211 metres, the Nore Peak has a superb panoramic view from its orientation table – you can see the Pyrenees, the Corbières, the Mediterranean Sea, the Toulouse plain and the Lacaune Mountains!
The Prise d’Alzeau, at Lacombe, is the source of the Black Mountain stream which brings water to the Saint-Ferréol basin.
There is nothing like a ramble or a bicycle ride for exploring the natural and built heritage of the Black Mountain, and discovering its typical villages like Roquefère and its castle!
There are so many different walks, too much for one holiday only. A very good map is the IGN-map 2344E of the Série Bleu (Mazamet).
It’s important to carry a compass, water, some food and tissues, and wear good walking shoes, a hat or cap and perhaps even carry a good walking stick.
The most memorable site in the Montagne Noire is the Châteaux de Lastours, the most northerly of the Cathar castles. There are, in fact, four castles here – their ruined keeps jutting superbly from a sharp ridge of scrub and cypress that plunges to rivers on both sides. The two oldest, Cabaret (mid-eleventh century) and Surdespine (1153), fell into de Montfort’s hands in 1211, after their lords had given shelter to the Cathars. The other two, Tour Régine and Quertinheux, were added after 1240, when the site became royal property, and a garrison was maintained here as late as the Revolution. A path winds up from the roadside, bright in early summer with iris, cistus, broom and numerous other plants.