Visit the Chateau Najac in Aveyron, Midi-Pyrénées
On a rocky outcrop overlooking the village of Najac, and a great deal of the surrounding countryside, the location was chosen for its key defensive position over the valley of the Aveyron.
There has been a castle on this spot since around 1100, the previous castle having been occupied by the infamous Simon de Montfort during the Albigensian Crusade because of its role in protecting the cathars.
Most of the current construction dates from the middle of the 13th century, having been rebuilt under the command of Alphonse de Poitiers. On the frontier between the English and French sides during the Hundred Years War the castle frequently changed hands.
The design of the castle is defensive in a traditional 13th century manner, with narrow passages and staircases and low doors to prevent the enemy advancing within the castle. One particular feature - the narrow slits for the archers to shoot through are the longest in the world, at 6.8 metres, and significantly increased the defensive capabilities of the castle by enabling up to three archers to fire at the same time. There is also a long secret passage from the keep to the chapel.
The views from the top of the main keep (donjon) are very attractive and far-reaching, and include stunning views over the large curve in the river below - the 'boucle de l'Aveyron - which passes around the village and castle.
Najac castle was falling into ruin by the 18th-19th centuries, not helped by its use as an open quarry by the locals, but was then bought by the Cibiel family who currently maintain the chateau and operate it as a tourist attraction.
Note - the village of Najac is a classified 'most beautiful village in
Map showing location of Chateau Najac