Southern Languedoc presents an exciting and varied landscape, its coastal flats stretching south from the mouth of the Aude towards Perpignan, interrupted by occasional low, rocky hills. Just inland sits Béziers, its imposing cathedral set high above the languid River Orb, girded in the north by the amazingly preserved Renaissance town of Pézenas and in the south by the pre-Roman settlement of the Ensérune. It’s also a gateway to the spectacular uplands of the Monts de l’Espinouse and the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut Languedoc, a haven for ramblers. Just south of Béziers, the ancient Roman capital of Narbonne guards the mouth of the Aude. Following the course of this river, which is shadowed by the historic Canal du Midi, you arrive at the quintessential medieval citadel, the famous fortress town of Carcassonne. Once a shelter for renegade Cathar heretics, this is also a fine departure point for the Cathar castles – a string of romantic ruins.