Château de Bellocq dates from the end of the 13th century and consists of an irregular quadrilateral reinforced by seven towers, linked to the fortified house built in 1281. It was remodelled during the 14th century. The castle was burned down by Louis XIII in 1620 to prevent it being used by Protestants.
At the end of the 13th century, Bellocq was at the frontier with English controlled Guyenne. Gaston VII Moncade de Béarn built the castle on the Gave de Pau, the main river access to Béarn, to fortify his territory. Construction took place between 1250 and 1280. From the beginning, the castle was intended to house a large garrison. The simple plan of an irregular quadrilateral without a keep had four round towers, a semicircular tower and two square towers, one of which formed the main entrance. The curtain walls were pierced with cruciform arrow slits.
A year after completion of the castle, Gaston VII built a bastide close by and this, as well as the fortified church of Bellocq, became integral parts of the complex.
In 1370, Gaston Fébus reinforced the castle and built new strong points in order to preserve his territory's independence from the powerful kingdoms of France, England and Navarre.
In 1542, Henri II d'Albret (Henry II of Navarre) repaired the castle, in case of a Spanish invasion. From this date, the kings of Navarre sometimes left their castle at Pau for the country of Bellocq. Jeanne d'Albret stayed there regularly in the 16th century while she took the waters at Salies-de-Béarn.
In 1568, the French king Charles IX sent the baron of Terride to subjugate and govern the Béarn, then largely Protestant. Terride's troops occupied the region and re-established the Catholic hierarchy. The following year, Jeanne d'Albret asked count Gabriel de Montgomery to form an army of resistance - the castle at Bellocq passed into Catholic hands. It resisted a short siege by Montgomery. In 1620, the Béarn Protestants once again gaining power, Louis XIII had the castle burned down to prevent it being of use to them in the future.
From 1620, the castle played no further role in the history of the region and fell into disrepair.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.