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Some comments from those who have participated in our tours:
Also reviews on Tripadvisor

James was a remarkable guide. His knowledge was unparalleled - the depth of passion and information he brought was exceptional. While being delighted to talk to my husband and I about the theology & practices of the Cathars, he also did a great job engaging our 8 and 11 year old children appropriately. He captured their attention with things like a back and forth practice of how to attack or defend the castles we were visiting. Our tour with James was absolutely the high point of our entire trip to Europe!

Brenda, Australia, August 2017

We very much enjoyed our day in Carcassonne. We loved the castle and are still amazed at James' wealth of knowledge. The story and history that he shared was so interesting and nothing like anything we have ever learned about before.
We believe that this tour is great just the way it is. Don't change a thing. There are so many fun facts that are to be learned as you travel around the outer walls. Our time with James was definitely time well spent.
It was very easy for us to travel by train from Sete to Carcassonne. That also made the trip more fun and I believe others would enjoy it as well.

Thanks, again, for taking the time to answer all of our questions as we planned our journey.  There was a lot that we did not know but would tell anyone that it was easy and a very enjoyable day.

Mr and Mrs Alderton, Australia, June 2017

We just wanted to say what a pleasure being with you, back in September, was.  We had such a wonderful, educational and eye-opening time it is still hard to believe we were there...
Thank you again for your hospitality.  I can not compliment you enough.
Best regards always,
Henry & Rita Noel, USA

Lou and I just wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed our day with James and the exploration of Puilaurens and Puivert Castles not to mention our delicious lunch!  I wish we had been able to spend more time in the area.

We will definitely pass on your information to any of our friends venturing into Cathar territory, a worthwhile detour from the standard Carcassonne visit. 

Charleson, North Carolina, USA October 2015

Dear Sophie (and James).

Thanks again for the list of James’ three titles carried by Amazon US. We now have all three and are working our way eagerly through them — that is, as well as one can work one’s way through two dictionaries. And, interestingly, during this week’s nearly constant news coverage of the pope’s visit here, much of “Beyond-Belief” comes into closer focus as if a contemporary look at Christian history needs to be called forth. Clearly James did an enormous amount of research and I truly hope he knows that it is recognized and appreciated. In fact, it’s almost as if Pope Francis recognizes that most of the doctrinal and historical justifications underlying Catholicism are fiction and need review while he follows a simple central message that was lost and jumbled among all the details that James addresses.

Meanwhile, the “Dictionary of Euphemism and Taboo” has provided high relief and downright hilarity to the former. We have placed it so that walking past we can turn spontaneously to it through the day and open to an entry. It seems to be the very antithesis of today’s PC culture. Although obviously also a work of scholarship, it’s a gem of adult content and contrast and perfectly suited to out-loud recitation during happy hour!

As for “Wordly Wise”, it is a welcome companion to more serious literature and, especially, an occasional  look into the early classics (not that we might be mistaken for highbrow readers, but as a companion to the occasional excerpt from Shakespear or Chaucer). It definitely belongs in our library.

Please thank James for us. So that he might place us from the June Road Scholar program, here’s a snapshot of Alice and me. (I’m the one on the left reading how to build a trebuchet.)

MacMahon, USA, September 2015

Thank you for the photos - a wonderful reminder of two fascinating days. I do hope we can see Montsegur with James one day.
W. Phoa, USA, August 2015

First of all, thank you both for the great introduction to Cathar Country. It is an exciting place and amazing history. I wish that we had more time there and with you, but hope that we may have the opportunity to return. It was especially poignant to climb Montsegur.
R Grossman, USA, August 2015

Thank you for your email and for forwarding more photos. That’s really kind of you & brings back lovely memories. Not that I have forgotten...I keep having flashback moments. It was such a great tour.

B Parkes,  Herefordshire, UK, August 2014

Please pass on our thanks to James for our wonderfully informative and interesting tour of Carcassonne on 5th July. He really brought the architecture, history and human emotion of medieval life during the Albigensian Crusade to life for us. So much so, that we went on to visit most of the major Cathar sites over the next two weeks. In fact, I'm just I'm just in the middle of reading the book on Montaillou which he recommended and it's an absolute revelation on what went on in those mountain villages at the time.
So, we had a wonderful day with James and really appreciated his erudition, laid-back style and obvious love of his subject. Please tell him that over the subsequent weeks we never encountered salad "mountains" like those we had that day...definitely a "Carcassonne one-off"!
All best wishes to you both and hope that your Cathar tours business continues to thrive.
We're recommending you to all our friends, of course!

H McCann, Wimbledon, London, June 2015

Thank you to James for such an informative morning tour.  We are new to the region and while we have wandered the streets of Carcassonne several times we have never really understood the depth of the history that surrounds us.  James simply brought the Cathar story life for us.  His knowledge, humour and anidotes gave us a better understanding of this incredible and deeply moving story.  Clearly there is so much more to know and we shall look forward to exploring further on James’ wider reaching tours.
Heather, Trebes, France, April 2015

We wanted to say how much we enjoyed todays tour and talk - it was really wonderful, highly engaging, very sociable and laid back, and deeply informative.    James was excellent … Many thanks all round

A Murphy and S Crockett, France, March 2015

I just wanted to thank you and James so much for making my time in Cathar country so illuminating, interesting, and ... tasty! Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I got to eat a delicious meal in a castle! So very special.

D Meikle, Stanford University, California, USA, 2015

He was over the top perfect. Best of class

Dr Cohen, New York, March 2015

James was so wonderful and passionate about what he does and his knowledge of the interesting history of it all is amazing....please thank him very much for me. Is he by chance going to that Belevedere view spot near Lastours with anyone else soon where I can join.

L Mansfield, USA, November 2014

Having been home for two months now I have, not surprisingly, slipped back into my “normal” routine. So much so that once in a while I stop and think “Did that really happen”? The week-long Cathar Country Tour was like a beautiful dream, but in my case it was a dream realized as I've aspired to climb Montsegur since first learning of the Cathars many years ago.

The first night of the tour, seven of us were invited to a spectacular, candlelit dinner at Château Saint Ferriol. How often does this happen? Dinner at the Château that evening set the pace for a week of excellent company, superb meals and interesting conversations. There’s something quite serendipitous about a group of individuals coming together with a shared purpose; strangers to one another in the beginning but parting as friends.

In those “did my recent visit to the Languedoc really happen?” moments, I recollect our relaxing lunch in the village of Montsegur where we were introduced to Hippocras, a local wine mixed with sugar, cinnamon and other spices. I reflect on dinner in the courtyard of the beautiful, atmospheric Chateau des Ducs de Joyeuse and distinctly remember thinking “I’ve got to come back here.” I recall the quaint village of Alet les Bains, a marvelous, magical place that exudes charm, and the Hostellerie de l’Eveche, bordered on one side by the ruins of an ancient abbey and on the other by the gently flowing Aude River. My fondest recollection, however, is of our small group following James McDonald (with silver-tipped walking stick) as he led us to the top of Montsegur. This memory is etched in my heart and mind forever.

For these, and many other reasons, I wholeheartedly recommend James McDonald’s Cathar Country Tour to anyone interested in learning more about French history in general, Medieval French history in particular, the Cathars and/or the Languedoc region of France.  

B Davis USA, September 2014

I have had the good fortune of travelling much of the world through the years, but I have never had such an entertaining and stimulating journey as I recently enjoyed with Sophie and James McDonald, the founders of Cathar Castle Tours set in the breathtakingly beautiful Languedoc department of Southwestern France. What they present is an exciting and adventurous exploration of the 13th Century Albigensian Crusade and the subsequent genocide of the gentle, Buddhist like Albigensois, more familiarly known as the Cathars. It is a remarkably dramatic story partly because they were defended to the death for a half a century by much of the nobility of that region, the very people who should have joined in the crusade against them, which found these gentle people’s beliefs a gateway to a new world of peace and hope in a time of terrifying darkness. It is also remarkable because of the seemingly inaccessible castles where so many of the battles were fought and so many died.
But for me, most remarkable were my hosts, James and Sophie. James is a scholar and business consultant to start with, and Sophie, a woman for all seasons to put it mildly. But both are also lovers of bread, wine, the journey and good company. I left them feeling as my companions did that they had adopted me.

Everything is arranged in advance, from the incomparably charming hotels of the French countryside, lunches and dinners including all the wine you could wish for, to the local transportation, and of course to this deliciously versatile experience. Often, it is a climb to a hilltop fortress to experience the unique way of castle life that existed 800 years ago and almost always resulted in its subsequent and devastating demise – a healthy climb but not too taxing for most by the way;  sometimes a visit to the local towns and cities; and even a trip to the vineyards, especially thrilling at harvest time. And always, always, in every way, it is a celebration of the French way of country life, intense, leisurely, passionate, and above all, immensely pleasurable.

For me, my favorite memories will always be the two occasions when Sophie and James, both Renaissance people non-pareil, invited us to their awe-inspiring chateau at the top of the tiny village of St.Ferriol in the foothills of the majestic Pyrenees where they presented us with meals and hospitality straight from heaven.
Happy travels

Anthony Call, NYC, USA, 2014

In September 2014 we joined a small group of people for a Cathar Country Tour – it was a truly wonderful and memorable experience, exceeding all our expectations.
James McDonald and Sophie Duncan were perfect hosts; James shared his in depth knowledge and understanding about Catharism in such a captivating and entertaining way that we were all hooked!

The itinerary was well planned, visiting a variety of Cathar sites which illustrated very well the turbulent history of the so called heretics – complemented by some superb scenery.
Not only did we enjoy the history, but also the fine food and wines of the Languedoc area; this included being dinner guests of James and Sophie at their stunning château in St. Ferriol.

The camaraderie between our hosts and everybody in the group was exceptional.
We highly recommend Cathar Country Tours – 5 stars all round ***** and “Thank You” again to James and Sophie!

Peter & Margot, Norfolk, UK, Nov. 2014

I meant what I said - this has been a memorable tour and I'll be relieving the sites and the stories while plodding through the many history books on Cathars still waiting to be read.
My very best wishes to you, James and everyone in our group,

Marina Kaskanlian, Sydney, Australia, 2014

First, thank you for such a wonderful tour. We enjoyed it immensely and learnt so much about the Cathars and the Languedoc which was a real highlight.

Third, Katrina and I would like to do another trip next year if we can arrange it. We noted from your website that James does private tours - how many people do you require for a private tour? We have some ideas about other places of interest we would like to see.

Anyway, thanks again for your wonderful cooking and hospitality and to James for giving us such an interesting and at times, riveting introduction to the Cathars. Katrina and I are hooked on them and Languedoc especially, the beautiful scenery, the good food and wine.
All the best and keep in touch as we are interested in all things Cathar.

Elayne Goldstein, 2014, Australia

Dear Sophie, dear James,

I'm finally home in Utah, the Gateway to Nevada, wishing heartily I was still in Languedoc.  Thank you both for two wonderful days.  I learned so much and had a wonderful time.  I will muse over what I've learned for years to come.

On a topic of interest, I chanced upon a display in the museum in Tunis--a clay stamp used to make impressions on eucharist bread in "the Byzantine period".  They couldn't give me a better date than that, so probably no elucidation to come on the problem I think you've pretty well unraveled, James.  My few days in Greece at the end of my trip saw some lively discussions with my friend over the word cathar, catharsis, etc.

So, inquiring minds want that study published soon.

Ann Chamberlin, USA, 2014

I loved every minute of it.  Thank you.

G Van Sant, October 2013, NY state, USA

Yesterday was wonderful day to meet you, visit Montsegur and your house.
I will definitly come back to stay quietely, I love the area.

Chikako, Paris, France,  2013

I just wanted to thank you both for organising a fascinating trip for us.  We both loved every minute.  I am now having to accustomise myself to lunch without that delicious rose wine.  It was fun, too, meeting the Shells.  We shall be so more informed when we visit another castle, wherever it is.

Dr R Jones, Stroud, UK, 2013

Thank you for arranging our stay, for your hospitality, and for the education on the Cathars and Cathar country.  I recommend the two of you for your wonderful warmth and efficiency.  James is a true historian and geographer of everything Cathar.  He is a solid researcher and a splendid teacher.  Please list us as fans.  

The Cathar region is exciting to visit, not overrun with tourists (except for Carcassonne) and leaves one with memories of gorgeous views.

Susan and Karl Shell, Chicag,o USA, 2013

“If you’re looking for an experiential journey back in time to the 13th century Cathars, I highly recommend James and Sophie MacDonald’s   Cathar Country-Languedoc Tours.  James’ in-depth academic knowledge of their history and the local terrain is extraordinary well balanced by Sophie’s organizational skills in providing client comforts.  For the history buff and researcher alike, this experience is one that won’t disappoint.”

Gaye Mack, MA, USA, 2013

That was an enjoyable and instructive week. James is a true polymath. His introductions were concise and full of relevant information. The sites were spectacular. Thank you, too, for your warm welcome and all the trouble you took over the arrangements.

La Chaumiere offered very comfortable, spacious and well appointed rooms.  Some of the meals out were superb and the dinner at Couiza an exceptionally happy occasion.

T Eggleston, Norwich, UK, 2013

James and Sophie, you two are such gracious hosts and kind souls.  The personal attention to the tour details and to ourselves was outstanding.  James provided a wonderful balance of information on the Cathar’s along with general history of the region and to a host of other topics. Opening your beautiful and historical home was a great treat and I could not be more pleased with your ability to make us feel right at home.

B Zulpo, Chicago, USA, 2012

We have never been on an organized holiday where the food has been so consistently good.

E Blayney, Gloucestershire,  UK, 2012

Thank you too for the opportunity to experience 13th century Occitan life in a particularly turbulent period of its history.

The magnificent scenery and delicious food, organised by Sophie, absorbing history by James and all shared with such good company have given us a perfect week.

G Blayney,Gloucestershire, UK, 2012

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