just a few minutes from Clermont-Ferrand along the way of the Auvergne volcanoes
This 13th century castle stands on the edge of the Auvergne Volcano Regional Nature Park, 25 minutes from Clermont-Ferrand. Dominating a medieval market town, it is near to a large Romanesque church and a few Renaissance period houses. The Regional Park is home to the largest group of volcanoes in Europe and is the biggest park in mainland France. This castle is built on a basalt plateau, ensconced in unspoilt countryside looking out over the gorges and the valley. Ideally set between plain and mountain, it is the obvious place for practicing miscellaneous activities whatever the season. The village, itself, is aiming for a great quality of life by helping to protect natural heritage with its French “Terre saine” distinction, meaning that the town no longer uses pesticides.
After having left the open courtyard, the visitors’ surprise can but increase when the land becomes tamed, when the latest renovations and the entire grounds come into view. The old fortress then stands out. The rehabilitation of the moat, the bridge spanning the dry moat between the rear terrace and the parklands, the discovery of a secret passageway through the moat, linking one of the wings to an enclosed garden, are all features that remind visitors of this illustrious Seigneurial home’s previous lives. Furthermore, the view over the parklands skilfully takes in the buildings, the upper terracing, the various levels and a lawn below. Once again, the property presents an overly simplistic view: the concealed details having to be sought out on the sides of the parklands. These will reveal an enclosed garden as well as a natural terrace, a belvedere looking out over the valley and the gorges, not to mention other well-concealed areas that fire the imagination and invite visitors to take a stroll.
This castle comprises two wings set at right angles to a long, central building. The latter is laid out in a north-south direction, with a main courtyard on its east side and a terrace as well as gardens on its west side. The north wing is flanked by two round corner towers, whilst the south wing has just one on its south-west corner. A square, engaged tower is set in the centre of the west facade and a last polygonal tower stands on the south-west corner of the main courtyard. The building dates from the 13th century with successive remodelling works, involving the extension of the residential building and the modernisation of the military features, dating from the late 15th century through to the early 16th century, and miscellaneous others in the 18th century.
Restoration works began in the 1990’s and are still ongoing.
The interior layout of the castle is divided into three sections, the medieval building on the north side, with its kitchens and back kitchen as well as a small lounge, the central Renaissance building, featuring a vast, semi-underground function room known as the guardroom, and then the south wing, separated on the ground floor from the other buildings by the installation of toilets and an area for caterers using the function room. Said south wing makes it possible for the current owners to have their own private quarters, including a kitchen, whilst being near to the castle’s various activities. For example, most of the cultural and function activities are held in the parklands, the Renaissance building and the guardroom, whilst the tourist and bed & breakfast accommodation is housed in the medieval building on the north side with suites on the first and second floors.
The layout on this level, similar to that on the ground floor, is also divided into three sections. The north building comprises residential suites, succeeding one another on the first and second floors as far as the so-called “Tour des Rois” (kings’ tower). A library available for guest use is followed by a lounge, with oak wood parquet flooring laid in Versailles and Chantilly patterns, and then bedrooms, with high ceilings and furniture in keeping with the building. Each of these five suites has its own bathroom and is decorated and furnished in various styles ranging from that of Louis XIII and Louis XVI to the 18th century. One of them is housed in a 14th century tower, under a vault decorated with the Tour-d’Auvergne family coat-of-arms, depicting fleur-de-lis. Another has its bathroom in the square tower on the west facade and a third even has an impressive vaulted bathroom, housed in a 13th century tower with a view of one of the Auvergne’s large, Romanesque churches. Its shower has been installed in the space once taken up by the old latrines, set in the thickness of the medieval walls. The central section, above the guardroom, comprises the royal state room, where a monumental fireplace takes pride of place. Said room can also be reached via the west terrace. It is worthy of note that a concealed back room features light and dark floor tiles laid in a chessboard pattern and a fireplace, sculpted from volcanic rock. As for the private south wing, it is separated from the Renaissance building via a passageway to the south terrace, delimited by an outstanding corridor, with light and dark floor tiles, leading straight to the small medieval garden and its secret passageway through the dry moat. Set above the private kitchen on the ground floor is a cross-ribbed vaulted lounge, where time appears to stand still and where peace reigns despite the trials and tribulations of the century.
This level in the north building is taken up by most of the aforementioned suites and also includes the continuation of the suite on the first-floor. As for the south section, belonging to the public area is the count’s room amidst its furnished rooms, with hexagonal terracotta floor tiles, a French ceiling, wall-hangings and furniture reminiscent of the history of the premises. This room is the last section prior to accessing the 15th century roofing framework and the tower in the south-west corner.
If visitors were asked to imagine the outside without its flat-tile roof, reflecting multiple hues, they would find themselves amazed by the battlements which would magically appear and delimit the medieval wall-walk that once topped the building. The inside is easily accessed and provides an original visit of the 15th century roofing framework, with a first large room that could easily be converted for exhibitions, and a second room on the north side, like an archaeological store where time has stood still for centuries and ending on the terrace of the north-east tower, where the view this time takes in the medieval village below. One of the towers, known as the “Tour des Reines” (queens’ tower) stands out from the others. Courtesy of its restoration and its site on the south-west corner, it widely dominates the south terrace, the Renaissance garden, the west terrace and the parklands, whilst inviting observers to take great delight in an unobstructed view over the valley. Battlemented, without a roof, except for its access via the guards’ stairway, it offers an unusual terrace for guests to appreciate.
The main courtyard provides two possible entrances to the cellars under the main building. One via the stairwell of the large spiral stairway, housed in the main building, and the second via a direct, independent door set in the north-east gable wall of the main building. Said door leads to several steps going down under a sloping vaulted ceiling to a vaulted cellar, with an impressive arch-band halfway along.
The independent, north-west tower and terrace
This north-west corner tower, standing at the entrance to the main courtyard, is linked to the castle by a single-storey building, featuring two large, basket-handle-arched windows, supporting the north terrace. Spanning four stories, this tower features the lower keep, used as a ticket office, the upper keep, decorated as a medieval kitchen, with firing ports as well as a fireplace, and lastly the top independent floor, with access via the north terrace, opens into a holiday accommodation rental unit, with a mezzanine, where peace and quiet reign. The latter is somewhat concealed in the overall architecture, it has a south-facing view taking in the main courtyard through a large picture window and features all the facilities necessary for self-contained accommodation.
The parklands and the Italianate Renaissance style garden
The castle’s finery is laid out around the rampart and its dry moat, encircling the building on its south, west and north sides. In the immediate proximity of said building, not counting the main courtyard, are a shady terrace for a small medieval garden on the south side cohabiting with the private section of the castle and, on the west side, the terrace all on a level with the royal state room as well as an upper terrace on the north side.
Visitors looking beyond the moat can see an enclosed, Italianate Renaissance style garden, on the south side, whilst, on the west side, they have a wide view of two parterres and an end lawn, constituting a 17th century garden, delimited to the north and south by two wooded promenades. One of the latter leads to a natural belvedere looking out over the valley, on the far south-west side. And lastly, on the north side, are some discreet verdant areas out of sight of onlookers, providing access to the upper terrace or the moat.
Facing south, this area, enclosed by walls of military origin built between the 14th and 15th centuries, was a garden typical of the Renaissance style in the 16th century. The current owners sought to breathe life back into this area, by instilling it with an Italianate Renaissance air whilst imagining a more general design for the parklands. Since 2012, this area has been completely restored, with the installation of a contemporary still-water pool reflecting seasonal colours and providing coolness during the summer months. Designed as a Renaissance style garden with a medieval air provided by herbs and medicinal plants as well as vegetable gardens, it too awaits exploration. Whether taking a stroll or a meditative wander or with the intention of working in this area, visitors simply have to cross its threshold, shaded by a pergola, designed as a natural anteroom to the garden. With each step and inspiration, visitors discover lawns, terracing, a belvedere and a studio flat, housed in an old 14th century military blockhouse, forming an area filled with fragrances, extending a verdant area where a fountain and many other hidden, then revealed features take pride of place.
Created from nothing due to a lack of information, these parklands have replaced a historic garden that no longer exists. Said parklands, or rather this simplified garden reminiscent of the style of 17th century gardens, were designed in close and strict relation not only with the castle’s west terrace for its wide view, but also with the Italianate Renaissance style garden. In the same way, it has become an attractive asset for the castle’s tourist and event activities, making all technical and reception amenities possible. This garden features three parterres on two levels, not limiting the points of view and its various exploration paths. It is laid out in three successive sections stretching from the west terrace and the stone bridge spanning the dry moat, with a terrace bordered by cherry trees in the foreground, followed by a large parterre separated from the end lawn by a sandstone pool, with a gothic, polylobed shape. These sections form a view contained between peripheral rows of trees, enhancing the relation between the landscape and the unspoilt countryside beyond. Visitors can, if they so wish, explore these sections via the central pathway or, if they prefer, move away from the main stretch and take advantage of the shade provided by the wooded promenades on either side.
A superb example of heritage restoration supervised by a master architect specialised in French Historic Buildings, an architecture historian and a host of landscape gardeners. The current owners have poured all their energy into breathing new life into the property and its activities, modernising it without changing its architecture. Its natural setting, the building itself, its large function rooms and reception areas, its landscaped vistas, the gardens and the still-water pool, as well as its secret passageway through the dry moat are all assets and delights just waiting to be explored.
The village, itself, is a haven of peace near to Clermont-Ferrand, the regional capital with all subsequent amenities, and not forgetting the Auvergne Volcano Regional Nature Park.
In short, this 13th century castle is an intrinsic part of the Puy-de-Dôme department and has a rich past closely linked to the royal history of France.
|Land registry surface area||4 ha 50 a|
|Main building surface area||2200 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||8|
|Outbuilding surface area||150 m2|
|including refurbished area||127 m2|
Sébastien Champeyrol +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.