Chateaux of Berry

Château de Valençay

Château de Valençay is a residence of the d'Estampes and Talleyrand-Périgord families. Although geographically it is part of the province of Berry, its architecture invites comparison with the Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley, notably the Château de Chambord. The manor was praised as "one of the most beautiful on earth" by George Sand, who also noted that "no king has owned a more p ...
Founded: 1540 | Location: Valençay, France

Château de Mehun-sur-Yèvre

The existence of a fortification at the site of Mehun-sur-Yèvre dates from antiquity. The major remains are of the early 13th century and the later 14th century. The present standing ruins date from a castle founded under the Courtenays after 1209. This fortress was transformed into a princely residence by John, Duke of Berry in 1367. Largely ruined in the 18th century the castle represented an excellent example of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mehun-sur-Yèvre, France

Château de Sarzay

The Château de Sarzay is a 14th-century castle in the village of Sarzay. This imposing medieval fortress comprises 38 towers and three drawbridges. Numerous furnished rooms maintain their historical authenticity. From the tops of the towers, with their superb carpentry, one can discover the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Restored deep moats, the chapel and the hall complete the beauty of the site. The manor of ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Sarzay, France

Château d'Ainay-le-Vieil

Built in 1300, Château d’Ainay-le-Vieil is surrounded by a moat of running water. Jacques Coeur bought the château in 1435 and Charles de Bigny (ancestor of the current owners) acquired in 1467. He built the main building in the late Gothic with Italian style. In the large living room, a fireplace, one of the most beautiful fireplaces of the Loire Valley, remains of the visit of King Louis XII and Queen Anne of Britt ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ainay-le-Vieil, France

Château de Meillant

The well-preserved Château de Meillant was built for Charles d’Amboise in 1510 by Italian craftsmen. It represents a fine composition of late Gothic and early Renaissance architecture. The château is dominated by the Lion’s Tower, an octagonal three-storey staircase tower. Other highlights of the visit include the château’s graceful chapel and its surrounding grounds. The plainer west facade, mirrored in a moat, ...
Founded: 1510 | Location: Meillant, France

Château de Culan

The Château de Culan is a French medieval castle located in the commune of Culan. The castle, listed as a Monument historique at the start of the 20th century and classified for its walls and roofs in 1956, has known a turbulent history. It is built on a rocky outcrop dominating the River Arnon (a site naturel classé - classified natural site). The first wooden construction, of which nothing remains, was demolished in t ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Culan, France

Château de la Verrerie

The fine early Renaissance château is located on the edge of the Forêt d’Ivoy. The land was given to the Scot Sir John Stuart by Charles VII, in thanks for defeating the English at the battle of Baugé in 1421. However, the château was not built until the end of the 15th century, at which time Béraud Stuart, the grandson of John Stuart, returning from a campaign in Italy, constructed t ...
Founded: ca. 1500 | Location: Oizon, France

Château de Villegongis

The elegant and moated Château de Villegongis was probably built by Pierre Nepveu, one of the master masons for Chambord. Since the 15th century the ownership has stayed in the same family. Barely touched since that time, it is one of the purest examples of the French Renaissance style. The château’s most striking features are its richly decorated chimneys, which suggest the link with Chambord, and its cylindrical to ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Villegongis, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.