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Chateaux de Lastours visitor guide

Photo of Chateaux de Lastours

Visit Chateaux de Lastours, France

The Chateaux de Lastours is a group of ruined castles high above the village of Lastours in the Aude department of southern France.

The four castles are called Cabaret, Surdespine, La Tour Régine and Quertinheux and are in a seemingly impregnable position, on a rocky spine, with deep ravines on either side, containing the fast flowing Grésilhou and Orbiel rivers.

Explore the Chateaux de Lastours

France This Way comment: the castles at Lastours are now only ruins, but the history of the site, the beautiful views and the evocative castles together make a very pleasant excursion

Although known as cathar castles, and it is certainly true that the castles here were a refuge against Simon de Montfort and the Albigensian Crusade, the Chateaux de Lastours that we visit today were largely built after the crusade, the originals having been destroyed.

The original castles were built here in the 11th century, although they were not on the crest of the hill where we see castles today. The castles at Lastours held out exceptionally well against de Montfort and were only forced to surrend because eventually the entire situation of the cathars in the region became insupportable due to their defeats in neighbouring regions.

The original castles, which were a base for cathar resistance around 1229, were destroyed in the 13th century to prevent them being used as a cathar stronghold, and the Chateaux de Lastours that we see today were built in the century that followed.

Of the four castles, Cabaret is the most complete and has retained some internal buildings, and parts of the external ramparts are still standing. The Tour Régine is the smallest of the four castles, and Surdespine is the one with a square tower (though litte else remains of this castle). The fourth castle of the group, Querthineux, is a little further along and separate from the main group of three.

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Because the site here is of historical importance, archaeological excavations have been carried out in the area around around Cabaret Castle. Carried out over the last 25 years, these excavations have discovered a large number of interesting 13th century relics.

Originally there was a small village below the Chateau de Cabaret, with the houses in the village built on the steep slope above the river. These houses were hastily abandoned during the crusade, which explains the large number of artefacts that have been discovered. You can visit the remains of some of the houses in the medieval village.

The best view over the whole ensemble of the Chateaux de Lastours is from the nearby Montfermier Belvedere, which provides a magnificent view across the castles and the surrounding countryside. The location is also a popular situation during summer evenings, when the castles are sometimes part of a 'son et lumiere' (sound and light) display.

The best way to visit the Chateaux de Lastours is to follow the new path between and around the castles, which has many lovely viewpoints. There is a charge to enter the site and follow the path. The path is not very difficult for most visitors but has a lot of stairs and will present challenges for visitors with walking difficulties.

Attractions nearby

The medieval village of Lastours, below the castles, is small but picturesque.

The principal attraction near here is Carcassonne, a remarkable medieval town. The villages of Revel and Sassac are both pleasant to explore, and Minerve is another village you will want to visit, listed among the "most beautiful villages in France".

See more castles in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Aude guide and the Languedoc-Roussillon guide.

See also: 

Map of Chateaux de Lastours and places nearby

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The French version of this page is at Chateaux de Lastours (Francais)

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