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Bearn

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The Béarn
Photo: Paul Williams
First mentioned as a Viscounty in the 9th Century, it is thought that Bearn owes its origins to the Roman town of beneharnum, now Lescar.

In the 13th Century the Bearn passed into the hands of the County of Foix, separated by Bigorre. Count Gaston Fébus started the conquest of Bigorre under the English occupation of Gascony and completed the fortification of many of the towns in Béarn during the 14th Century - the remains of his building program can be seen today at Orthez, Pau and Sauveterre-de-Béarn.

Bearnais dancing
The Bearn was later controlled sucessively by two important noble families, the Albrets and the Bourbons, Kings of Navarre. The Bearn was attatched to the Kingdom of France in 1620 after the death of Bourbon Henri IV who was count of Béarn and King of France.

Left, Bearnais dancing at a fête

During the Napoleonic wars, Wellington's army passed through Béarn, winning an important battle at Orthez and setting up a garrison at Pau. The British were very well received in the area and many soldiers from Wellington's campaign set up home in Béarn when they retired.

The geography of the Bearn is dominated by the valleys of the two large mountain river sources (called 'Gaves' locally): the Gave d'Oloron and the Gave de Pau - two of Europe's finest Salmon and Trout fishing rivers. The rest of the terrain is rolling hills and valleys,at around 350m - 450m above sea-level, the Bearn is likened to parts of Wiltshire, Yorkshire and Wales. Magnificent views from the hills of the surrounding countryside and of the Pyrénées mountains, and of course, the closer you get to these mountains, the foot-hills get higher and the valleys deeper - up to a point where spectacular gorges appear.

The Bearn is part of the Pyrenées-Atlantiques department.


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Bearn map


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Towns - Bearn

Oloron-Sainte-Marie
Important old town close to the Pyrénées on the juction of two rivers
Orthez
Market town and one of the old capitals of the Béarn
Pau
Elegant city heavily influenced by the British, now capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques

Towns and Villages in Bearn

Accous
Village in the Aspe valley
Aramits
Main village in the Baretous valley
Artouste
Hamlet high up in the Ossau Valley
Arudy
Small town at the foot of the Ossau valley
Arzacq Arraziguet
Bielle
Ancient capital of the Ossau Valley
Garlin
Jurançon
Town that gave its name to the wine
Laàs
Small but dynamic village on the Gave d'Oloron
Laruns
Small mountain town at the head of the Ossau valley.
Lasseube
Lescar
Originally Benehamum under the Romans and first capital of Béarn
Lescun
Untouched mountain village in the Aspe valley.
Lucq-de-Béarn
Peaceful and beautiful village in the heart of the Béarn
Monein
Elegant village once called the Paris of the Béarn
Montaner
Village famous for its fortress
Morlaas
Second capital of the Béarn
Navarrenx
Fine example of fortified town on the Gave d'Oloron
Nay-Bourdettes
Charming town on the Gave de Pau
Pierre-Saint-Martin
Ski resort on Spanish border
Salies-de-Béarn
Spa town known as the Venice of the Béarn
Sauveterre-de-Béarn
Spectacular walled village overlooking the Gave d'Oloron
Urdos
Small village at the head of the Aspe valley, close to the Spanish border.

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