Castelnaud castle

Castelnaud la Chapelle
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Castelnaud castle

Castelnaud Castle overlooks the Dordogne Valley and it is impossible to miss it from the road and I have decided to visit it today. The car park is located at the bottom of the castle ; it is a pay carpark (€3.50 for 4 hours and a flat rate of €4 for the day). I cross the village which is buzzing with shops filled with medieval products and artisans proudly showing me their craft.

I arrive to the ticket office. There are two, including one reserved for pushchairs users. It is possible to have a ticket combined with the Jardins de Marqueyssac which is valid for a year. The castle is free for the under 10 year olds and a children’s game booklet is available from the reception. Cathar themed late night opening takes place every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening and to attend you must book in advance.

The visit is either guided (mainly the outdoors) or you are free to discover the castle for yourself. Guided tours start every 45 minutes to an hour, and there are 3 visits in English and Dutch each day. The timetable can be found all around the castle, the meeting place is at the esplanade. I have at my disposal a map of the castle and a visitor guide. PLEASE NOTE : It is not possible to picnic in the castle grounds.

By climbing towards the first bearing, I found the trebuchet shooting that take place every 15 minutes until 2pm. It is very educational and rather impressive. The explanations are clear and the demonstrations help visualise the power of these weapons !

I start my visit freely. I pass near the pushchair storage area (there are a lot of stairs in Castelnaud !!) and I arrive in front of the artillery tower. There is an easy trail to follow through the terrace as the steps could be steep at times. I climb the floors ; a television plays a documentary on the castle. There is a 3D reconstitution of the different steps of occupation and construction. The next room is the armoury with different bas-relief canons. The stone vaulted ceiling is really beautiful. The last floor is dedicated to modern artillery with even more canons and guns. The room is different from the two other ones ; there are openings and a beautiful packed earth floor.

I now arrive on the terrace with a panoramic view on the Dordogne Valley. I can see La Roque-Gageac and Marqueyssac. It has an unobstructed view and the height is impressive. This terrace exhibits a huge crossbow ; I cannot even imagine the size of the arrow !!! I enter in the gallery with a mural representing the Nine Worthies (nine historical, scriptural, and legendary personages who personify the ideals of chivalry established in the Middle Ages). Each character is indicated, the painting is detailed. The colours are in a bright medieval style. In another room the crossbow collection has a great range of models from different period times and different countries. I never tire of watching the nuances and the fine details.

I take the spiral staircase which leads to a room exhibiting indoor furniture such as stools, a trunk and a replica of the chatelaine costume. The openings allow me to admire the landscape. The sentry walk overlooks the esplanade and the barbican as well as the Dordogne Valley. The view on Beynac is stunning !

I go back inside and admire the model room which is full of different types of early ballistic weapons. It is followed by the weapons room which exhibits the complete armour and weaponry of a noble knight. It is the dream of any children to have a suit of armour and a beautiful sword. Their dream comes true, everybody is looking at the collections attentively and sometimes with amazement. I can see the changes in the art of war. I go through another room exhibiting few daggers to arrive in a dark room in which a re-enactment of the siege of 1442 takes place using to a scale model. Light, voice over, sound effects, everything is there to immerse me in 15th century atmosphere ! I go down the stairs decorated by several paintings of the castle then I arrive in the kitchen. The table is full and the fireplace is decorated of wild boars, guinea fowls and rabbits just waiting to be prepared. I really like the refurbished tiled floor.

I visit now the courtyard complete with of a well and a forge (where a video explains the work of the blacksmith). I go down few steps to arrive in the farmyard where the shop sells books, swords and everything else which is needed to transform yourself into knight or princess. It is also possible to do funny photos. I can watch out for the arrival of the assailants by the openings of the gunners ! I find another forge where demonstrations take place (except on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday).

I climb on the bastion where the war machines are waiting for me : “Perrière, Mangonels, Bombarde”. At first the name seems a bit barbaric but they are impressive machines. And without ignoring the munitions !! I go in front of the miniature castle entrance which offers the activity « 1,2,3… play » where initiation to medieval games are offered to the youngest and also the grown-up. There is also the medieval garden way below. The cherry on the cake is the firearms handling show led by two actors. Where the audience is invited to participate. A small refreshment café sell cool drinks and ice creams.

It took me approximately one hour and a half to visit Castelnaud (indoors and outdoors) but I recommend a good half-day, possibly the day, to enjoy fully all the activities which take place in the castle grounds. Take a hat with you for the guided visits, they mainly take place outside where shade could be scarce even if the guides adapt to the weather and the benches are conveniently located to protect from the sun.

The castle has a beautiful collection of medieval weapons, a unique war museum which attracts all the curious. I really enjoy all the entertainments offered by Castelnaud. They are fit for all ages and brought me back to the time of the knights. The entertainment is constantly renewed and varies depending the time of the year. In brief, we never get bored here ! The self-guiding booklet is really well done, either for the indoors or outdoors. Children (3 to 12 years old) can even play dress up ! It is an interactive site, there is a game to do on screen : if you got it all right, you win a poster of the castle. I had fun while learning about the secrets of the war in the Middle Ages.

Enjoy your trip back in time !

Le château de Castelnaud

Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
*Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud
Le château de Castelnaud


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