Tourbillon Castle was built sometime between 1290 and 1308 by the Bishop of Sion, Boniface de Challant, as his principal residence. After Boniface died in 1308, his successor Aymon II de Châtillon probably finished the castle. In 1352 the Upper Valais revolted against Bishop Guichard Tavel. Led by Peter de la Tour, in November of that year, they marched on Sion, burned the town and unsuccessfully besieged the castle. In 1373, the Prince-Bishop bought Majorie Castle and moved his residence off the rocky spire. However, Bishop Tavel was not able to enjoy his new palace for long. In 1375 he was captured and murdered by rebels led by Peter's son, Anton de la Tour, in 1375.
Tourbillon became the Prince-Bishop's summer residence and remained a visible symbol of secular and ecclesiastical power. In 1384 a group of rebels attacked Sion and captured Tourbillon and Majoria. Bishop Eduard of Savoy had to request soldiers from Count Amadeus VII of Savoy and Bern to retake his castles.
A large part of the castle was destroyed during the Raron affair in 1417 and Bishop Wilhelm V of Raron had to flee to Bern. The castle was then rebuilt in the 1440s to 1450s by Bishop Guillaume VI of Raron. As part of the reconstruction, the chapel was repaired and painted with Gothic frescoes which are still visible. It remained the administrative center of the diocese but in later centuries the military importance of the castle decreased. On 24 May 1788, a gigantic fire in Sion reduced the castle to ashes. The Bishop planned to rebuilt Tourbillon, but the revolutions sweeping through Europe ended the plans. The castle was excavated and restored in the 20th century.
The castle ruins are located on a rocky spire above the city of Sion. Reaching the site requires climbing steep stairs that wind around the hill. The castle is surrounded by a ring wall that follows the irregular top of the spire. On the west side of the complex is a pentagonal fortified building. The 15th century chapel is located in the south-east corner. The chapel's frescoes are still intact despite the fire that destroyed the castle. A slender watch tower still stands in this corner as well. The southern wall is fortified with a square gate house. The keep is rectangular and many of the interior walls still stand.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.