Château de Bonaguil – France’s last medieval castle

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.

Bonaguil

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.

Bonaguil

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.

Bonaguil

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.

Bonaguil

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.

Bonaguil

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!

Bonaguil

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.

Bonaguil

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.

Bonaguil

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.

Bonaguil

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! 

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23 Comments

  1. June 9, 2016 / 7:07 am

    Looks like a pretty cool Castle. The old architecture & the heritage feel makes it so beautifully rustic. Very pretty pictures Jessica 🙂

  2. June 9, 2016 / 7:38 am

    This looks wonderful and, for me, unusual: I have visited castles in France but they were mostly from later centuries and therefore very different in architecture. I am looking forward to reading your other posts on this region, I don’t know it at all and it looks really charming

  3. June 9, 2016 / 11:00 am

    Absolutely breathtaking! Glad that this chateau remains are still preserved 😀

  4. June 9, 2016 / 11:50 am

    You had me at crepes and castles! You’re photos are beautiful

  5. June 9, 2016 / 2:36 pm

    Wow this was fascinating. I can’t believe how old the castle is. It’s amazing how long stone structures can survive isn’t it?

  6. June 10, 2016 / 5:01 am

    Wow, I would go there just for the canopy of lilac! Breathtaking! Looks like you had a great time exploring the castle and its surroundings! Lovely!

  7. June 10, 2016 / 9:26 am

    Love visiting castles and learning about the history. The pigeon house and the fertilisers as a source of income is something I just learned! A great clear day to capture amazing pictures.

  8. Rashmi&Chalukya
    June 10, 2016 / 11:06 am

    We love visiting castles and walk back in time with all the history and architecture. Your captures of the castle are gorgeous. Well dug directly into the rock is intriguing how they planned things back then and pigeon dropping a key source of income that something to think on 😉

  9. June 10, 2016 / 11:45 am

    Beautiful castle! I love all of the carved details in the rock and your descriptions. Crepes are the perfect food to end a day touring that castle.

  10. June 10, 2016 / 1:08 pm

    For a sucker for history, you did quite justice to this castle! I love all the shots! Really it’s breathtaking the views!

    http://tomboychronicle.com

  11. June 10, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    Looks so lovely! The combination of flowers, castle and crepe can only result in a perfect day 🙂

  12. June 10, 2016 / 5:33 pm

    This castle looks pretty amazing. Nice to read a post about such a fine piece of history

  13. June 11, 2016 / 7:12 am

    Salon de The looks amazing, I love places like this… it’s a real hidden gem! All these beautiful flowers and the view on the castle. I can only imagine how beautiful the scent was.

  14. June 11, 2016 / 8:40 am

    Looks absolutely stunning. Visiting soon.

  15. June 12, 2016 / 8:29 am

    I absolutely love France’s rich history and castles – you’ve reminded me of so many more reasons I need to return.

  16. June 12, 2016 / 9:52 am

    I am fascinated by the Medieval times and this castle seems to pack in all the romance and charm of that era. Would love to visit sometime when in France.

  17. June 12, 2016 / 3:50 pm

    What a beautiful castle, I definitely love visiting places like this one. they are not only beautiful but full of history.

  18. June 12, 2016 / 9:59 pm

    I’ve never heard of the Chateau de Bonaguil! It certainly is massive. Imagine a giant castle like that making money off of pigeon poop! And the crepes seem like a perfect way to finish the day!

  19. June 13, 2016 / 2:54 am

    I am surprised not more people are at the castle. My favorite would be the garden for sure =)

  20. June 13, 2016 / 7:15 am

    Those are such lovely photographs; one feels like leaving for a trip right this minute!
    Absolutely amazing post!

  21. June 14, 2016 / 5:17 pm

    This is such a beautiful castle. I have not yet been to most of France, outside of Paris and Bordeaux, but there is so much to see across the country!

  22. June 14, 2016 / 6:31 pm

    We love castles! I’ll have to see how away this is for us. We may end up doing a weekend trip to go see it. Love the architecture!

  23. June 15, 2016 / 11:08 am

    Can I play favorites? I love the little cafe with the wisteria above! Lovely scene! I haven’t seen a wisteria before. You said, it has a heady scent, Is it bearable?

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