Visit the Chateau Castelnaud in Dordogne, Aquitaine
Dating back at least to the 13th century, Castelnaud Chateau was a cathar stronghold before being seized by the Albigensian Crusade under Simon de Montfort.
After that the history of the Chateau de Castelnaud is inseperable from that of its near neighbour, the Chateau de Beynac. During the Hundred Years War they faced each other across the Dordogne River - Castelnaud was in English hands and Beynac under French control - and the two had many skirmishes and disputes, although they never actually battled face-to-face one against the other. It was towards the end of the Hundred years war, in 1442, that the English were finally driven from Castelnaud following a three week siege.
In the century that followed Castelnaud started to lose importance, in part because the Caumont family who owned it built a more comfortable castle nearby at Milandes. The family continued to maintain and improce the castle at the same time however. The castle escaped serious damage during the Wars of Religion that affected so many of the French castles, in part because of geoffrey de Vivans who then occupied the castle, and had a fearful reputation that deterred potential attackers.
As with so many castles in the region (and elsewhere in France), the castle fell into disrepair and abandon during the 17th and 18th centuries. This damage and neglect was worsened by the French Revolution.
Now in private ownership, Castelnaud has been extensively renovated in the last 35 years, and is now one of the most popular and visited chateaux in France. The castle features all the dungeons, spooky passages and recreations of period rooms that you could hope for, and brings to mind very effectively the conditions which existed in a medieval castle.
In addition to the castle itself, there is an extensive and fascinating museum of medieval warfare, helping to place the castle, its history and structure into context, and very popular with everyone...but especially children! The recreated weapons, including giant slingshots, are particularly impressive.
There are, not surprsingly, stunning views across the Dordogne River and region from Castle Castelnaud.
Map showing location of Chateau Castelnaud