Ariège is a department in southwestern France named after the Ariège River.

Foix is the administrative capital of the Ariege and 2 other major towns are Pamiers and Mirepoix. Foix is an ancient medieval town with a fine fortress perched on a hill above the town, called Chateau de Foix. The fortress has been attacked many times, including by Simon de Montfort, without anyone succeeding to capture it and it has also been used as a prison. The names of English Prisoners of War can still be seen on the old cell walls.

Another famous chateau is Montsegur, spectacularly located on a rocky outcrop at a height of 1200 metres (3900 ft). The present ruin at Montségur is not actually the work of the Cathars. During the siege of 1244 the chateau was largely destroyed and the fortress was largely rebuilt in the second half of the 13th century. The chateau has a painful past for after the fall of the chateau in 1244, more than 200 Cathar priests were burnt at the stake as heretics due to their alternative Christian (Cathar)faith.

Of the other towns in the Ariege, Pamiers offers a large commercial centre and 3 fine churches, Mirepoix is a beautiful medieval town, St Girons is a fine agricultural centre with one of the best markets (on Saturdays) in south west France. St Lizier is a very picturesque medieval hilltop town with winding streets and fine views. The cloisters in the church are definitely worth seeing.

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