Château de Najac

Najac, France

Château de Najac was built in 1253 by the villagers on the orders of Alphonse de Poitiers, brother of king Louis IX of France. It was erected on the site of an older castle (a square tower) built in 1100.

The inner bailey of the castle forms a rough rectangle, with the longest side about 40 meters long. Towers project from the South and North walls, and there are towers at each corner, including an earlier square tower and a large round donjon from where the defence of the castle can be coordinated. The gate is protected by a barbican.

The castle has a world record with its 6.80 metre high archères (a thin aperture for archers), such a size being designed to allow use by three archers at the same time. A secret corridor, hidden within the walls, links the Romanesque tower to the chapel of the keep.

Possession of this castle, built 200 meters over the Aveyron River, was key to control of the region.

Najac has been near major events of history: the first English occupation, the Albigensian Crusade, the Hundred Years' War, the imprisonment of the Knights Templar, the peasants' revolts, and the French Revolution.

After having been used as a stone quarry in the 19th century, Najac was saved by the Cibiel family, who own it and open it to visitors. The Château de Najac is one of a group of 23 castles in Aveyron who have joined together to provide a tourist itinerary as the Route des Seigneurs du Rouergue.

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Details

Founded: 1253
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Alex Haas (9 months ago)
This fortress/castle is one of the most impressive ones you will ever see. It's the location that makes it. Sitting on a - at times steep - hill, you can see it from far away. And when you are walking down on the Rue Du Chateau (coming from the village), then it's just a sight to behold. It's picture-perfect. It goes a good way down from the village....until it goes back up again to reach the castle. It's a fairly short walk - a lot shorter than it might seem. If you have a stroller or a wheelchair it's quite an obstacle though. And the steep stairs and the cobble stones can get pretty slippery, even when it's not raining. So be aware of that and be careful. We didn't go inside the castle - we had our Bulldog with. But the best sight of it isn't up-close anyways...it's on Rue Du Chateau when you walk towards it. A wonderful, pretty and magical fortress. A must-see.
ilan sinai (13 months ago)
Nice albeit partly a shell with little more
David Norman (13 months ago)
Najac is the dream village for those seeking a medieval village hidden from the hustle and bustle of this world. Its beauty is stunning.
william thompson (14 months ago)
A very special place of history in a unique setting. Wonderful views of the surrounding river valley and countryside. The guided tour in French was very thorough. Facilities are limited but there are some lovely places nearby with a view of the castle.
Alex Daniel (15 months ago)
It's a one day tour. Village is very pretty and the chateau has its own history. Many hotels nearby and easy to commune.
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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.