Béarn

Togeth­er with the Basque Coun­try, the Béarn forms the depart­ment of Pyrénées-Atlan­tiques’. Despite the Béarn being a part of France, this region used to be polit­i­cal­ly inde­pen­dent from the for­mer French king­dom. This changed when Hen­ry IV of France (whose birth­place is Pau, the cap­i­tal of the Béarn) became king.

With a height dif­fer­ence of 3000 metres between the low­est point and the high­est point, the Béarn has a very diverse envi­ron­ment, with as many dif­fer­ent views and a par­tic­u­lar­ly mild climate.

Below is a descrip­tion of sev­er­al vil­lages and towns locat­ed around Domaine d’Esperbasque and Salies de Béarn in order of distance.

Sauvet­erre de Béarn

Sauvet­erre de Béarn is a vil­lage south of Salies de Béarn on the bor­der of the Béarn and the Basque Coun­try, beau­ti­ful­ly sit­u­at­ed above the Gave d’Oloron’, over­look­ing the Pyrenees.

In the past Sauvet­erre was strength­ened by the nobles of the Béarn. Step into the mag­i­cal era of the for­ti­fi­ca­tions with nobles such as Gas­ton VII and Gas­ton Fébus, who made the Béarn a sov­er­eign state.

Upstream you will find Château de Laàs’ and down­stream Sor­de l’Abbaye’: an impres­sive abbey.

Orthez

Orthez is a city with his­to­ry. As the cap­i­tal of Gas­ton Fébus in medieval times, it pro­vides a his­tor­i­cal lega­cy, which shows the pros­per­i­ty of the past. The Pont Vieux ”, the emblem of the city, is a pas­sage for the pil­grims of St Jacques de Com­postel­la and the Château Mon­cade has an unfor­get­table view over the roofs of Orthez and, weath­er per­mit­ting, the Pyrenees.

Laàs

Between Sauvet­erre de Béarn and Navar­renx, along the banks of the Gave d’Oloron’ and sur­round­ed by beau­ti­ful gar­dens, you will find the Château de Laàs’.

This cas­tle was built in the 17th cen­tu­ry and is sit­u­at­ed in a 12 hectare park. It hous­es one of the finest col­lec­tions of dec­o­ra­tive arts of the Aquitaine region.

A large park with old trees, French gar­den, rose gar­den, exot­ic bam­boo for­est and a ter­race over­look­ing the Gave d’Oloron’, all con­tribute to the mag­ic of the place … Your walk con­tin­ues in the orchard, where old vari­eties of apple, peach and plum trees have been planted…

Enjoy the cas­tle, the gar­dens and even take a dip in the riv­er Gave d’Oloron’.

Navar­renx

In the heart of the Béarn des Gaves’, hid­den amongst the hills lies Navar­renx, the old­est for­ti­fied vil­lage in France.

This vil­lage is sit­u­at­ed in a qui­et area, the vari­a­tion of the land­scape is reflect­ed in the sparkling waters of the Gave d’Oloron’.

Go dream on the old ram­parts of Navar­renx or fol­low the foot­steps of the pil­grims of St. Jacques to Château de Mon­gas­ton’. Fol­low the water to the basins of Audaux or Préchacq, in the shade of the beau­ti­ful hous­es. Dis­cov­er the archi­tec­ture of the Béarn: brown coloured angled roofs with ochre toned walls and brown shutters.

Pau

Pau is the cap­i­tal of the Béarn and is known for the Château de Pau’ birth­place of Hen­ry IV. A medieval fortress, a Renais­sance cas­tle, a roy­al res­i­dence, a large muse­um an all in one build­ing where many vis­i­tors jos­tle to view Hen­ry IV’s cra­dle made out of a giant tur­tle shell.

Pau is an attrac­tive city that focus­es on tourism and sports, espe­cial­ly bas­ket­ball, rug­by and horse riding.

Pau is famous for one of the best views in France: from the Boule­vard des Pyrénées’ almost the entire moun­tain range can be seen. Many writ­ers, painters and poets took it as their inspi­ra­tion for their masterpieces.

Oloron Sainte Marie

Oloron is a city with a rich his­to­ry. The his­to­ry of Oloron goes back to the first cen­tu­ry. The Romans cre­at­ed a city Iluro’ along­side the riv­er. They chose this loca­tion because of the route along the col du Som­port: an impor­tant pas­sage to Spain. A chapel was built Chapelle de Sainte Marie’ (the cur­rent loca­tion of the cathe­dral Sainte Marie built in the 12th cen­tu­ry) and a citadel called Sainte-Croix d’Oloron’ was built on a mound to offer protection.

In the Mid­dle Ages the his­to­ry of Iluro was for­got­ten, but because of its strate­gic loca­tion and the pres­ence of the two rivers they start­ed build­ing Oloron in 1080 on and around the for­mer Roman for­ti­fi­ca­tion (mound). At the same time Iluro was rebuilt and was giv­en the name of the chapel Sainte Marie’.

Around 1350 there was a clear sep­a­ra­tion between the two cities: Oloron Vis­count city” and Sainte Marie Bish­op city.” Sainte Marie remained eco­nom­i­cal­ly high­ly depen­dent on Oloron. Until the 15th cen­tu­ry Oloron was the eco­nom­ic cap­i­tal of the Béarn (trade with Spain and tex­tile crafts).

The merge of the two cities to the cur­rent Oloron Sainte Marie was in the late 1800s under Napoleon III, it was nec­es­sary for the con­struc­tion of rail­ways and the indus­tri­al­iza­tion of the area.

The cathe­dral of Oloron Sainte Marie is on the UNESCO World Her­itage Sites list.

Pyre­nees

In the most south­ern part of the Béarn you will find the Nation­al Park of the Pyre­nees (Parc Nation­al des Pyre­nees). The beard­ed vul­ture lives here as wel as the gold­en eagle and the Egypt­ian vul­ture. In the heights you will find mar­mots and chamois. The last bears of France live here, maybe you will find some footprints!

Step into Europe’s high­est train (Artouste), go on an adven­ture and vis­it the largest cave in Europe (La Ver­na) or go Paraglid­ing (see Activ­i­ties > In the area).