The Minervois is littered with ruined castles in addition to the spectacularly ‘repaired’ old fortress city of ancient Carcassonne, La Cité.
“the famous words of Gustave Nadaud: Il ne faut pas mourir sans avoir vu Carcassonne” are brought to mind by one of the characters in Kate Mosse’s book Sepulchre (Orion, 2007) page 420. This 19th century French songwriter certainly waxed lyrical in one of his later songs about the tragedy of approaching senility while still not having seen Carcassonne. With considerable poetic licence he compares its castle walls to those of Babylon. Although La Cité is a magical place (provided one can block out the endless shops purveying plastic tourist tat), the more worldly-wise visitor might feel that other wonders, such as Machu Picchu, have a strong claim to be alongside, if not in front of, Carcassonne on your list of places to visit before you die. Still, if you’re holidaying in the Languedoc then it would clearly be more sensible to tick Carcassonne off your list than to make it wait its turn.
Even closer to Caunes, and far less visited and developed, although equally spectacular in a less brash and touristy way, are the four ruined castles of Lastours (about 20 minutes drive from Caunes — head out towards Carcassonne but soon take the right turn to Villeneuve and follow signs heading for Lastours). With ruins dating from the Bronze Age, 6th century Visigoth settlement, and inevitably the Cathars who resisted repeated assaults by Simon de Montfort’s troops in 1209 but negotiated a capitulation to the northern Barons in 1229. In the 16th century the Protestants occupied the castles which were abandoned after The Revolution.