Hiking and history: The various meanings of the Cathar Trail in the South of France

  • Ariadne Menzel
Keywords: hiking trail, history, time, landscape, South of France


This paper shows how a historically constructed long-distance hiking trail can have various and discordant meanings. It draws on archival and promotional material, interviews and ethnographic fieldwork and examines the original Cathar Trail agenda and hikers’ contemporary practice of the trail in the South of France. This cultural heritage trail was created in the 1980s and based on historical narratives and heritage sites. Hikers, however, redefined the Cathar Trail through their motivations, trip organisation and style of travel. Their journeys generated a trail at odds with the initial Trail agenda which sought to encourage hikers to engage in time travel. In sum, then, the paper demonstrates that the meaning of a trail for the hikers is formed through their experience of journeying rather than a cultural heritage agenda.