Tours de Merle visitor guide

Photo of Tours de Merle

Visit Tours de Merle, France

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The Tours de Merle are a series of ruined castles on a rocky outcrop above a meander in the Maronne river, in the Corrèeze department in the south of France.

Explore the Tours de Merle

France This Way review: although the Tours de Merle are now largely in ruins, there is plenty to explore in a picturesque setting and a visit is highly recommended - there are various highlights to enjoy, as well as the opportunity to enjoy a picnic in a lovely setting.

View of the Tours de Merle

Deep in the heart of the southern Correze countryside, the Tours de Merle are the remains of various medieval castles and their associated buildings. They are beautifully situated in a deep wooded valley, although the forest around the castle makes the river rather difficult to see.

The original castle at Tours de Merle were built in the 12th - 14th centuries to defend a key transport route that passed along the valley and was a crucial river crossing point between the Auvergne and Aquitaine regions. Other important castles at Carbonnères and Alboy also defended this border.

The castle was occupied by the English in 1371 during the Hundred Years War, then of course returned to the French when the war ended in 1475. It was also briefly occupied by the Calvinists durng the Wars of Religion in the 16th century.

By the end of the 16th century the military need for the castles had passed, an alternative river crossing had been built, and the location meant that the site became abandoned: the lords prefererred to live somewhere more accessible, and the villagers were forced to leave when they no longer had the protection of the lords.


The ensemble that you visit includes the remains of the original castles - especially the towers - as well as the original village whch, now also in ruins, can be seen below the castle walls. There are several different buildings because each of the Lords of Xaintrie (the name of the local region) had the right to build their own fortress on the same rocky outcrop, including:

  • the Tour de Pestells (13th - 14th century)
  • the Fort de Carbonnières (13th - 14th century)
  • the Chateau de Fulcon de Merle (13th century) connected to the Chateau de Hugues de Merle (14th century)
  • the Chateau des Seigneurs de Vayrac (12th - 13th century)
  • the Chateau de Perre de Merle (14th century)

It is not always easy to distinguish the separate parts of the Tours de Merle, which together give the impression of being one large castle

As well as the many towers, when you visit you will also see the courtyard where water was collected, a part of the 13th century Chapel Saint-Leger, and the pigeonner. You can explore freely, with ample opportunity to squeeze your way up ever narowing staircases and enjoy precipitous views from the top.

After exploring the ruins of the Tours de Merle you can walk down to the river to see the remains of the old stone bridge, the river, and to sit awhile in tranquil surroundings, perhaps with a picnic.

The Tour de Pestelles, one of the Tour de Merle

Attractions nearby

Although the Tours de Merle are in a remote valley there are several places close by that you will want to visit, including the villages of Laroquebrou and Curemonte and the small towns of Argentat and Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne.

See more castles in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Correze guide and the Limousin guide.

See also: 

Photos of Tours de Merle

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The highlight of a visit to Argentat is the lovely view across the river from the quais

Argentat guide
Chateau de Laroque

Chateau de Laroque

Chateau de Laroque is a 13th century fortified castle on a hill above the village of Laroquebrou in the Auvergne

Chateau de Laroque guide


In Laroquebrou you can see the Cere river below the village and a ruined castle above...

Laroquebrou guide


The town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne you can explore the attractive old town and walk along the Dordogne river

Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne guide


The town of Bretenoux has a medieval square, colombage houses and a river to explore

Bretenoux guide


In a lovely hilltop position, Curemonte is less touristic than many of the 'most beautiful villages in France' but certainly should be visited

Curemonte guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Correze

The French version of this page is at Tours de Merle (Francais)