Ariege - tell us about it?

We have lived in France permanently since 2014. We initally started out in Charente which proved to be the wrong area for us personally as we missed the green hills and mountains of Wales/Scotland. We are now over in Haute Correze in Limousin in the Plateau Millevaches Parc Naturel Regional. We like it a lot here but we haven’t bought here yet as we haven’t really found a property with land that has really grabbed us. We have a nice rental and work here so we are ticking along okay. We have a good network of friends here but ulitmately we don’t think the type of property we want exists here. 99% of the houss on the market here are in villages or hamlets with immediate neighbours and it has been a long search. Whatever property we buy we want it to be our last, so we really want to find the right one.

Anyway we have long thought about the Pyrenees as an alternative location to buy. We love mountains and wilder forested/woodland rather than being surrounded by farming as we are in Limousin. We are planning a holiday and visit down there in September. What can you tell us about Ariege? We have read it has a bit of an eco/alternative/hippie vibe in places which is right up our street. In North Wales we lived in quite an alternative community.

We are seeking a secluded/isolated, modest old house up in the hills/mountains with a source, and a decent sized piece of land. Seen a few nice looking places on Leboncoin. We are keen growers and horticulturalists. What is the climate like? How high (alitude wise!!) do you need to be to avoid the worst of the summer heat? How snowy is it in winter? Is the rainfall reliable? Where are the main centres of population? We are keen to hear people’s advice and recommendations. Thanks in advance. Paul and Jax

I do hope you find what you are looking for asap.

As an aside - you are working - what work are you doing ?

We are not in a huge hurry. I have a CDI contract for maintenance work on a campsite near to us plus other work.

Sounds a good situation to be in. :relaxed::relaxed::relaxed:

Yes except we cannot find a house in this area. Even in the Millevaches it is very difficult to find a house that is not surrounded on all sides by farming or in the middle of a hamlet. This is a very sparsely populated part of France. Very few houses with land on the market here. We prefer a house in woodland setting or isolated. Hard to find. Don’t mind being on the edge of a tiny hamlet, but prefer seclusion. Hence we are thinking of exploring another part of France. We have been looking for two years here, but have only seriously viewed around 15 houses in that time. We have heard good things about Ariege. Hence my post.

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Ask Simon , if he is allowed to return ?

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Have I missed something?

Hi Paul,

We live in the Aude but not far from the border with the Ariege. I can’t answer many of your questions but yes, there are alternative lifestyle communities in the area. The times we see them most is at the Sunday Morning Market at Esperaza and the Monday Morning market at Mirepoix, so a visit to one or both of them if you are close by on the trip down here is probably well worth it. From what I know of the area I would think you will find something as secluded as you require.

Hi Paul
The Ariège is my favourite département. It’s wild, it’s poor, it’s extremely varied and it has an excellent climate. I’ve been living in France for almost 40 years now and we never tire of taking a weekend break or a three-week holiday in one of the more isolated valleys of the Ariège.
The different sectors:

Tourism and traffic and ski: Ax-les-Thermes and the road up to Andorra.
Mirepoix: where a lot of Brits live
Foix: the capital and a mixture of admin people and tourists
St Girons: the ‘real’ Ariège with a mad, crazy, filthy, entertaining weekly market when everyone from shepherds to New Age crusties descend from the mountains
Massat: home to the new age, ‘alternative’ crowd and now boasts a Gay Pride festival every year
Castillon and the Biros, Bethmale and Bellelongue valleys: my favourite sector: not a ski resort in site.
Property-wise you will find a bit of everything: village houses from €30k and nice big spreads with land, springs and dry toilets near Massat .

Don’t look too closely at the asking prices: most of these properties go for up to 20-25% less.

Take your time and visit the different valleys and towns at your leisure. There is something for everyone in the Ariège.

Hi Simon. Thanks for the reply very informative. We are currently having a heart to heart about whether to check out Ariege or to leave France altogether and return to the UK (Scotland ideally). We are seriously worried abut the way the climate is going here and the long term viability for an outdoor based life here in the Hexagon. We don’t like the hot and dry summers which are nothing like what we left behind in Snowdonia. We will see. Can you tell us more about the climate in Ariege? We prefer a place that stays green and lush throughout the summer, with regular rainfall throughout the year. Here on the Millevaches Plateau it is parched this year with water restrictions and full on drought. Fourth drought of five years living in France. Seems like all or nothing when it comes to rain here. We are concerned.

Sounds like you should look at Brittany - it has a reputation for rain in France, but this is unjustified - you’ll certainly find it much drier and milder than Snowdonia, but lush green all year. It’s also (in my view) the most culturally interesting region in France.

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There’s a reason France gets more tourists than Wales and it’s not entirely unconnected to what you wrote above…
What is your French like? Communes tend to have a website which tells you all about population etc. Then ring the secrétaire de mairie in a commune you like the look of and have a chat about property etc. But if the only reason you came to France is price of houses and land, and you don’t like it, maybe try Slovenia or Bosnia, somewhere like that.

The comments about Snowdonia reminded me of a holiday my family once had there. The weather was awful and after a few days we drove to Tenby where it was like being in a different climate zone. Both places were too crowded for my liking though. I was reminded about the hoards of people on Snowdon when I spent 10 days this summer walking in the peace and tranquillity of the Alps.
I’ve spent a week in the Ariege, it was hot but I expected that because it’s in the south of France. Much of the scenery was lovely but the architecture was not as interesting as farther north. I was pleased to have spent so time exploring the area but I have no plans to return there on holiday and it certainly wouldn’t feature on places I’d like to live.

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We have lived in the Ariège for 6 years and we love it. There are hot and dry spells - less so if you are in the mountains - but the region has a lot of water, and water restrictions are very rare - there have been none this year. There are a lot of alternative type communities and the region has a proud spirit of independence. If you are still planning to visit, you could call in on us, happy to tell you everything we know!

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