North of Carcassonne, in the Orbiel valley, four royal fortresses stand on the ridge above the village of Lastours in the Cathar country. Their fascinating history and impressive architecture attract thousands of visitors every year. But for that, you'll have to climb a bit!
Nestled in the heart of the Montagne Noire, at the gates of Carcassonne in the Aude, the castles of Lastours are four ancient fortified castles built in the 13th century at the request of the King of France. Today in ruins, these four citadels clinging to the side of the mountain formed a single unit at the time. The plans of the castles were adapted to the rocks on which they were built, which made it possible to save a large fortress.
Situated to the north of the rocky spur, Château Cabaret is the centrepiece of Lastours' defensive system. The citadel has retained its keep and its main building. The whole is surrounded by ramparts with a covered way. Besieged in 1209 by Simon de Montfort, the castle valiantly resisted the first assaults of the crusade against the Albigensians.
The Tour Régine
The Tour Régine, dating from the royal period, is the smallest fortress in the complex. It was built later by order of the king to assert his supremacy. It is distinguished by its round tower, which is strongly impastoed at the base. Its architecture has many similarities with the towers of Carcassonne.
The Castle of Surdespine
Further south, the castle of Surdespine, sometimes called "Fleur Espine", is the highest perched of the four fortresses. It is dominated by a square tower flanked by a quadrangular dwelling and a cistern. On a clear day you can see Carcassonne from the top of the ridge.
The Château de Quertinheux
Situated below the other three castles, the Château de Quertinheux was a real outpost, with an unobstructed view of the other three castles to the north and the village to the south. It still has a round tower and a vast polygonal curtain wall... and mysterious underground galleries.
Prepare your visit :
- How to get to the châteaux of Lastours: 22 route des quatre châteaux. There is a car park at the entrance to the village, along the river (100 spaces).
- Price: 8 € per adult, 3.50 € per child from 6 to 15 years old. Depending on your walking pace, it takes between 2.5 and 5 hours to walk around the four castles (there are several trails to choose from).
- Not recommended for people with walking difficulties, pushchairs or young children. Bring good shoes and a water bottle. Dogs are allowed on a lead.
- At 2 km from the village, a belvedere offers a breathtaking view of the 4 castles of Lastours, grandiose!
photo credit : Vincent Zimmermann,CC BY-SA 3.0,wikimedia