Canal du Midi by Bike: Villenouvelle to Castelnaudary
To continue from the
Écluse de Negra, follow the small road along the Canal for 200m, then pick up the bike path on your right.
After 1 km, pass under the A 66 motorway, then cross the D 97C, a quiet country road (to the left, you can reach the hamlet of
You'll pass CHLa Masquiere (described in the previous section) and cross the quiet D 97 at the Écluse de Laval. Next, you'll reach a small pont-canal over a creek (the
Gardijol), and 300m later, the D 622 at the Écluse de Gardouch.
From here, you can reach the village of
Gardouch to the right. The D 622 is also the most straight-forward way to reach Villefranche-de-Lauragais (to the left). However, this quiet road does get busy as you get closer to the town. If you're willing to take a small detour, there is a much more scenic way.
Continue on the bike path for another 2 km. Just after the pont-canal over another small stream, the
Hers, look for the Chemin de Voûtes, a paved lane that veers off from the Canal to your left. This lane passes under the motorway, meanders through the fields, and reaches
Villefranche-de-Lauragais 2.5 km later.
To continue along the Canal instead, keep going on the bike path, and 2 km later reach the D 72 and the Écluse de Renneville.
When the Canal du Midi first opened,
Villefranche-de-Lauragais was the capital of the region's wheat trade. Its old quarter is home to many ornate and well-preserved merchant houses, testimony to the wealth the canal brought to the area.
If you'd like to stay overnight, I recommend the CHMaison de Charlotte. This B&B has consistently received top reviews. Its rooms are a great value, and you'll also have access to the home's kitchen if you want to prepare meals. The other two B&Bs are also good options if you prefer to have a pool, and there's also a hotel.
Several trains run daily to and from Toulouse and Carcassonne, which makes Villefranche an easy start or end point for your tour, as well.
To return to the Canal, look for the side street that runs just south of the railway line, the Chemin de l'Artel. Follow this street southeast and veer right on the D 72 to
Renneville. The D 72 passes over the motorway and reaches the
Écluse de Renneville 500m later.
10 km Renneville
There's a popular B&B in the village of
Renneville. At the
Écluse de Renneville, turn right to cross the Canal, then follow the signs for Chambre d'Hôtes Le Souleilla.
To continue, stay on the left side of the Canal and follow the bike path, and after 3 km, reach the Écluse d'Encassan.
1.5 km later, you'll reach the D 43 at the Écluse d'Emborrel. This road leads to
Avignonet-Lauragais to the left. After another 2 km, the bike path leads to a paved lane, the D 80A.
7 km Port Lauragais
Port Lauragais is a popular stopping point for boaters on the Canal. There is no actual town, only a hotel and restaurant that are part of a service area for the A61 motorway. It's more idyllic than it sounds: The hotel is surrounded by an extensive park area, and the motorway is largely hidden by trees. You can dine in a restaurant over the water.
To reach the hotel at Port Lauragais, cross the bridge over the Canal 2 km after the Écluse d'Emborrel, and turn immediately left (signposted Port Lauragais). Pass along fields for about 400m, then turn into the parking lot on your left. Go back the same way to re-join the bike path.
Otherwise, continue on the bike path for another 2 km, passing under the motorway and a railroad bridge, before you'll reach Écluse de l'Océan.
You're now at the
Seuil de Naurouze, the highest point along the Canal du Midi. It's a downhill ride from here! However, just as the 50-meter "climb" from Toulouse, you're unlikely to notice, unless you pay attention to the water levels of the lock chambers as you pass each écluse.
To continue along the "official" route, cross the bridge to the right (south) side of the Canal. The towpath along the south bank, however, is in poor shape, muddy and rutted. A better alternative is continue straight along the gravel track. After 500m, this track leads to a minor road, the D 218.
Turn left here to visit the obelisk that has been erected in honor of Pierre Paul Riquet, the engineering mastermind behind the Canal du Midi. Just ahead of you, you'll also find a chambre d'hôte in a converted former mill.
For a fun excursion, you can follow a trail that runs beside the Rigole all the way to the Bassin de Saint-Ferréol, the picturesque lake that supplies all this water. It's 35 km one-way from the Seuil de Naurouze, with a climb of 260m.
Both the towpath (on the south side) and the D 218 (north side) will take you to a simple stone bridge 2 km later.
4 km Labastide-d'Anjou
To get to Labastide-d'Anjou, cross the arched stone bridge at Le Ségala, then turn right and follow the street (D 217), which parallels the Canal for 100m, then curves left. Follow either this street, or the one that branches off to the right after 200m (The street on the right brings you closer to the two hotels).
There are two very basic hotels in the village, and a luxurious château another 2 km to the northeast.
Instead of backtracking from the village, take the D 433 (quiet country lane) to rejoin the Canal at the Écluse de la Méditerranée.
3 km after Le Segala, reach the Écluse de la Méditerranée. There's a houseboat docked near the lock, which offers a unique and atmospheric way to spend the night.
From here to Castelnaudary, the towpath is a mix of hard clay and paved surface.Less than 1 km later, pass the Écluse de Roc. Just over 1 km after that, Écluse de Laurens.
To reach Domaine Ferrabouc, cross the Canal here and continue along the paved lane on the north side. Where the lane ends, turn right, then left.
Pass two more locks:
Écluse de Laplanque, the path is paved. After 3 km, you'll reach
11 km Castelnaudary
If you've started your first day early in Toulouse, and you're feeling ambitious,
Castelnaudary makes for a suitable overnight stop. There are multiple accommodation options and restaurants. It's the biggest town en route so far, though still tiny compared to Toulouse. If you arrive on a Monday, you'll also find an outdoor market in the town center.
Castelnaudary is the place to try a famous regional dish, cassoulet. What is cassoulet? It's green beans mixed with whatever the chef happens to find in the pantry (though usually pork or duck confit). Hey, it helped the townspeople survive a siege during the Hundred Years' War. If this fails to excite you, you can always pick up some supplies at the SPAR supermarket, and have a picnic at the park across the Écluse de Saint-Roch at the eastern end of town.
Although we researched this guide diligently, we make no guarantees as to its accuracy. All information is provided without warranty of any kind, and we assume no liability for any damages resulting from its use. Pricing is illustrative only and does not constitute a binding offer. Traffic, weather, and other unforeseen conditions may make the proposed routes impracticable. Please use caution and common sense, and always follow the rules of the road and local laws.