Within then independent Brittany, Château de Clisson, situated at a crossroads for Anjou and Poitou, was one of the great fortified places on the frontiers of the Duchy of Brittany. The first Lords of Clisson occupied the site from the 11th century. They are mentioned for the first time in 1040. Clisson was then the seat of a powerful châtellenie covering 23 parishes.
Most of the present castle was built in the 13th century. Constructed by Guillaume de Clisson, on a rocky outcrop dominating the Sèvre Nantaise, its form at that time was an irregular polygon flanked by round towers and isolated from the rocky plateau by a shallow moat. In the 14th century, Olivier III de Clisson incorporated the gatehouse into a massive quadrilangular keep. The two semicircular towers of the gatehouse collapsed in the 17th century. The castle became the setting for the turbulent lives of Olivier IV de Clisson and Olivier V de Clisson, named Constable of France in succession to Du Guesclin in 1380.
In the 15th century, the fortifications were modernised to permit the use of artillery. In the second half of the century, the former entrance was modified and the curtain wall was extended and completed by a barbican. At the same time, the castle was enlarged to the west with a new rectangular enclosure nearly 100 m long, armed with towers with artillery casemates. After 1420, the castle became the property of the Duke of Brittany. It was one of the favourite residences of Duke Francis II who was remarried there, to Marguerite de Foix in 1474. He built a second rectangular enceinte flanked by artillery towers.
Around 1590, the troubled period of the French Wars of Religion necessitated the construction of three terraced bastions on the south. Thus, three lines of defence in depth protected the site. Until the 17th century, the castle was the residence of the Avaugour family, descendants of François Ier d'Avaugour, illegitimate son of François II. He modified and transformed the castle to suit the tastes and fashions of the day.
During the War in the Vendée (1793-1796), the town and its castle were burned by the Infernal columns of Jean-Baptiste Kléber. In 1807, the estate was bought by the sculptor François-Frédéric Lemot with the goal of conservation. During the 19th century, the ruined castle attracted Romantic painters and sculptors. In 1962, the castle was sold by the Lamot family to the Conseil général of the Loire-Atlantique, who carried out important restoration works with the assistance of the French Ministry of Culture.References:
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.