The Château de Puilaurens is one of the so-called Cathar castles. The castle stands on a spur of rock above the Boulzane Valley and the villages of Lapradelle and Puilaurens. There is a path from Axat to the castle.
The castle here had belonged to the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Cuxa before it was acquired by the Queen of Aragon in 1162. As Aragonese property it was outside the territory ravaged by the Crusaders during the Cathar wars. Like Queribus it therefore provided a refuge for those fleeing from the invading forces. Those who took refuge there included both Cathars and faidits, that is to say those who had forfeited their property because of their opposition to the invaders. These faidits included high nobles, such as Guillaume de Peyrepertuse.
Puilaurens was ceded to the French some time before 1255. After 1258 its possession by the French crown was ratified by the Treaty of Corbeil, when the Aragonese border was moved south. In 1260, it was garrisoned by 25 sergeants. It was taken by Spanish troops in 1635, but lost all strategic importance after the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 when the border was moved even further south to its present position along the crest of the Pyrenees.
In the 13th century it belonged to the Lords of Fenouillet. Defended by Pierre Catala and, more importantly, by Guillaume de Peyrepertuse, it withstood attack by Simon de Montfort and his successors until the end of the crusades. After 1243, its owner was Roger Catala, Pierre's son, but it was defended, like Quéribus, by Chabert de Barbaira, a Cathar military commander who was the last person to defend the Occitan cause.
Numerous Cathar deacons sought refuge here after the fall of Montsegur. It is thought that the castle was finally forced to surrender (probably around the same time as Queribus) c.1255.
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.