Whoever thinks of the Canal du Midi, thinks of the locks.
A trip along the canal, in a boat or on bike, would not be complete without watching a boat pass through one of the seventeen locks in Greater Carcassonne.
Stop a moment to see how the water is transferred from one side of the other, raising the barge, and allowing it to pass through. We see, we sense, we touch the canal and Riquet's genius at the same time.
Whether single, double or triple, the locks in Greater Carcassonne display a wide range of styles.
We recommend, among others, the écluse (lock) de l’Aiguille in Puichéric, with its metal sculpture, the Herminis lock in Carcassonne and the triple lock in Trèbes and the old mill, which is now a gastronomic restaurant.
From lock to lock: a route from Alzonne to Homps, west to east, towards the Mediterranean
Start your journey in Bram, stopping at the écluse de Béteille in Alzonne. This lock helps transfer boats over a 2.25m drop in the water level, all supervised by the lock keeper. Shops in the area mean you can stock up on food and drink before carrying on towards Carcassonne.
The next lock you come to is the écluse de Villesèque near the charming hamlet of Sauzens, before crossing a canal bridge near Villesèquelande. Here you can admire the Orme de Sully, an enormous elm tree in the place de l’église, which is one of the rare elm trees to be found in France (planted in the reign of Henry VI), close to the musée de la chevalerie.
Continue your journey to the double-écluse de Lalande, 3.3 km away. You can chat to the lock keeper while the water balances out a difference of 5.7 m. A real spectacle! Then carry on toward the single locks, Herminis and La Douce (1.2 km from Lalande) before arriving in Carcassonne.
A break for lunch and a bit of history, so head for the château de Pennautier (and its restaurant), less than 4 km away. A gourmet lunch using local produce, followed by a visit to the château, which dates from 1620 and was designed by Le Vau on the model of Versailles. The gardens were landscaped by le Nôtre.
In Carcassonne, the first lock is found north of the town ramparts, opposite the station in the town centre. This is the departure point for boat trips aboard 'Le Cocagne' and 'Lou Gabaret '. Here, you are a 30 minute walk from the Medieval Cité, via the pont Vieux, also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take a walk through the Bastide Saint-Louis, noting the 17th century mansions, place Carnot and the Neptune fountain. In the town centre, you can find all shops and services.
The canal du Midi flows around Carcassonne through the écluses de Saint-Jean and du Fresquel on the way out of the town, then the Evêque and de Villedubert, in the heart of the Minervois vineyard.
A little before you reach the town of Trèbes, you can admire two aqueducts which carry the canal over the Fresquel and Orbiel rivers. You then arrive in the port of Trèbes, which is another place to stop-off at one of the canal-side restaurants.
Continue east on a tarmacked road, where you will pass shops selling local produce before arriving at the triple écluse du Moulin de Trèbes. There, you will find a lock ladder, made in 1674. Nowadays, a gourmet restaurant stands next to this impressive lock. The charming hamlets of Millepetit and Millegrand are worth a little detour. On the first estate, not far from the château, you can relax for a while, in the shade of a tunnel covered with vine leaves. Millegrand and its wines will welcome you. Let yourself be tempted by the cooking classes in English.
A little further on, you will reach Marseillette (8.6 km), the home village of the singer Olivia Ruiz. At the lock, take a small path towards the Marseillette lake, a timeless spot, where apples, grapes and rice are grown! Time for something to eat, there's a restaurant by the side of the canal.
We then continue to the écluses Saint-Martin and de Fonfile (with its three pools), visible from the route Minervoise (D610), before reaching the écluse de l’Aiguille, the most unusual one on the du canal du Midi. Here, wooden sculptures and other little characters welcome you, fruit of the lock keeper's creative imagination. An elephant, Georges Brassens, bicycles... all sorts of things. You are now in Puichéric. The village nearby, has shops and a pleasant place to sit by the river Aude or in the playground and gardens... You could also try canoeing with Eaurizon .
Next stop, La Redorte and its mooring (Restaurant by the side of the canal)
A 30 minute walk away, there is the Epanchoir de l’Argent Double, a stone bridge which allows excess water in the canal to be released through its arches into the river below. You can then carry on to the écluse de Jouarres and admire the aqueduct.
Finally, you arrive in the port de Homps, a favourite spot for canal users. Homps is a true tower of Babel in summer, when you can hear every language under the sun being spoken. Stop off in one of the many canal-side restaurants for a bite to eat before visiting the maison des vins du Minervois, the Minerve wine centre. You could also go for a swim, just a 10 minute walk away in the beautiful lac de Jouarres.
You're now 10 km from Lézignan and 30 km from Narbonne and their railway stations.