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Languedoc-Roussillon with Kids

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

As detailed in our first ever Eurocamp visit, we were desperate to enjoy some sunshine and adventure during the miserable UK summer, but put off by staggering prices as the cost of a last minute short haul break seemed to be upwards of £5,000. Until we discovered Eurocamp, and viewed some incredible deals off the Southern cost of France. The best flight deals we could find were substantially cheaper a few days before and after the availability at the camp (£40 per person, in August!!) and thus a plan to squeeze some exploration around the family-focused, cheap and cheerful Eurocamp was born. Here is what we came up with on little money and little time.


Carcassonne:


Andrew introduced me to a tabletop game called “Carcassonne” around 12 years ago, a tile placement game based on a UNESCO medieval city of the same name, in the Languedoc/Occitanie area of France. Nowadays the kids play it with us (we also have a good travel version on the ipad) - we always said we would go one day and with it being just 1 hour from the camp we decided to spend 2 nights here to ensure it was a bit more relaxed.

We booked a car hire for the first two days to get us from Beziers airport to Carcassonne (then around to the Hérault gorges area below) and back again – just £105 from Hertz via Booking.com using Genuis discount (and then took an Uber X to the camp after returning it (£35+tip) where we remained car and excursion free for four days.




Of course, our mission here was to visit Cité de Carcassonne, one of the largest and best-restored medieval castles in Europe. Begun in the 3rd and 4th century, this castle rose in strategic importance in the 13th to 17th centuries and had a lot of historic battles during the 100 years war and crusades among others. Here you can wander inside the city walls for free, up and down the cute, narrow streets for hours. We arrived at 9:30ish and parked for 1€ an hour in a decent sized car park just a few minutes walk outside the Narbonnaise Gate.

There were two children’s treasure trails on offer at the tourist office, one for younger and one for older children. We paid for one of each but we were surprised to find both pretty challenging, frustratingly so! We pride ourselves on our skills with treasure trails and escape rooms but found some of the translations a bit too tricky on the older trail. Still, it gave us some direction and purpose on our wandering around the place, even if we didn’t manage to crack all the codes. The trail led around to the impressive monastery and the school museum, a reconstruction of a medieval classroom complete with exhibitions of documents, furniture and school material from the time of Jules Ferry.


You can also tour the inner walls in a horse-drawn carriage or a miniature land train, both departing from the Porte Narbonnaise side of the complex. We had a feeling that the land train would be an absolute highlight of our trip with three train-loving young children, and we were right! With the English speaking audio guide and 32 degree blazing sunshine it was a very pleasant way to learn lots about the importance of the fortress during the medieval age (and stay cool at the same time without walking up and down the imposing hillsides!).

Our long day in the castle walls was all we had time for as we wanted to squeeze in another few stops on our whirlwind tour of the area. If you have more time, we also considered the following:

  • Watch jousting tournaments in the Cité – Two shows/day during summer months only.

  • Take a boat tour along the Canal du Midi and see the canal boat locks in operation. Tours run by Carcassonne Croisiere depart 2-8 times/day from the Carcassonne train stations (this was our plan if we decided against car hire and trained in from the airport). Also take a walk along the River Aude, just 100m from Maison Juliette.

  • Go for a swim a swim at “Carcassonne Plage”, officially called Lac de Cavayere. A pretty man-made lake with a sandy beach, lifeguard-protected roped-off swimming area for children, pedal boats, playground, volleyball courts, and picnic area.

  • Ride the zip lines through the trees at O2 Adventure, a forest acrobatic park designed for kids of all ages, located to the left of the main parking area at the lake. This looks amazing but was too costly for our trip.

  • Visit the Australian Park, near the lake. From big kangaroos to emus, from gold prospectors to aborigines, from boomerangs to didgeridoos.

For our stay in Carcassonne we spent two nights at L'écrin Jardin des Remparts apartment via which we really enjoyed. The apartment was very well located just 6 minutes drive from the medieval city walls. In fact, it was so close we decided to spend the morning on the treasure trails and come back to the apartment for a cheap and relaxed lunch and nap time, and then head out again in the afternoon! The two-bedroom property was clean, had three decent fans to keep us cool (it was a boiling 35 degrees during our visit) and had everything we needed including a bonus dishwasher! Great for the self catered nature of our trip! The host also provided a travel cot and high chair, and communication was excellent, would highly recommend.

La Grotte de Clamouse


1.5 hours drive from Carcassonne (45 mins from Beziers airport) is La Grotte de Clamouse – a 6-kilometre long cave, discovered in 1945. We’ve trekked through some of the largest and most spectacular cave formations in the world and this one was right up there! Visits must be booked with a tour guide (selected a time online in advance), who take groups of 25 or so at a time through the 1-km pathway around the hollowed out space from the underground river. The tour starts with a video (in French, with subtitles) explaining the discovery and formation of the structures. Then the hour or so trek begins, snaking through crystallisations of calcite and aragonite, which give the cave a magical appearance. Towards the end of the visit, in one of the largest chambers the guide switches of the lights and starts a sound and light show, with dramatic music and beautiful illumination/shadows that the kids found pretty awe-inspiring.

The site is well worth a visit, with a small play area onsite and an additional options for an epic high-ropes course through the amazing subterranean world. You can (and should!) combine it with seeing the ‘Pont du Diable’ and one of the most stunning villages of France: Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert.


Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert


Another “UNESCO” world heritage site, Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert is perched 800m up a rocky headland in the Valley of Hérault. Surrounded in the landscape of gorges and garrigues The mixture of medieval buildings, the green valley and the river running through it makes the landscape appear like an actual postcard. The village was built up around its Abbey of Gellone, part of the Way of St James pilgrim route along to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.


Pont du Diable (or Devil’s Bridge)


In St-Jean-de-Fos, just up the road from La Grotte de Clamouse is a 1000-year-old stone bridge. It’s one of the oldest Romanesque bridges in France and still in excellent condition with its two arches bridging the narrow rocky gorge walls. The lake area of the Hérault river just below is great for swimming and sunbathing with rental kayaks available for paddling up into the Hérault Gorges. We had the awesome luck to be there in 33-degree unbroken sunshine and drove across the gorge (on the much newer but also quite quaint modern bridge) to the car park below. It was then a bit of a punishing walk considering the temperature down to the waterfront. You pass a restaurant-shop complex on the way with some toilets and a few trees dotted about, but onwards there is no other shade or shelter once you get to the bottom. Completely worth it though; we splashed around for an hour or so enjoying a thoroughly charming find, we all loved it.

Analaya Farm Stay


After our mini Languedoc/Occitanie adventure we dropped off our well-used 2-day hire car back at Beziers airport and took an uber to our first Eurocamp stay (Domaine la Yole) for the next four days of beach fun. Following this, on the last tiny leg of our trip, we got a taxi (more info in here) to the wonderful Analaya farm stay.

Analaya boasts 2x Ecolodges and 6 or so yurts, all rustic and cosy on a stretch of field just 4km from the airport. We weren’t expecting too much as some of the previous reviews gave the impression it was overpriced, and all we really needed was a cheap but decent place closer to the airport for our lunchtime flight. We love camping so happily gave it a go. It did not disappoint! The friendly animals mostly free roam between paddocks and scrubby arable land, the kids absolutely went mad for it. The horse and goat came right up for some love! We cooked up a feast in our cute little kitchen, sitting out on our lodge terrace watching them before the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a campsite. We had a clean, composting toilet in our well-equipped bathroom, and the three kids shared the two long bunkbeds while we got a separate room partitioned off with canvas. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but we loved it. In the morning (no roosters!) we ordered the owners goodie basket of pastries, hot chocolate, breads, honey and jams to the lodge. This was only our second catered meal on our strict budget but we planned for this to minimise cleaning requirements on the morning of our check out/return to the UK. One of the draws of Analaya is an extremely inviting courtyard pool area. We had it all to ourselves on a Thursday morning, in gorgeous sunshine for a perfectly relaxing last day.

In Summary:


We have spent years avoiding European family breaks during school summer holidays, perceiving them to be expensive, samey, rammed with people and unpredictable weather - but we have been sorely mistaken!! We were pretty impressed with the gorgeous sunshine, unique flavour of village, castle and cave within charming Southern French countryside. In fact, we found it substantially cheaper than cramming this much into a week back home.

Every birthday adventure should end like this!

Carcassonne was completely free to enter with a very cheap carpark, and we booked the cave in advance for a reasonable 45.50 total for our four paying customers (tickets are age 3 and up) including the parking. Driving through the villages and parking at the bridge cost around 5, though the tolls were punishing for the distance at around 25.00 for the two days. All in all, this was less than 70.00 for our family of five for all the experiences we crammed into the flying visit. We made locally themed packed lunches wherever we went with Petit Filous, tasty breads and snacky cheeses. You can read more on our self-catered meal plan/shopping list here (total cost was £147 including extra ice-cream and cakes!). With a great last-minute deal at Eurocamp, and some insanely cheap Ryanair flights the budget came out at £1,800 for everything - insanely good value and a very enjoyable tour of Languedoc-Roussillon.

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