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.
|Photo: Paul Williams|
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.
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.
|Market town and one of the old capitals of the Béarn|
|Elegant city heavily influenced by the British, now capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques|
|Village in the Aspe valley|
|Main village in the Baretous valley|
|Hamlet high up in the Ossau Valley|
|Small town at the foot of the Ossau valley|
|Ancient capital of the Ossau Valley|
|Town that gave its name to the wine|
|Small but dynamic village on the Gave d'Oloron|
|Small mountain town at the head of the Ossau valley.|
|Originally Benehamum under the Romans and first capital of Béarn|
|Untouched mountain village in the Aspe valley.|
|Peaceful and beautiful village in the heart of the Béarn|
|Elegant village once called the Paris of the Béarn|
|Fine example of fortified town on the Gave d'Oloron|
|Small village at the head of the Aspe valley, close to the Spanish border.|
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