Abbaye de Valmagne
15 minutes from St Ferreol direction Montpellier via Montagnac
In 1139 Raymond Trencavel, Viscount of Beziers founded the Abbey of Valmagne in the Parish of Villeveyrac, near the port of Meze on the "Bassin de Thau".
From the XII th. to the XIII th. Century, Valmagne was one of the richest abbeys in South of France.
Originally Valmagne was founded under Benedictine order but, in 1159, the monks joined the Cistercian movement.
The early days of the abbey constituted a period of great prestige, growing wealth and expansion, and then Valmagne suffered from the effect of the Hundred Years Wars, and later of the Religious Wars.
The attack of the Hugenots in 1575, organised by Valmagne's own abbot, gone into the Reformation, was a real disaster. Badly damaged, all the stained glass of the roses and clerestories were for ever broken, and the abbey needed the next two centuries to recover some of its original splendour.
At the Revolution in 1789, the last five monks fled just ahead of rebellious peasants who invaded and ransacked the abbey, burning precious documents, furniture and works of art.
Confiscated as a national property, the abbey was sold in 1791 to Mr Granier - Joyeuse who turned the church into a wine cellar, with addition of big vats in the nave and absidals chapels, preventing by this use this magnificent edifice from becoming a stone quarry, as befell so many abbeys.
The 29 th. of July 1838, following the death of Mr. Granier, the abbey and its dependencies were sold, this time, to the Count de Turenne, and still remains in the possession of his descendants.
The actual church in classical Gothic style was begun in 1257 on the foundations of the original Romanesque chapel, which had become too small for the ever-increasing number of monks. Inspired from the great cathedrals of the North of France; it is 83 meters long and 24 meters high.
The cloister has the exquisite charm of a Tuscany garden, with the Chapter House and its ribbed voult, which witnessed the presence of the monks since the XII th. century, and its elegant and magnificent fountain bringing the most pure and fresh water from the spring of Diane.
Open to the public since 1975, Valmagne is well known to all archaeologists and lovers of old monuments. The restoration of the abbey is permanent, new bells have been put back in the steeple. The owners have won many prices in recognition for the work done to restore the Abbey.
An excellent restaurant has now been created next to the Abbey utilising on ly the freshest produce grown in its own medieval style kitchen gardens.
20 minutes from St Ferreol direction Agde / Cap d’Agde
The town of Agde, authentic and picturesque. Formerly called “Agathé Tyché” (Good Fortune), the town of Agde nestles at the intersection of the Canal du Midi, the River Hérault and the Mediterranean Sea. Previously a trading post, this town built with the volcanic rock from the Mont Saint Loup prospered over the centuries through maritime trade. It is one of the oldest towns in France, with a rich history spanning thousands of years.
Small brightly coloured shopping streets and craftsmen's workshops animate the heart of the ancient town.
Undoubtedly, Agde is a town full of charm with a southern accent - to visit absolutely!
Saint Guilhem le Desert
45 minutes from St Ferreol direction Gignac
In the heart of the Hérault Gorges, in the Val de Gellone, the medieval village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is in a green setting along the meandering Verdus stream.
Its houses are snuggled tightly together in ancient alleyways, with roof tiles baked by the Languedoc sun for twelve centuries. See traces of the past in their architecture, their lintels, their gemelled windows…Built around the Abbey of Gellone, the village has kept its impressive medieval imprint and constitutes a rare, harmonious site in Languedoc.
This Classified Site, is one of the most beautiful villages in France and today its abbey is registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in conjuncton with the french section of St James' Way to Santiago de Compostela in western Spain.?
The main village square and cobbled street leading down to the gorges are peppered with boutiques selling gifts and locally produced pottery as well as a variety of restaurants and cafes.
Le Jardin de St Adrien
20 minutes from St Ferreol direction Servian
The Garden of Saint Adrien is one of the most spectacular sights of our Languedoc region.
The dream of a native son, the old quarries dating back to the Middle Ages were gradually transformed into a green, paradoxical oasis set on volcanic rocks .
In this place of contrast, the walker moves from natural stone to free and fragrant flowers, shading costs and intimate pines.
Four water features enhance the striking effect of this extraordinary landscaped garden.
This 4 hectare garden has won many prestigious awards and hosts a programme of cultural events from June to September.
25 minutes from St Ferreol direction Montpellier
The town of Sète was created on royal decision in 1660 and was born from the will of three men : Paul Riquet, Louis XIV and the Knight of Clerville.
Paul Riquet had undertaken digging the "Canal du Midi", and was looking for an suitable outlet on the Mediterranean Sea.
Louis XIV had instructed his minister Colbert to find a new sea route for the royal galleys and to create a port for shipping Languedoc's products.
Colbert entrusted this task to the Knight of Clerville who identified the cap of Sète as the most suitable site for the creating a port.
"Sète, a peninsula…" The omnipresence of water, its incomparable light and colours; all qualities which have given it its second name "Venice of the Languedoc".
Built on the flanks of Mont St.Clair, wedged between the Thau Lagoon, the Sea and the canals, Sète is one of the largest ports on the Mediterranean. In Sète, there is a sweet mixture of scents from the Sea and the garrigue (Mediterranean scrubland) in the air.
It is also a cosmopolitan city, in which its foreign communities, mostly Italians, contribute to its picturesque atmosphere."
Fabulously fresh fish and seafood to be found in a huge variety of restaurants set around the port.
Sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, kite surfing , and renting motorboats are just a few of the activities to be found at Sete. Discover the beautiful coastline and long stretches of sandy beaches between Sete and Agde.
1 hour 15 mins from St Ferreol direction Montpellier
With around 150,000 inhabitants and an area of 16,150 ha, Nîmes is the twentieth largest city of France. Featuring a rich heritage, the city is rich in Art and History.
Oxygenated with 409 ha of public open space and 1,200 acres of forests, carefully maintained, the City shows "3 flowers" Label Cities and villages in bloom. Nîmes is also City Health and WHO Child Friendly City.
Nîmes has a rich past and at the same time is resolutely contemporary.
Roman monuments, are the asset and pride of the town. By their majesty and exceptional conservation, they contribute fully to forge the identity of Nîmes. Erected here 2000 years, the Maison Carree, the arenas, and an original Roman wall are all part of Nimes exciting heritage. Regarding the arenas, the restoration of several bays is currently underway, according to the most ecological restoration processes for a stone amphitheatre. Nîmes is also working on designing a great future Museum of Romanité Labeled City of Art and History. Proud of this identity, the City ardently defends an entry in the World Heritage for all its monuments.
Excellent historical sights, museums , parks and a rich agenda of cultural events throughout the summer.
Cirque de Navacelles
50 minutes from St Ferreol direction Clermont l’Herault
Ecological and geological wonder, nestled in the heart of the Causses whose megalithic concentration is one of the largest in France, Cirque Navacelles and its 300m canyon offers visitors a panorama and spectacular features with rare and exceptional fauna and flora. UNESCO recently registered this site in the World Heritage of Humanity and is in the process of labeling it as a Grand Site de France. The Cirque de Navacelles is striking evidence of a long geological history and powerful work of water in the middle of the vast plateaus of southern Massif Central.
A great place to hike and picnic.
Cirque de Moureze
40min from St Ferreol direction Clermont l’Herault
The village is visited for the natural spectacle that stands at its feet - the Cirque de Mourèze. The Cirque is an extensive natural amphitheatre (it covers almost 1000 acres / 300 hectares) of dolomites - dolomites are the hard upright rocks that remain standing when water and wind erosion has worn away the softer rock around them.
Start your visit at the Parc des Courtinals which has the best sweeping view of the cirque, and a 'table d'orientation' explaining the major formations and landmarks. There is also also a small museum explaining the geology and history of the people who once lived here, and a reconstructed iron age hut.
There are several marked trails that lead through the cirque, of varying length taking between one hour and three hours to complete. Be sure to explore one of these because it is close up that the landscape is most strange and fascinating, in the most intact 'cirque of dolomites' in Europe.
Strange standing rock formations, worn by the rain over millions of years, emerge from the undergrowth often seeming to take the forms of various animals and structures - many of the rocks have been given names by the more romantically inclined.
The region around the Cirque de Moureze has also been occupied since prehistoric times, certainly 9000 years ago, and there are remains of more recent iron-age dwellings.
Highly recommended for a visit, with scenery that is both fascinating and awe-inspiring. If you are visiting during the height of summer try to visit the cirque quite early in the morning, and always bring water - it gets very hot exploring and natural shade is hard to find.
45 minutes from St Ferreol direction Montpellier
Along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea , Montpellier has everything it takes to please. A lively and surprising city in the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Montpellier is vibrant, elegant and artistic. People are drawn here by the city's rich past, former and contemporary glory, intense cultural life and youthful feel.
Its sunny climate and well-preserved historical environment are second to none, nestled between the sea,vineyards and mountain landscapes.
Fun and cultural activities to be enjoyed by the whole family, delighting the young and old in Montpellier with special cooking classes, art at the Fabre Museum, bike rentals, and the Odysseum – a giant-scale leisure zone complete with an aquarium, planetarium, ice-skating rink, go-karts, shopping and more! Truly focusing on the family, Montpellier offers a range of inexpensive activities adapted to every parents’ budgets
25 minutes from St Ferreol direction Meze / Marseillan
The Roman vestiges and some even older, leave us to believe that the history of Marseillan goes back to the earliest periods of antiquity. An ancient Phocaean city, Marseillan has preserved its authentic character typical of a small traditional fishing village beside the Mediterranean sea and the Bassin de Thau.
Discover the sleepy port with its wealth of restaurants, stroll along the Canal du Midi or visit the historic site of Noilly Prat, famous for its Vermouth since 1813 and still being made to the same secret recipe. Then relax along the sandy beaches along Marseillan Plage.
A huge flea market is held near Marseillan Plage every Sunday for treasure hunters and bargain lovers.
Abbaye de Fontcaude
45 minutes from Saint Ferreol direction Beziers
Nestled in the wild scrubland, on an ancient sacred site lies the Abbey of Fontcaude founded in the middle of the twelfth century by a group of canons from the Abbey of Aniane.
The Crusades, the Cathar crisis and the Hundred Years war gradually depopulate the Abbey. The Abbey was plundered many times. In the eighteenth century there are only six canons . The Abbey was sold after the Revolution and divided up amongst several owners.
Since the 1970’s a dynamic association undertook the restoration of the site and you can now discover the new church, the cloister, the bell foundry and a museum which houses the old oil mill.
The Abbey de Fontcaude is a major historical and architectural site in Herault around which you can find the remains of a Roman road and an orientation table.
Ecluses de Fonserannes
30 minutes from St Ferreol direction Beziers
This series of locks not far from the centre of Beziers was built as 8 locks with 9 gates to allow boats to rise just over 20 metres in height over a distance of 300 metres.
However, the lower 8th lock is now not used and boats enter the system through the side of lock 7.
This is however a spectacle not to be missed unless you live in an area with canals and locks in which case this might be less appealing to you.
This series of locks is on the Canal du Midi which is part of a canal and river system which connects the Atlantic ocean with the Mediterranean and was built to cut out the journey around Spain. It was initially constructed to assist in the transportation of wheat and was built between 1666 & 1681 in the reign of Louis XIV and is considered an engineering feat for its time.
The Ecluses or Locks of Fonserannes operate throughout the day with boat traffic stacked for rising through the lock system or descending through the system at specified times of the day, so providing you do not arrive either too early or too late in the day you will see a movement of boat traffic through the system of locks. This makes it a much more interesting spectacle.
The locks on the Canal du Midi are all oval, the designers considered this shape to be stronger than a normal rectangular lock.
There is ample free parking, a small museum of interest and the whole scenario makes a very pleasant distraction for an hour or 2..
Domaine d’O at Montpellier
45 minutes from St Ferreol direction Montpellier
Le Domaine d'O, a major venue for the promotion of art and culture field, is a performance venue open all year. It houses mediterranean gardens, a centenary pinewood accessible to walkers and offers entertainment for everyone: children and adults
Pont du Diable
45 minutes from St Ferreol direction Aniane
The Pont du Diable on the Herault River is one of many bridges in France with this name (it means Devil's bridge). It is located over a steep-sided gorge about 4 km north-west of Aniane
Constructed by Benedictine monks in the first half of the 11th century, it provided a link between the Abbey at Aniane and the Gellone Abbey at Saint Guilhem le Desert. Though subsequently widened and raised several metres around 1770, it has retained its original shape. Vehicular traffic is now catered for by a newer bridge, from which splendid views may be had of the original bridge and an aqueduct that takes water to the vineyards of Saint Jean de Fos .
The bridge has been listed as a monument historique since 1935 and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Chateau Abbaye de Cassan at Roujan
25 minutes drive North from St Ferreol towards Roujan
Château-Abbaye de Cassan is a former royal Priory took its new name after the French Revolution. Its foundation date of 1080 on the site of a Gallo-Roman probably the fourth century.
Occupied by the canons until the Revolution, the Priory has known several private owners before the state took possession in 1946,into a training center run by the National Education Trust.
In 1953, this twelfth-century Romanesque church and the palace of the eighteenth century convent are classified as Historical Monuments.
Since its acquisition in October 2002 the group SERCIB, a team of four full-time salaried staff organizes guided tours and a cultural season with concerts, exhibitions and themed open days.
1 hour 10 mins drive North West from St Ferreol towards Toulouse
Carcassonne, a spectacular city imbued with the spirit of the past, boasts 2500 years of history and is privileged to have two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Canal du Midi, classified in 1996, and the Medieval City in 1997.
Situated on the right bank of the Aude, the Medieval City is a fortified city unlike any other in Europe, on account of its size and its state of preservation. Its history is marked by 2000 years of conquest and by the imprint of Catharism and the Crusades. A wealth of history to explore and within the fortified walls are many boutiques selling local produce and arts and crafts as well as an array of bars, cafes and restaurants to suit all tastes.
From June 19th to 01 August 2014, the Festival of Carcassonne includes, theatre, operas, dance, music concerts, art exhibitions and much, much more. July 21st and 22nd you can follow the Tour de France and of course see the spectacular Bastille Day fireworks on July 14th.
Canal du Midi
20 minutes from St Ferreol direction Beziers
The construction of the Canal du Midi is one of the major achievements of Louis X1V’ reign ( 17th Century ). It is 240 kms long and links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
This masterpiece of engineering, thanks to the genius of Pierre-paul Riquet is one of the prides of Languedoc. The canal brought prosperity to the region.
Today, leisure cruises have taken over and the Canal du Midi has been a major tourist attraction since it was granted world heritage status by UNESCO.
A lovely day out whether walking or bicycling on the banks or boating on the canal .
1 hour 15 minutes from St Ferreol direction Montpellier / Aigues- Mortes
The Camargue was designated as a botanical and zoological nature reserve in 1927 and 1970, helping to maintain its natural beauty. Spring and Autumn are the best times for seeing the birds, the bulls and the horses of Camargue. Bring a bird book, binoculars and camera.
Great horse riding, with many locations offering guided tours.
Don’t miss the Ornithological Park at Pont de Grau. With 9 ha of marshlands, set amidst the greater nature reserve with the birds o fthe Camargue in the wild and in large cages. The central area of the park has birds of prey, with many different owls, eagles, hawks, harriers, buzzards and vultures. Marsh birds and sea birds are here with geese, swans, ducks, egrets, storks and herons and of course the icon of the Camargue, the pink flamingo.
Cathedrale Saint Nazaire at Beziers
20 minutes from St Ferreol direction Beziers
Throughout Languedoc Béziers is known for two things in particular: wine and bullfighting. Undoubtedly the best time to visit this town, which sits atop a rocky spur overlooking the great plain of the Hérault département, is during the four-day long feria when you can combine both!
Béziers became a Roman colony in 36 BC and formed an important staging post on the Domitian Way, the chariot road which traversed the whole of Languedoc on its way from Rome to Cadiz in southern Spain, developing into an important trade route. Indeed, commerce has been the life blood of Béziers for centuries, particularly in wine: the amphora, a container for carrying wine in a ship’s hold, was invented by the town’s winegrowers. During the thirteenth century the town witnessed one of the worst massacres in the region – 20,000 people were put to death during the crusade against the Cathars, many of whom had sought refuge in Bézier’s churches:
Cathédrale St-Nazaire. Is the main attraction in Béziers .This grandiose Romanesque cathedral dates from the thirteenth century and occupies one of the best sites in town: from the concourse in front of the cathedral there are terrific views out over the surrounding vineyards and towards the foothills of the Massif Central to the north.
Approx. 1hr from St Ferreol direction Montpellier - Nimes
"Aigues-Mortes" translates to "dead waters," but the salt marshes surrounding this medieval city actually have given this town one of its chief industries: sea-salt production. (Bring some home for epicurean friends.) Fortified into a Mediterranean port in the 12th century, Aigues-Mortes’ massive walls survive—walk along the ramparts for spectacular views.
In 1240, Saint Louis decided to build a city close to his kingdom in order to have a direct access to the Mediterranean Sea. That was here in Aigues-Mortes, in an area of marshes, sand and water. Seven centuries later, the fortification still dominates the Camargue as one of the most well preserved medieval French buildings.
Take a boat ride out into the Camargue or explore the city sites by model train. Lovely boutiques selling Provencal pottery and arts and crafts line the city’s centre together with a huge variety of bars, cafes and restaurants.