page should be useful for anyone intending to book
straight-forward gite rental, or for a non artist member of
a painting party who may be wondering what he or she
can do while everyone else is off with their easels! You
will be spoilt for choice.
Please note that we are in process of redesigning this page.
We have some stunning photographs to add, so in the interim
should you wish to see them please contact Eleri and she
will send them to you. You can also see some photos of the
scenery by scrolling down to the end of the "painting
holidays" page under the heading of "Painting
The Ariege-Couserans ( the 18 valleys converging on St
Girons) contains some of the wildest, most remote and most
spectacular scenery in the Pyrenees, as well as the gentler
beauty of its lower valleys and slopes. You can walk for
miles even in high season with only the sound of birds, the
rustling of leaves and the sound of running water to keep
Walking in the area is superb, whether you choose to go
directly from Miramont, locally in the stunningly beautiful
valleys of the Garbet, Ustou and Salat or to the more
challenging peaks reachable from within an hour's drive.
There are walks of all lengths to suit all abilities- from
gentle afternoon family strolls to those requiring
“Randonneur experimente” status.
The area is extremely well served by waymarked trails- the
GR(Grande Randonnée)10 which runs the full length of the
Pyrenees, passes at several points within 10 miles of
Le Pichet and is easily accessible. The Commune d’Oust has
produced a comprehensive map/guidebook of at least 20 “GR
Pays” walks in the locality, and a number of more strenuous
walks lead to the Spanish border, such as the wartime escape
route, “le chemin de la liberté”, and those to the Ports
(passes or gateways) de Salau, Aula, Couillac and Marterat.
You can also arrange longer walks involving staying in
mountain refuges. Le Pichet has an extensive range of guide
books and maps for your use.
We are happy to help,
should you wish, with any aspect of your walking holiday;
to point you in the direction of suitable walks, according
to length, difficulty and local weather conditions.We
originally bought Le Pichet as a base for our own walking
holidays, and consider it both a joy and a privilege to
share what we know of this beautiful region with
For those requiring the services of professional
“accompagnateurs de montagne”, there is also an office
of mountain -guides based in
The wonderfully family-orientated resort of
Guzet-Neige is 30mins drive away. Prices are very reasonable
compared with the Alps, queuing for the lifts is rare, group
sizes for lessons are small and the instructors from L’Ecole
du Ski Francais” are second to none. (We speak from personal
experience – our son William's enjoyment and progress is
proof in itself!)
Guzet is known as the prettiest resort in the Pyrenees- it
has 29 pistes totalling 40k in 3 secteurs, and an immense
variety of off piste, as well as an excellent snow parkand
raquette trails. The pistes range from green ( an excellent
beginners area at Prat Mataou) to some of the most difficult
blacks in the Pyrenees in the challenging Freychet
For keen cyclists we are right in the middle of some of the
Tour de France's most exciting cols - the 100th anniversary
in 2017 featured a stage "100% ARIEGE -100k St GIRONS- FOIX"
through the nearby Vallée d'Ustou over the Cols de la
Trappe, D'Agnes and the redoubtable Mur de Peguere before
descending into Foix -all of which are within easy reach of
These, plus the Cols de la Core, de Port, de Portet D’Aspet
– are all names which thrill lovers of the Tour - with
gruelling ascents and exhilerating descents. Not far away
either are the lesser known Cols de Saraillé, Marrous and la
Crouzette, and over the Col de Portet d’Aspet takes you into
Haute Garonne with the Cols de Menté and d'Ares as variants
on the way to the renowned Col de Tourmalet. St Girons often
features in departs and finishes, and the Plateau de Beille
near Foix is a famous finishing line.
This part of the Ariege Pyrenées is a favourite haunt, clubs
and individuals come from miles away to train on our
beautiful- and remarkably traffic-free roads- so why not use
it, too, as a base for your cycling holiday. Numerous
circuits over the Cols can be made from the Vallée du Garbet
-and for cyclists of a less energetic nature, it is possible
to find shorter, more leisurely routes along pretty lanes in
and around the valley bottoms.
While a couple of Cols may remain open all year, many
are shut over winter. Please enquire for details.
A little further afield to the north of St Girons you will
find the gentler countryside of the “Petites Pyrenees” and
the Volvestre, with less demanding routes, rolling
countryside and again very little traffic through beautiful
scenery- perfect for an afternoon or day long excursion.
La Voie Verte is a made up cycle track along 42k of a former
railway between St Girons and Foix. It has only gentle
gradients and along its way you will experience different
aspects of the beautiful countryside running along the
piedmont of the Pyrenees. Parking places along its length
also enable you to cycle its length in leisurely stages.
(Mountain biking and descent)
A number of routes have been opened up in the Couserans
over the past couple of years, and are within very easy
reach of here. This "Espace VTT Couserans-Pyrenees" boasts
475k of marked tracks ranging from circuits of 3-13
km , and are well within the capabilities of any
reasonably fit person. Maps are available in Le Pichet.
To the north of St Girons, numerous circuits await you in
the “Petits Pyrenees”- in the Volvetre Ariegeois, the
Couserans Volvestre and the bas (lower)Couserans, 13
circuits covering 287k and 6000m of ascent-let yourself be
lead along river banks and valleys, from sunbathed ridges
to shaded leafy forests, through the valleys of the Salat,
Volp and Lers…….
A downhill –bike park has recently opened during the
summer months at Guzet, and is proving extremely
popular (7 downhill tracks, 1 "zone d’initiation", 2
endurance descents, and 3 k of “Marathon tracks”.)
Specialist bike-hire and protective clothing is provided.
If you are coming without your own bicycles, we can put
you in touch or arrange hire for you both locally in Seix
and in St Girons. Please do ask in advance if you would
like copies of the leaflets published about any of these
circuits - we will be happy to help!
There is an excellent “Centre Equestre” at Coumariaou
near Oust, visible from our garden (although you cannot hear
the laughter!) where you can enjoy lessons either in the
covered school or the outdoor manege. The owner, Lorenna
Sala, BEES, trained with the Cadre-Noir of Saumur- she has
some splendid horses, of all shapes and sizes and to suit
all abilities. A huge favourite with children is "Ernest",
(pictured); younger children start with "Daphné" and more
experienced riders can try the paces of Gin- Fizz, Jamaique
and Harmonie. Other nearby centres, such as "Guzet
Cheval" in the Ustou Valley and "Le Galop du Haut Couserans
provide balades (hacks) through beautiful scenery. Smaller
or younger members of the family may prefer the same thing
but on the back of a donkey, which is also very popular
round here. (Balad'Ane at Le Port, Massat, and Ferme
Ros'ane at Biert).
Another passion round here. People come from far and wide to
fish in the rivers Garbet and Salat which are
excellent for trout; long and short term permits are
available from Seix at very reasonable rates (details on
request). There are also a number of fishing lakes within an
hour’s drive e.g. l'étang de Bethmale, L'etang de
CANOEING, KAYAKING AND RAFTING:
The River Salat above Seix is a favourite haunt for lovers
of watersports, the Haut Couserans Kayak Club based at
Moulin Lauga offers kayak, rafting, hydrospeed and
canorafting - a "base d'eaux vives avec des sensations
garanties!" Also available at Engomer 20mins on the other
side of St Girons, and in the Ariege Valley numerous
possibilities exist between Foix and Tarascon.. WATERSKIING
is also available in the lakes at Mercus and Foix.
Ariege is home to some of the wildest and most remote
scenery of the Pyrenees-including magnificent canyons and
gorges often hidden away from the marked walking routes. You
can discover these amazing environments by means of
canyoning-whereby you descend the rivers and waterfalls by
means of a mixture of swimming, sliding and absailing, and
in complete security accompanied by the experienced
specialised canyon guides of Ariege.
In the valley of the Vicdessos, just over an hour's drive
away, The Parc d'Aventure de Montcalm invites you to
discover the Artigue,Marc, Escales and Argenson canyons, and
others in even wilder scenery.
Horizon Vertical at Moulis (also about an hour away) offers
days and half day courses from beginner to advanced level.
If you love water, nature, and thrills ("sensations forts")
then these activities are for you. A further plus is that
the journey to either of these places is a stunning route in
its own right.
Ariege is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the best
rockclimbing areas of France, with some 2400 routes covering
50 crags. There is something for everyone -ranging from
sport climbing and bouldering to ice, via ferrata,trad, and
high mountain routes. The venues are spectacular and pretty
accessible-the nearest in the Haut Couserans are the Port de
L'Hers area and Gerac/Turgila above Guzet; others include
Bedeilhac, Niaux, Sinsat, Vicdessos, Ariege/Aston Valleys,
Ax les Thermes and the Haut Couserans.
Horizon Vertical and Montcalm adventure park cater for all
levels.(se also adventure parks)
Offering a variety of activities and thrills for individuals
or all the family, these centres are all situated in areas
of great natural beauty and varying degrees of
rugged/wildness. Some of these have only recently opened up,
and we have not had time to try them out ourselves, other
guests have come back with excellent reports.
Montcalm Aventure (Vicdessos) Horizon Verticale (Moulis)
Accro'branch (Aulus - les-Bains) Akro'branche D'Orlu (orlu)
Crapahut Aventure (Belesta) high level tree trails Seqouia
Vertigo (Carla Bayle) zip wires, tree trails. Arbre et
Compagnie (Ascou). Please enquire if you would like further
details of any of these, and we will endeavour to find out.
VIA FERRATA (iron ladders)
Montcalm Aventure and Horizon Vertical.
LUGE "GUZET EXPRESS"
Newly opened this summer (2018) this toboggan ride on rails
starts at an altitude of 1700m and descends 357 metres
through 1.5k; one of the longest in Europe. It has already
proved immensely popular. The Picou telesiege takes you up
to the top of the run.
WELL-BEING AND RELAXATION.
After all this activity, you may well feel like a
little relaxation and pampering, and deserve a visit to the
Centre de Bien-etre et Detente at Aulus-les-Bains at the
head of the Garbet Valley. (12 k from le Pichet). Originally
a spa town specialising in the reduction of cholesterol (it
has four springs each with its own therapeutic qualities)
Aulus is now also re-emerging as a quality "Bien -Etre"
destination, featuring warm indoor pool, hamman,jacuzzi and
water jets as well as therapeutic and beauty treatments. A
range of cosmetic products based on the "Armagnac"
spring are also available.
CULTURE AND HISTORY
The region is rich in historical associations, of which the
Ariegeois are justly and fiercely proud. The beautiful
Gallo-Roman town of St. Lizier adjoining St Girons is a
UNESCO site; mediaeval Foix (the departmental capital)
with its commanding chateau and winding streets and
alleyways is one hour’s drive away, and the numerous
castles associated with the brutal 13th century period of
the Cathar heresy are within 2 hours drive, as are the
fascinating cities of Carcassonne and Lourdes, not to
mention Toulouse, "la ville rose". Europe’s largest area of
prehistoric caves with associated cavepaintings at Niaux/
Lombrives and Tarascon's prehistoric park are
both within 1h30 by car, and can be combined with a visit to
"Les Forges de Pyrene" a fascinating exhibition of old-time
jobs and tools in Ariege. As well as these major sites you
will find dotted around the countryside numerous cultural
and architectural gems- the Chateau of Seix with its Musee
de Patrimoine,, the Jardin du Curé (also in Seix) la
musée des Colporteurs (Soueix Rogalle) the 11c Romanesque
church of Notre Dame de Vic (Vic d'Oust), the gardens and
Abbey of Coumbelongue (Rimont), to mention but a few.
Apart from the caves of Niaux/Lombrives, la Vache and
Bedeilhac, you can also visit "Le Mas d'Azil"(an enormous
drive-through cave with its associated museum) and
take an awe inspiring underground boat-trip through some
amazing caverns at "La Riviere Souterraine de Labouiche",
both within an hour's reach from here. The Cirque of
Cagateille, less well-known than that of Gavarnie is
nevertheless magnificent- a tough 8h hike up and around the
walls of the cirque will reward you with seeing its glacial
lakes of Alet and Hillette, and tremendous views down the
This part of Ariege is untouched by light pollution, and the
night skies are pheomenal. If this awakens in you an
interest in astronomy, the Observatory of the Pic du Midi de
Bigorre has been recently opened to the public, and can now
be reached by cable car. Something we can't wait to try!
Again, it is about 2h by car, easily accessible from the
Pau-Lourdes/Tarbes autoroute A64.
Golf : Golf de L’Ariege is about 45 mins drive away.
Language tuition. For anyone wishing to improve their
French, whether in conversation or written work, Eleri will
be delighted to help as she teaches both English and French
locally. Lessons are charged at 20€ for a very
Finally, many of our guests simply love to relax in the
garden, soaking up the view, to enjoy a book or the chance
to do some embroidery. Eleri does not paint, but does love
embroidery and would be delighted to share ideas and
projects with you.
Local services: The villages of Oust and Seix are
respectively 4 and 6k away supplying all needs. There is a
doctor in Oust and pharmacy in Seix. For provisions, we
particularly recommend the butchers in Oust, and the family
bakers in both places. Seix has a small but very well
stocked supermarket. For those wishing to eat out, the
Restaurant/Bar du Garbet in Oust is outstanding, also
excellent is the Auberge du Haut Salat and La
Gourmandine in Seix, Le Martert in St Lizier d'Ustou and the
Auberge des Deux Rivieres at Pont de la Taule. The town of
St. Girons, with a wide variety of shops, supermarkets and
restaurants, not to mention a wonderful Saturday market, is
about 20k away. For gourmet bargain–hunters, Andorra and
Spain are respectively within 3 and 2h reach by car.
So, should you be a non-painting member of a painting group,
there is plenty to entice you. Eleri will be delighted to
escort you to any of the places or activities named
above, providing of course that she is back in time to
prepare the evening meal.
”: We have had some
lovely comments over the past few years – click to read what
our visitors have said.