Strategic fortress town
See www.tourisme-canigou.com. Dwarfed by bold purple-red cliffs at the confluence of the rivers Têt and Cady, Villefranche guards the main route west from Perpignan to Spain. The fortress town was founded by the Counts of Cerdagne in 1092, and its well-preserved ramparts, fine Gothic houses and the Eglise de Saint-Jacques decorated with local pink marble make it a favourite with the tour bus brigade.
In French hands after the Treaty of the Pyrenees, Villefranche was a strategic frontier post ripe for the attentions of the great 17thC military architect, Vauban. He constructed the eagle’s nest Fort Liberia and cliff-scaling defences above the valley.