Visit the Chateau Peyrepertuse in Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon
Probably the finest of the 'cathar castles of Languedoc', Peyrepertuse is situated in a very dramatic location atop a very high, thin rocky needle. The castle appears almost invisible at first, so closely it resembles the rock on which it is built and we can only wonder at the incredible feat it was to build a castle in such a location.
The castle dates from the 11th century (or possibly a litte earlier) although the site had also been occupied by the Romans. Reputed as a cathar castle, Peyrepertuse was never subject to siege by Simon de Montfort (unlike most in the region) but was handed over peacefully to the Albigensian Crusade in 1240, subsequently playing an important role in defending the border with Spain - a role that continued until the 17th century and the Treaty of the Pyrenees. With the treaty, the border with Spain was moved further south and the castle was no longer on the frontier.
The castle continued to be occupied, nominally at least, until the Revolution after which it was abandoned
The castle is a ruin, and a very romantic one too, and a fine castle to explore. The most complete part of the castle is the lower part, but be sure to continue further along the rocky ledge, and higher, for the steep flight of rough steps that leads to the Saint George Keep - added after 1240 by Louis IX and the best place for views back over the main Payrepertuse castle and the surrounding region, and across to neighbouring Queribus castle. (we took the picture, left, from the Saint George Keep)
Peyrepertuse is not as accessible as many castles, and does involve a few minutes walking along an occasionally steep path (happily, on the shaded side of the rock). Your children will love it, your grandparents perhaps less so!
Map showing location of Chateau Peyrepertuse