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Chateau de Bonaguil visitor guide

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Visit Chateau de Bonaguil, France

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Château de Bonaguil is one of the most attractive castles in France. It is situated near Fumel, in northern Lot-et-Garonne, where it has been classified as a historic monument since 1862.

This location for building the castle was chosen because there is a steep rock in front of a hill, making it easier to defend - the gap between the two was accessed by one of seven drawbridges!

Explore Chateau de Bonaguil

France This Way comment: although Chateau de Bonaguil is a 'ruined' castle and the interiors of the rooms have not been re-created in period style like many cstles, there is still a great deal to see as well as beautiful views across the surrounding countryside and a visit is recommended

Before exploring the individual parts of the castle it is useful to have a brief knowledge of the history of the building, to better understand how it got its current form.

Towers in the castle

History of Chateau de Bonaguil

The castle was originally constructed in the 13th century: Bonaguil was the last of the great fortified castles to be constructed in France, built in an impressive location on a high rocky spur between two rivers (the Thèze and the Lémance). Hence the name of the castle, which comes from the French 'bonne aiguille' - good needle.

The original 13th century castle was a much simpler castle than the one we now see - it was extended substantially in the early 15th century. Bonaguil was on the side of the English during the Hundred Years War, which led to the original castle being plundered and damaged. The family retained ownership however, and in the century that followed various renovations and modifications were made at Bonaguil.

In the late 15th century the owner of Chateau de Bonaguil, Bérenger de Roquefeuil, who had a reputation for his sheer unpleasantness that spread far and wide, felt a need to surround the castle with the most modern defences to protect against an enemy that was not expected and never did arrive. The barbican, some of the towers, the drawbridges and other defensive elements were all added over the next 20 years.

This was rather late to be building a fortified castle of this type, and was a time that other castles in the region were falling to ruin or being converted to fine renaissance mansions. Although the castle never saw action it is one of the best examples of military engineering to can be seen in the region.

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After Bérenger died his family squandered his money and the castle fell into a state of disrepair, changing hands during the Wars of Religion when the two grandsons of Berenger fought on different sides in the war. Over the following centuries the castle had several periods of abandon and also periods when it was repaired and improved.

The next important change came with the arrival of Marguerite de Fumel in the 18th century: she added comfortable living accommodation to Chateau de Bonaguil and removed the drawbridges.

Marguerite died shortly before the French revolution so she never saw her works being reversed, but in 1793 a law was passed that ordered that a large part of the castle should be demolished and the height of the towers reduced. After this demolition the castle had its present form.

In the second half of the 19th century the local council took ownership of Chateau de Bonaguil, and between then and now the castle has undergone various periods of renovation and is now one of the most visited castles in the region.

15th century Graffiti in tower of Chateau de Bonaguil

Visit Chateau de Bonaguil

As well as being an impressive feat of military engineering, the Chateau Bonaguil is also a lovely chateau to visit. Despite the changing fortunes of the castle across the centuries and the considerable damaged caused following the revolution, the castle is a very impressive site to visit.

You enter the castle through the barbican, still protected by four metre thick walls. In the first part of the visit you see many of the practical parts of the castle such as the pigeon-house, the rubbish dump and the bakery. These were practical times and the pigeon droppings were used as fertiliser while ashes from the bakery were used for washing.

From here you reach the main part of the castle, with the most interesting aspects including the round tower, the square tower, the great tunnel underneath the castle that was used for storage, and the spiral vault in the north tower. In one of the rooms you see walls still scratched with the graffiti from the 15th century.

There is a small recreation of a medieval garden, and a large terrace with lovely views across the village and countryside. In the time of Marguerite of Fumel the terrace was a beautiful French style garden but now it is just grass.

There are not many interior rooms to see but you can visit the Great Hall of the castle as well as Marguerite's bedroom. You also see the kitchen, but you wouldn't know you were in the kitchen if there was not a sign to tell you: the kitchen was outdoors to avoid the risk of fire!

Towards the end of the visit you reach the main building, the castle keep of the Chateau de Bonaguil. There are a few rooms in the keep that show examples of period dress costumes but the highlight is certainly the top of the building where a large terrace has exceptional views of the other buildings in the castle as well as the village of Bonaguil and the forested hills around the castle.

Entrance to the castle costs around 10 euros.

View across the roofs of Bonaguil and Lot countryside

If you visit Bonaguil castle during the summer be sure to ask at the tourist offices for details of the feux d'artifice (fireworks) display that is held at Chateau Bonaguil one summer night each year. The castle is lit up dramatically, music is played, and fireworks fired around and from the castle (called an 'embrasement' if you see adverts). An unforgettable evening.

Attractions nearby

Next to the castle there is a small church and a cemetery. From here you can follow a path that descends through the village and passes several small shops and cafes (the castle itself does not have a cafe or shop).

If you enjoy seeing medieval castles then you will also want to visit the Chateau de Gavaudun, not far from the Chateau de Bonaguil and in a picturesque valley. See also our guide to more of the Dordogne castles.

See more castles in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Lot-et-Garonne guide and the Aquitaine guide.

See also: 

Photos of Chateau de Bonaguil

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Map of Chateau de Bonaguil and places nearby

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Visit near Chateau de Bonaguil with France This Way reviews

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The French version of this page is at Chateau de Bonaguil (Francais)

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