Saturday 1 August 2015

Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux, Lieu-dit Castelnau, Prudhomat, France

An imposing, yet beautiful, medieval fortress perched on a rocky buttress, Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux gives off a golden glow as it bathes in the Dordogne's summer sun.  Although it dates from the twelfth century, much of the castle (and the village it shelters) remains intact following restoration work by Jean Moulierat, an opera singer, towards the end of the nineteenth century. You can park your bike or car below the panoramic restaurant and hike up the steep slope to the main gates. At this point, you step back in time, surrounded by the weathered stone ramparts, grassy moat, elegant circular towers and formidable keep.  Attracting only a trickle of visitors, Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux makes it is easy to lose yourself in another, more earthy, century.

Admission for adults is about seven euros, while kids go free. Once inside the handsome walls, you can climb up to the top of the keep to take in the 360 degree views of the castle and the valley below. Although much of the chateau's surviving interior is either bare or acts as a minimalist museum for Medieval religious sculptures, it is still very atmospheric. And a series of residential rooms are furnished with the mishmash of artefacts from across France installed by Moulierat. You can take a guided tour of these rooms, which are packed with tapestries, sculptures, paintings and distinguished furniture, but it will be entirely in French. 8/10