About Cathar Country Tours and James McDonald

About Cathar Country Tours and James McDonald (Follow this link to read about James on Wikipaedia)

Cathar Country provides Tours, travel consultation and conferences on the castles, abbeys, fortified towns and other major historical sites across the Languedoc region of France.  Cathar Country offers carefully researched insights into the tumultuous history of the region.

Tours and conferences are offered by Cathar researcher, writer and public speaker James McDonald, who offers the insights of an Oxford-educated historian, with an emphasis on the Medieval Cathars and the the scorched-earth Cathar Crusade launched against them by the Roman Catholic Church in the 13th Century.''


James McDonald has long had a special interest in the heretical traditions of the Languedoc and has lived in the region since 1997. James  is a master at making complex subjects accessible and memorable and  communicates his love of the subject with erudition, eloquence and humour.  We use our grass roots knowledge to ensure that our clients get a really authentic taste of the best that the region has to offer,  carefully choosing restaurants and planning journeys to allow for pretty routes and sufficient rest time.  

James is also the creator of the leading English language website on the Cathars.


James offers a full Original one week Cathar Country Tour. Enjoy a week of history, great food and good company. We take care of it all.

Unless by special arrangement we meet for these tours the The Chaumiere Hotel in Quillan.

Please follow this link for full details.

While we will gladly assist with hotel bookings, transportation options, restaurant recommendations and your other travel-related needs, the clear focus of Cathar Country Tours is on offering you, your family or group an opportunity to spend quality time with an educator who brings his knowledge of the history and the sites of the Cathar region out of the textbooks and to the very places where history was made. His broad and deep understanding of the Cathars and their adversaries is based on decades of meticulous, unbiased research into the theological, academic and scholarly sources that illuminate the region and its history.
James’ single-day and multi-day tour programs embrace over two-dozen Cathar sites to paint a coherent picture of both the specific events and personalities linked to each site and their contributions to the larger historical tableau. His combination of wit and erudition – and his frequent use of colourful quotations from the Cathars and Crusaders themselves – enable him to make complex historical themes accessible in a way that is unique and memorable. Your historical immersion experience with James highlights key places carefully selected by him to explain not only what happened in the Languedoc seven centuries ago, but also why it happened and why it still matters.
Key themes addressed on tours include: the roles of the papacy, the French monarchy and regional secular leaders (e.g., the Counts of Toulouse); techniques of Medieval warfare; the concept of heresy; the troubadours; knighthood; the High Middle Ages; and the political implications of the Cathar Crusade. Although James’ knowledge is encyclopaedic, his style is refreshingly entertaining and he has a gift for weaving apparently disparate threads together into a coherent narrative appealing to people of all ages and knowledge levels.
While our tours will always highlight key Cathar sites and history, the Languedoc offers unique opportunities to explore a wide range of pre-historic and historic themes. Ancient hominids, Greeks, Etruscans, Romans, Celts, Visigoths, Moors, Templar Knights, Medieval Counts, Troubadours and others have all left traces behind in this enchanting region. The Languedoc is studded with spectacular mountains, megaliths, caves, castles, churches, abbeys, wildlife, thermal springs and even dinosaur fossils. This living library of human and natural history offers endless opportunities for you to learn about an amazing range of fascinating topics. James brings a deep understanding of Cathar heritage to our tours, but after living, researching and writing in the Languedoc, he is also uniquely qualified to customize tours that illuminate all aspects of the region’s pre-history and history. His extensive contacts with other researchers in the region enable Cathar Country Tours to customize an A la Carte tour experience with James and/or independent collaborators selected him for their eminence in their respective fields to deepen your understanding of virtually any aspect of the Languedoc’s natural and human past.
To read testimonials from past tour participants please click here See other reviews on Tripadvisor.

James is currently restoring 16th-Century castle (Chateau Saint-Ferriol) in a charming hill-top village about an hour’s drive from Carcassonne, where he lives with his wife and young son. Because the chateau also serves as headquarters for our family-owned business, in addition to site visits throughout the Languedoc, we can host wine & cheese tastings, lectures, musical programs, meals and other activities in an authentic medieval setting.
·   He has long pursued a scholarly interest in the heretical Cathar traditions of the Languedoc and has lived in the region since 1997, which allows him to ensure that our clients experience of the best that the region has to offer by selecting scenic routes, avoiding crowds and carefully choosing restaurants that make the meals (included in the base price of our tours) an integral part of your Languedoc experience.  Quite simply, we are determined to offer groups ranging in size from two to nineteen the most rewarding and insightful Cathar Country experience possible.
James also created and maintains the leading English language website on the Cathars.
None of the sites we visit are inaccessible for participants of average fitness. While sites on hill tops typically require uphill walks on rough paths, most involve uphill walks of less than 30 minutes. The walks are not particularly steep or dangerous, but stones can be slippery in wet weather. Monts̩gur is significantly more difficult a climb than the other sites. In the past I would have said that Peyreperteuse was also verging on the extremely difficult, but on a recent tour one participant who was partially sighted and in his eighties happily climbed to the castle. The paths we use are maintained in a relatively natural form Рmeaning that you will find few concrete steps or railings, but they also lack chasms, pot-holes or slippery gravel. They are often lined with trees that serve as hand rails in turns and other key points. The things we caution guests about include the occasional tree trunk semi-buried on the path and narrow portions of trail.
French standards of maintenance and the provision of safety rails might not be what you are used to at home, so we recommend bringing hiking sticks. For ratings showing the relative difficulty of all sites included on our tours, see: http://www.catharcountry.info/location.htm#places.
Because our goal is to make your visit fit your individual dreams we offer tour options that include aperitifs, meals, wine tasting and other enhancements in carefully selected venues. For example, our guests have often joined us for wine and cheese tasting (and other dining) experiences at our 16th-Century Chateau-Fort. Pricing information, Frequently Asked Questions, a suggested reading list, thoughts on what to bring and expect and booking terms and conditions are available.
Join us for a day to a week exploring the beautiful and mysterious Languedoc for an immersion in culture and history that you will never forget.

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