Belcastel Revisited

Belcastel dominated by its château

Being rather occupied for various reasons at the moment, I’ll just share with you some shots of Belcastel in the Aveyron Département. I took these during les journées du patrimoine recently when, for once, we decided to be tourists in our own region. I’ve written about Belcastel before and won’t repeat that. But this time we went inside the château, which dominates the village. Don’t forget I will provide the answer to last week’s conundrum on 30th September.

The village itself is built on a steep hill that slopes down to the stripling Aveyron below. As you can see, there’s not much water in the river just now.

Vieux pont over the Aveyron at Belcastel

The château was just a ruin in the 1970s when French architect Fernand Pouillon bought it up and restored it to its former glory. It took him 12 years to do it and must have been a labour of love. We saw a photo of it in its pre-restoration state and felt you would have needed some imagination (and not a little dosh) to take on a project like that.

Belcastel château with drawbridge

The privately-owned château is also an art gallery with temporary exhibitions (which we weren’t allowed to photograph). In addition, it boasts a fine collection of medieval armour – if that sort of thing interests you. I have to say it’s not my thing but it is very well displayed. Alas, the alarm system is so sensitive that even moving within a metre of the exhibits kept setting the alarm off – irresistible for some of the children visiting that day.

Exhibit in the armour collection

The château is smaller inside than it looks from the outside and is a warren of staircases, rooms and walkways. Along one of the walkways behind the battlements, we saw this meurtrière, from which they unleashed missiles in bygone days.

Meurtrière

Even if you were a noble in medieval times, life wasn’t as comfy as it is today. The original privy overhangs a vertiginous drop and is open to the elements in sensitive places. Not somewhere you’d want to linger on a winter’s day.

Exposed convenience

 

Finally, tucked into a corner between two massive walls, we found this unusual birdbox. Unusual in two respects: first, it’s made in stone; second, it would be easy for cats and other marauding animals to gain access. However, it had clearly been occupied, judging by the nesting material inside.

Birdbox for a birdbrain?

Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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13 Responses to Belcastel Revisited

  1. Pingback: Appetising Return to Belcastel | Life on La Lune

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  3. Pingback: Belcastel: one of the most beautiful villages in France | Life on La Lune

  4. Sue Whatmough says:

    Lovely pics of a fascinating place. Great nesting box! And there’s the jutting-out loo! Knew I’d come across the idea somewhere, though it wasn’t here, it was in Beynac castle on the Dordogne. Just across the river from there is the castle at Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, also restored at great expense and to great effect – well worth a visit.

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    • nessafrance says:

      This one really is a loo and it does jut out over a precipice. The moats surrounding some of these castles must have been pretty noisome. I’m so glad we have our creature comforts in the 21st century!

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  5. Maggie says:

    Brilliant blog article, as usual! I stayed in a gite near Belcastel in 2009, on D285 on the way to Mayran. The proprietor created birdhouses just like the one shown in your picture. He also made mailboxes of stone and logs. But the most interesting part of my visit was seeing his models of bridges and towers (in both stone and logs) on his property. I’ll send you some pix by email and perhaps you can find the location on another visit to Belcastel. I don’t know whether the man is still alive; he would be 87 this year…very nice people, also very nice gite (on Gites de France AYG3047).

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    • nessafrance says:

      Thanks for your nice comments and also for sending me the photos. I think it must have been the same man who made the birdhouse at Belcastel – they look very similar. He is obviously passionate about creating things in stone.

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  6. Kate Swaffer says:

    Thank you for the virtual trip to Belcastel in the Aveyron Département. I’ve been feeling like getting away, but no time to do so and this lovely blog has filled a small ‘recreational’ travel gap for me. I love the birdbox for a birdbrain too!

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    • nessafrance says:

      Belcastel would be a long way for you to come but I’m glad I could give you a virtual taste for the place. I can’t think the birdbox has ever served a useful purpose.

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  7. I love that bird house – when I finally get my french house I shall build one just like it – only a bit higher up!
    I will not copy the loo though!

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    • nessafrance says:

      It’s difficult to imagine the bird house being used for its intended purpose, since it’s too near the ground. But it appears that something lived in it. Thankfully, these days we have all mod cons so draughty holes are no longer necessary!

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  8. I could visit old castles till the cows come home. I love them. I remember going to Belcastel a long time ago during a cycling holiday. Looks like we’ll have to go back sometime.

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