Visit the Chateaux Lastours in Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon
High above the village of Lastours in Languedoc-Roussillon are the four cathar castles of Lastours.
The castles - Cabaret, Surdespine, la Tour Régine, and Quertinheux are in a seemingly impregnable position - on a rocky spine, with deep ravines on either side, containing the fast flowing Grésilhou and Orbiel rivers.
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 castles we now see were largely built after the crusade, the originals having been destroyed.
The castles held out exceptionally well against de Montfort (you will appreciate how when you see the location) only eventually surrendering when the position of the cathars in the region became insupportable due to defeats in neighbouring regions.
Of the four castles, Cabaret is the most complete, with internal buildings and external ramparts standing. The Tour Régine is the smallest of the four, 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.
Because of the historical importance of the site, archaeological excavations have been carried out around Cabaret Castle - where a village once stood - during the last two decades, that have exposed a large number of interesting 13th century relics. The houses in the village ran down the steep slope to the river, and were abandoned hastily during the crusade, explaining the large number of artefacts - you can visit the remains of some of the houses in the medieval village.
The best view over the whole ensemble of castles at Lastours is from the nearby Montfermier Belvedere, which provides a magnificent chance to appreciate the location and surrounding countryside.
The spot is also a popular viewing spot during summer evenings when the castles are sometimes part of a 'son et lumiere' (sound and light) display.
Map showing location of Chateaux Lastours