On the Chateâux Trail
The Loire Valley may be highly acclaimed for its selection of magnificent châteaux, but those of Limousin offer an equally interesting insight into the past of the region and those that have called Limousin home. With structures dating from the 11th century, and remnants of the fortifications added to repel invaders and feuding counts still visible, the walls of these imposing buildings contain centuries of secrets.
Château de Chalus-Chabrol
Arguably the most famous of the Limousin châteaux is Château de Chalus-Chabrol, a structure that has gone down in history as being the final resting place of one of English history’s most iconic kings. During incursions into France, Richard the Lionheart reputedly heard rumours of great wealth being stored at the château. Seeking a share, and with Viscount Aimar V of Limoges leading the resistance against Richard, English troops laid siege to the fortress in 1199 and, after being struck by an arrow from a young archer, Richard refused treatment. The subsequent wound would turn gangrenous and kill him some days later.
Château de Montbrun
Built in the 12th century, Château de Montbrun’s initial purpose was to defend the borders of the Duchy of Aquitaine. It was captured and recaptured by the English and French throughout the Hundred Years’ War, before being ravaged by fire in 1562. The high walls and square keep remain from its initial design, with the round towers added in the 15th century.
A particularly intriguing castle, Château Rochechouart was built in the 15th century alongside a meteorite crater. The Viscounts of Rochechouart reigned here for some 800 years before it was sold in 1936; now it houses a museum of contemporary art and coloured frescos dating from the 16th century.
While it’s impossible to discover all of the châteaux across Limousin, taking in the splendour, opulence, and history of just a few of these majestic structures is enough to determine how the privileged of pre-Revolutionary France lived.