Chateaux of Pays de la Loire

Château des Ducs de Bretagne

The Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is a large castle located in Nantes. It served as the centre of the historical province of Brittany until its separation in 1941. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries, subsequently becoming the Breton residence of the French Monarchy. Today the castle houses the Nantes History Museum. The restored edifice now ...
Founded: 1207 | Location: Nantes, France

Château de Noirmoutier

Château de Noirmoutier is very well preserved and a fine example of 12th century medieval architecture. The first traces of the castle appeared in 830 with the construction of a castrum by the abbot Hilbold, from the monastery of Saint-Philbert. It served to defend the monks and the island's population from the Vikings. The castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century by the feudal power who was trying to stabilise th ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Noirmoutier-en-l'Île, France

Château de Pornic

Situated in the port of Pornic, Château de Pornic has long been a symbol of the town. The castle is privately owned and not open to the public. The castle is bordered on one side by the sea and is constructed on a defensive site. In the Middle Ages, it provided for the defence of the port. In the 10th century, Alan Wrybeard, Duke of Britanny, built and fortified a wooden castle. It was occupied by a garrison who pr ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pornic, France

Château de Goulaine

The Château de Goulaine has been home to the family of the marquis de Goulaine for over a thousand years. Château de Goulaine is also the estate-bottled wine produced at the château. In the 12th century, when the Duchy of Brittany was independent, the first Goulaine, Jean de Goulaine, then captain of the city of Nantes, fortified the estate, which is still surrounded by marshes, to defend against attacks from Normans. ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Haute-Goulaine, France

Château d'Ancenis

Château d'Ancenis was originally built in 984 AD to the banks of Loire river. It was a motte-and-bailey castle made of wood. In the 15th century it was rebuilt as a stone castle and has also Renaissance features.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Ancenis, France

Château de Blain

The Château de Blain was originally constructed by order of Alan IV, Duke of Brittany, around 1108. The fortress passed by marriage to the Clisson family in 1225. Following Olivier I de Clisson"s revolt against the Duke, the castle was razed in 1260. Olivier I"s son, Olivier II obtained permission from the Duke to rebuild the castle. The Clissons progressively enlarged the castle during the 14th century. ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Blain, France

Château de Clermont

Château de Clermont was inherited by the de Funès family from an aunt, the Countess of Maupassant. It was built between 1643 and 1649 by the Chenu de Clermont, a family of important military administrators. René Chenu, (1599–1672) was a long-time governor of the fortified towns of Oudon and Champtoceaux which dominated the Loire upstream. His son Hardy Chenu (1621–1683) was in charge of the ...
Founded: 1643-1649 | Location: Le Cellier, 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.