In the extreme south-west of Hérault, the village of Minerve is surrounded by deep gorges cut where the rivers Brian and Cesse meet, and located at the very end of a limestone plateau.
This stony village in the heart of the Languedoc hinterland was an old Cathar bastion, destroyed by Simon de Montfort in 1210 and the village has a column in memory of a stake at which 140 Cathars were burnt.
Only around 100 people live here now; it was never many more. But, as elsewhere, the surrounding countryside is swathed in the serried ranks of vine, and the whole setting one of peaceful seclusion. It is easy enough to make a circular tour, especially if you're not very good at drawing circles.
This peaceful community enjoys a very picturesque setting, full of unusual curiosities, such as its natural bridges, and a vast cavern that will come as a surprise, if you can find it (you'll need a torch if you want to walk all the way through). One moment you can be high above the gorge; the next, after a bit of wandering, you find yourself where Ice Age rivers once flowed.
It is a tortuous journey to find the village, but that is part of the fascination, and when it does finally come in sight, shoe-horned into its ravines, it will be a delight. There is a large 'Pay' car park and information point at the northern end of the village, and this is the best place to park as only vehicles of residents are permitted in the village.
9 rue des Martyrs, 34210 Minerve
Tel: 04 68 91 81 43
Tel: 04 68 91 14 18; www.relaischantovent-minerve.fr.
A small family run auberge in the centre of Minerve; special parking facilities and baggage handling by arrangement. The restaurant offers four fixed-price menus of traditional cuisine accompanied by regional wines.
For something more basic, check out the Brasserie le 1210 on the lower road. There's a fine view over the gorge, and the food is, well, whatever is available, but always served with the local Minervois AOC wines.