Saint-Girons is one of both Ariege’s sous-préfecture (administrative town), the other one being Pamiers and the prefecture Foix. This town is settled at the heart of a basin, close to mountains and plains, in the confluence of the Salat and Lez Rivers that come down direct from the mountains. The town was settled pretty late. Saint- Girons’ history cannot be separated from the one of its neighbouring town which was founded by the Romans: Saint-Lizier, an antique Episcopal city. St Girons began to develop itself during the 11th century as many people left mountainous areas to settle in plains.
With almost 7,000 inhabitants - called the Saint-gironnais - this town is perfect if you are looking for a quiet place to relax. Nestled at the foothills of the Pyrenees of Ariege, the capital town of the Couserans (small former of the Pyrenees region) has a strategic location. Its main assets are green hills, mountains and valleys surrounded with turbulent torrents. But Saint Girons also boasts that locals are amongst the most welcoming ones of the country.
The Ariege department is pretty cheap in terms of real estate prices. Saint Girons is more and more sought-after, especially amidst British people. Indeed, this area is quiet and has an unspoiled nature on offer. It is the perfect place to relax, discover the Ariege region and meet the welcoming locals. The good access to the main southern French towns and Toulouse’s airport will allow you to travel as much as you want.
Even if ancient properties are dearer than new ones in the Ariege department, prices for such properties are still affordable in Saint Girons. In 2009, an ancient house in this town will cost you about €115,200 - a real bargain if we compare this price with the one you will pay to buy an ancient house in Pamiers and its surroundings (€147,900).
Buy-to-let investments are worthwhile in this lovely region. An advice: buy now before the area becomes more renowned and property prices increase!
To get updated info about housing prices in the Ariege departement, please browse our French Property Market Reports published in the News Section every month.
Located at the heart of 18 valleys, Saint-Girons has become an important place of interest. We suggest you to stroll along the picturesque banks of the Salat. You will discover the old bridge dating back to the 16th century and the beautiful bell tower (15th) that overlooks the town centre. Saint Girons boasts a great French art de vivre: people like the gastronomy and perpetuate many traditions. Judge for yourself by visiting this beautiful region, you will not be disappointed!
Culture: the association called Les Bethmalais originates from Saint-Girons. It is one of the oldest French association of popular art. Its members organise activities linked to the culture of the Bethmale valley and Couserans in the department of Ariege. Kind of festivals are held in the town: locals are dressed-up with historical costumes composed of local materials and dance on traditional music.
Markets and fairs: the town holds a bustling farmers market every Saturday morning in the town centre. Most of the produce sold in this market is grown organically. Fairs also take place twice a month. Many local shops will allow you to discover the traditional gastronomy and products produced by farmers in the Pyrenees mountains: cheese - Bethmale cheese being the local speciality - foie gras, duck breast, cooked pork meats as well as quality paper, jewellery, etc.
Industry: Saint Girons’ industry developed itself around water, using both the Lez and Salat rivers. There are, as in the whole region, flour mills, mills to saw wood, forges but also mills that are used for the textile industry. Many industries are set up along the Salat in order to use the driving force of water. Activities linked to the heavy industry are strong with 430 direct jobs and 620 indirect jobs.
Leisure activities: there are plenty of leisure activities in Saint-Girons, especially sports: badminton, basket-ball, billiards, football, handball, rugby, cycling, ski, etc. With almost 450km of roads, paths and tracks in the Couserans’ mountains, Saint-Girons is also a privileged starting point for hikes.
Traditions: apart from the Bethmalais, many traditions are held in this lovely town. Amongst others, the route de la glace du cirque d’Anglade (ice road Anglade’s circuit) is a great experience: 3 days in the mountains doing the same route that the mule-drivers to bring ice blocks in the town centre before the fridge was invented. Let’s accompany the locals and their mules (they carry the ice blocks) in the mountains and attend the great parade called Autrefois le Couserans, where Saint Girons’ inhabitants are dressep-up with traditional clothes.
We can find many similar points between properties built in the different departments of the Midi Pyrenees region. The architecture of these houses looks the same, the major difference is the building material used (bricks, limestone, pebbles, etc.). In the Ariege department, cooked bricks and pebbles from the rivers are used to build properties.
Farmhouses: in secluded position above the town, you will easily find farmhouses in Saint Girons and its surroundings. These properties offer outstanding panoramic views. Composed of stone, they can welcome many people as they are very spacious both inside and outside. With a front and rear terrace opening onto fields, you will definitely enjoy relaxing in the unspoiled nature of the Ariege department.
Renovated barns: agriculture has a crucial role in Ariege’s economy. That is the reason why we can find many farmhouses as well as barns in Saint Girons. The major difference between these buildings is their initial use: farmhouses were farmers’ properties and barns were originally storage places within a farm. You will find numerous old converted barns with a large living space, wood beams inside the properties and walls made up of stone mixed with cob. Some barns are composed of granit stone and have a slated roof.
Longères houses: with a rectangular shape, these houses have a two-slopes roof lengthwise to their front. The roof’s slope on the facade is shorter than the other that is less sloping and longer because it covers both half of the house and the shed. Longeres can be pretty small and often have one storey. Usually we enter in these properties directly in the kitchen (no hall) and bedrooms are then in a row. You have to cross one bedroom to access the second one, and so on. There is most of the time a barn close to these houses or even in their extension. Some Longeres can easily have a length of 30 or 40 metres!
Click here for more info about Midi Pyrenees Architecture.
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