Château de Bonaguil’s turrets, ramparts and towers rise ferociously from a rocky outcrop that dominates the landscape, like George R. R. Martin’s Casterly Rock – the home of the power hungry Lanister clan. My DK Eyewitness guide describes the fortress as ‘colossal’, jutting out from surrounding woodlands.
Founded in 13th century on an aiguille creuse (or a hollow peak geographically speaking), the chateau became know as ‘bona accus’ or ‘bonne aiguille’ in French, hence its current name. In 1483 the castle passed to Bérenger de Roquefeuil who added many of the castle’s defenses.
Bérenger certainly shared many characteristics with the Lanister’s infamous King Joffery. Known for his mistreatment of his tenants and farmers that tended his land, Bérenger feared a revolt and felt compelled to add many the castle’s sophisticated defences – just as many of his peers were going for a more comfortable vibe.
In summer the château can be visited by over 2000 people per day, so I considered ourselves lucky to only have to share the grounds with a very enthusiastic party of schools kids. Clearly you can tell that Bérenger feared a hefty uprising and made his fortress impregnable with eight metre thick walls. I got Tom to demonstrate with arms outstretched! At this depth these walls were designed to resist canon fire.
Bérenger also added the Great Tower which is ringed by ramparts and defended the inner court yard. As well as the Keep, which due to the shape of the rock on which it was built in the 13th century, has an unusual elongated shape. Eight hundred steps lead to the platform at the look-out post at the top.
In 1761 Marguerite de Fumel acquired Bonaguil and remodelled it to provide more comfortable surroundings. The castle’s drawbridge for instance which spans the wide dry moats were converted into a standing bridge for easy access. Marguerite also created wide boulevards across the top of the castle’s ramparts which today have been planted up to recreate a medieval kitchen garden.
The castle is filled with clever innovations including the well which has been dug directly into the rock and water channels created across the castle to allow water to flow to what would have been the kitchens.
There’s not much in the way of conveniences at Château de Bonagueil, so we walked down into the little village that has grown up at the castle’s feet. Back in Bérenger’s day, it would be easy to imagine the village packed with carts ferrying goods to and from the château. Including pigeon droppings which were collected in the castle’s grand pigeon house and then sold to local farmers as a fertiliser. In fact this was a key source of income for the castle’s economy!
The narrow lanes wind up the side of the Bonaguil’s rocky outcrop and our now filled with artisan shops and cafes. It’s clear that the people who live in the village are inextricably linked with the castle, just like the lives of their ancestors would have been. Practically every business serves the tourists who flock to see the château. A good place to get a picturesque view of the castle is at the independent potter’s shop with a small tea room out back.
From the front, Salon de The, doesn’t look much but stepping through the hand crafted goods to the back garden, the senses are struck by the heady scent of wisteria hanging overhead, creating a canopy of lilac and pink blossoms. And peeking through the blossoms are the castle’s tall ramparts and at certain angles you catch glimpses of the tall keep. We settled down at a table fighting for the best view whilst Tom and Dad tried out the local artisan Ratz blanc biere. Named after its creator, Christophe Ratz, the brewery is based in Cahors.
We were about to head home when we spotted the ‘crepe’ sign outside of the Le Cellier. Concerned that this might be our only opportunity to indulge in this French delicacy we took our seats amongst a few other straggling tourists. After a full round of Croque Monsieurs, we devoured four beautifully crisps, delicate crepes.
We stayed at Le Fargueil near Montaigu de Quercy organised by the team at Halycon Leisure over a long bank holiday. You can read about our stay here and check out their other suggestions for the area here.
Le Fargueil makes a great base for exploring the whole Lot region and we visited Chateau de Bonaguil as well as Lauzerte, Mossiac and several vineyards. All to be featured on the blog!