Cycling along the Canal du Midi

Last week, during a family holiday, I enjoyed a few days cycling along the Canal du Midi, or, more accurately, cycling along a stretch of the Canal du Midi near Carcassonne in the south of France. The canal’s full length is 240km from Tolouse to Agde (or Sète – it depends which guidebook you believe).

Marseillette lock Trebes lock Carcassonne lock

The lock keeper’s cottage at each lock along the Canal du Midi bears a plate showing the distance between it and the locks on either side.

Pierre Paul Riquet built the canal at the end of the 17th century. It ceased to provide a viable commercial form of transport some time ago, but today affords pleasure to those travelling by boat, bike, horse and on foot. The Canal du Midi was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997.


Easter, and the canal is much less busy than during the high season.


Travellers along the canal are quick to offer a ‘bonjour’ to one and other.


The old towpath varies in quality from a road that can be driven by car to a trail of a few inches wide.


One of the more sheltered sections of the canal.


A short, steep rise to this lock and a climb out of the saddle.


The upper lock at Trebes.


Away from the canal the ‘D’ roads are well signposted. Unfortunately, I came to this junction after completely bypassing my destination. I could have bought a smaller-scale map; few of the minor roads are signposted.


More vineyards and a lovely quiet road northeast of Capendu en route to Blomac.

You can’t walk more than a few yards without seeing yet another vineyard in the Aude département (Fitou, Minervois, Corbieres et al) where the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) standard mark is jealously guarded for the wine produced there.


No trip to Carcassonne would be complete without a visit to the medieval city.


We rented two of these bikes for three days at 15 Euros a day each. I reckon £90 would probably buy you one of these machines.

Although you could get away with just six gears on the canal towpath there are too many other places worth visiting that require lower gears, especially if you are carrying more than a spare tube, spanner and a couple of tyre levers. I was thinking of cycling the full distance, maybe next year, but getting there and other logistics are a bit off-putting. Besides, Mrs Bailey is already looking into a holiday including Amsterdam and Rotterdam this summer. Meanwhile, the in-laws are hoping to return to the Canal du Midi and rent a boat. Very nice, too.