The iron route in the Pyrenees

The Iron Route in the Pyrenees, a certified European cultural route that crosses the Pays de Nay. The Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe are an invitation to travel and discover the rich and diverse heritage of Europe, promoting the bringing together of people in places of history and heritage. They carry the values of the Council of Europe: human rights, cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and mutual cross-border exchange.

The collaboration network, of which the Pays de Nay Community of Municipalities is a part, brings together five regions and nearly 26 institutional, associative or business sites. Its objective is to implement innovative activities and projects in several priority areas: cooperation in research and development; promotion of European memory, history and heritage; educational and cultural exchanges for young Europeans; contemporary culture and artistic practice, as well as cultural tourism and sustainable development.

Depending on the region, this industrial heritage is immortalised by a place, a factory or a skill. Unlike the northern European countries, which adopted the indirect process and blast furnaces, the Pyrenees and other southern territories remained faithful to the direct system by which iron was obtained from ore in a single operation without going through the smelting stage.
The Pyrenees are therefore a region rich in iron ore, with a long tradition of steelmaking. This activity, which is a source of economic wealth, has left us with numerous testimonies, and the forestry and mining operations and processing buildings have left a deep imprint on both the landscape and the urban fabric of the massif. Whether it be mines, forges, tourist circuits or craft workshops.In this respect, the priority actions that the members of this itinerary wished to implement, with a view to communication and tourism, were to design a travelling exhibition presenting each of the sites and offers making up this route, as well as a website dedicated to the itinerary and a common, graphically-charted presentation leaflet.

On the scale of the Pays de Nay, it is possible to identify and map an iron and metal route which traces the various industrial activities which have played an important role in the area.  The extraction of ore has been known since Antiquity, with sporadic exploitations up to 1962 for example. Once the raw material has been extracted, the pure metal has to be recovered and then processed so that it can be used as desired.

Among these emblematic exploitations, one finds:
- The Baburet mines in Ferrières and Louvie-Soubiron,
- The forge and the castle of Angosse in Arthez d'Asson,
- The path of the forges and the nail makers of Capbis,
- The medieval ironworks and the castle at Asson,
- The hammer at Igon,
- The railway line and footbridge at Baburet over the Gave at Nay,
- The Baburet terminal and the Milhet factory in Coarraze,
- The bells at Nay and Bourdettes,
- The forge at Arros-de-Nay,
- The Safran aeronautical centre in Bordes.

Since 2012, the community of municipalities has been developing an action plan to promote this history and know-how, which includes the creation of heritage discovery trails on the industrial theme, accessible all year round.
Working in collaboration with local associations dedicated to publicising and passing on this shared past; sometimes even with the inhabitants in order to collect the memory that remains of this history.