Rennes-les-Bain, located in the middle of Cathar country, is close to many of the highlights in the Aude department. Carcassonne, Limoux, Rennes-le-Château, and the castles of Peyrepertuse and Quéribus are almost neighbours. Therefore, the village can be seen as the gateway to the Corbières. Besides being nestled in the heart of a green valley, it benefits from another gift of Mother Nature. Several hot springs have appeared from the Sals river, giving the pretty village a spa resort status.
Even though present-day Rennes-les-Bains seems to be a small and sleepy village with a mere 200 inhabitants, its origins date back to Antiquity. The Galloromans had already discovered the virtues of the hot springs. Archaeological excavations have revealed the presence of thermal baths divided over two floors, including four basins and two swimming pools. Nowadays, the thermal baths mainly cure rheumatism and some skin problems. If you don’t have these health issues, you can also go to the public swimming pool sourced with water from the hot springs. Or you can enjoy the natural hot spring waters in the river itself.
On our discovery of Rennes-les-Bains, the family and I went on a little hike. There are five different trails to explore the various landscapes of the area, varying from 6.5 to 14.5 kms. As we had done several hikes already during our stay in Bugarach, we (well, the children) opted for the shortest trail, called ‘Le Parcours Historique’. It had a few highlights though, like the ‘Devil’s Chair’ (‘Fauteuil du Diable’). Some people think that this armchair shaped rock is somehow linked to the devil in the church of Rennes-le-Château. You will also walk past the Source du Cercle (Spring of the Circle) and the Roche Tremblante (Shaking Rock). We made a slight detour to the Roc den barrou with a beautiful valley view.
I had promised the kids to take a bath in one of the five public hot springs. You have to know where they are though, and after asking a police officer we found out that there were only two left. I remembered seeing people in the river when we drove from Bugarach to Limoux, so one had to be somewhere near the public swimming pool. Walking along the Salz river made our offspring feel like doing another hike. And just when we were about to give up, I spotted the hot spring. So even though we were in the middle of autumn, we had a dip in the river. It was the best part of our visit to Rennes-les-Bains, especially after the hike. The water was a comfortable 38 degrees, and the jet of water loosened our shoulders. I was glad that I had saved the best for last!