Day 1: Toulouse to Donneville (23.4 kilometres, 14.6 miles)
The Midi Canal is one of the most popular destinations for holiday-makers in France and on any day over the summer months, you’ll find hundreds of boats scattered along the 240-kilometre (150-mile) ribbon of water between Toulouse and the Mediterranean Sea.
Almost as many people make the journey by bike as do by boat but walkers are far less common. But long-distance walking doesn’t get any easier than following a flat, well-maintained towpath alongside a meandering canal.
(Published October 2016, updated May 2021)
Walking along the Midi Canal offers the perfect excuse to spend a few days in Toulouse — France’s fourth largest city known as la Ville Rose for its beautiful red brick buildings. There are dozens of cafés, museums (including Let’s Visit Airbus), churches and cathedrals to visit and six Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from. If you don’t have access to a car, day trips to the nearby cities of Lourdes, Albi and several of France’s most beautiful villages can be arranged at the Tourist Office.
Sooner or later, as you wander the streets of Toulouse, you’ll find yourself down by the river. This is a good opportunity to take an hour-long boat cruise (there are several available) and experience the journey through a lock (écluse en français) from the water.
But it’s time to start walking!
Fifteen minutes into the walk, the canal crosses over the top of the freeway. The sensation of being suspended above ground alongside flowing water is quite odd!
Another 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) of easy walking and the canal reaches Écluse de Castanet, the first lock since leaving Toulouse—and the first chance to relax at a canal-side café, enjoy a cold drink and hopefully watch a boat or two navigate downstream.
It’s only a few kilometres from Écluse de Castanet to the next lock at Écluse de Vic but with no boats on the canal there is a wonderful sense of tranquillity and solitude.
At Écluse de Vic, a small port provides a place for boats to tie up so those on board can stop and enjoy lunch.
Between Toulouse and Donneville, accommodation is available in Ramone-Saint-Agne (check here for a full list of towns offering accommodation on, or within walking distance of the Midi Canal) but I recommend continuing on to Donneville where you’ll find a hotel and chambre d’hôte close to the canal and another chambre d’hôte further up the hill in the village.
To reach Donneville from the canal – at Pont de Donneville, cross the canal and follow the road for 400 metres until it reaches the main road. Continue straight ahead up the hill to reach the village or turn left onto the main road to reach the hotel.
To rejoin the canal – retrace your steps.
Overnight accommodation in Donneville
Learn more about walking along the Midi Canal from Toulouse to Carcassonne
Enjoy a walk along the Midi Canal from the comfort of your armchair
Day 1: Toulouse to Donneville