683.Lastours10
View from the belvedere

The châteaux of Lastours are among the Cathar castles the closest to Carcassonne. The site consists of four ruined châteaux, perched on hills in the Montagne Noire, or Black Mountains.

672.Lastours7Looking at the steep, rocky terrain, you wonder how they picked this spot to live. Life must have been rough, with good views. The Orbiel river runs at the bottom of the valley, providing an occasional flat and fertile spot for gardens.

The visit starts in a former textile factory, with a great archaeological exhibition—the site has been inhabited since the Bronze Age.

661.Lastours3The climb winds around the hill, which makes it longer but safer than trying to go straight up. Still, it’s challenging. Not handicapped accessible or stroller accessible or even out-of-shape accessible.

657.Lastours1But the vistas are fabulous. On a clear day, you can see all the way across the Aude plain to the Pyrénnées. Lastours has only one road, which just goes further into the mountains and thus isn’t heavily traveled. As you climb, you don’t hear cars but birds and the wind whistling through the low brush. You also pass through a mostly open cave, which tends to be unbelievably exciting for kids.

671.Lastours6The four castles that make up Lastours (which is Occitan for “the towers”) are perched close together on a ridge, so once you’ve climbed, you’re good.

My fireman brother was fascinated (not in a good way) by the spotlight wiring, bundled haphazardly and running right across the trail for everybody to step on, and the guardrails (as in, lack thereof).

685.Lastours12Those who can’t hike can get a bird’s eye view from an even higher spot on a hill across the valley, where a belevedere is set up with benches for an evening sound and light show. Entry is included in your châteaux ticket, or reduced if you just hit the belvedere.684.Lastours11For a village of under 200 people, Lastours punches above its weight gastronomically. Le Puits du Trésor has a Michelin star, thanks to Jean-Marc Boyer, who is a real sweetie besides being a great chef. The restaurant is situated in the same factory as the entry to the châteaux and is open for lunch and dinner. Boyer also has a less-expensive bistro, Auberge du Diable au Thym (Thyme Devil’s Inn) next to the restaurant, with a terrace next to the fast and clear Orbiel.

A five-minute walk away, still next to the river, there’s a little bakery with homemade ice cream and tables in a little garden. And at least one shop sells local products, meaning local FOOD products.

You can’t get out of Lastours without eating, I’m telling you.

658.Lastours2You need a car to get to Lastours. Maybe a Tour de France biker would take on the steep road (no shoulders, no guardrails). Anyway, follow the signs for parking. Do not think you’ll find something closer. You’ll end up driving through town and then you’ll have to keep going until you find a spot wide enough to turn around. The town is vertical, with the road at the bottom next to the river, and there isn’t room for a sidewalk let alone parking, aside from the little parking lot.

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25 thoughts on “Lastours

  1. Great review. Makes me really want to visit. Re the Michelin stars in tiny villages, the village next to us, population about 300, has a Michelin starred restaurant, in the chef’s family’s old forge ie his father, or maybe grandfather, was a blacksmith. The sommelier is a really nice guy and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to eat there.

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  2. Thank you for showing us this gorgeous place. I can’t believe that I’ve never seen photos of it before, even in years of obsessing over France. Now I really need to go there, and to read up more on the mysterious Cathars.

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    1. There are lots of ruined fortress castles around here. Lastours is special for having four close together. I’ve been there many times and have never seen it crowded, even in summer.

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  3. Yes, everybody, you need to come and look at the Beautiful Aude& the Lovely Languedoc.
    Or maybe not, so Francetaste and I can keep it our secret.
    OK, OK! You CAN come visit providing you stay at one of Francetaste’s beautiful authentically restored apartments or our seaside place maybe ………………….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have often wondered why castles were built perched high on hills with sometimes sheer drops all round but at a guess I think it was to keep battling marauders out or at least slow them down a bit, more importantly one has to wonder how they got the enormous stones up there in the first place.

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    1. Yes, you should read the book about 14th century France by Barbara Tuchman. Armies moved very slowly, a few miles a day. So if you are up on a hill in a fortress built of the same stones as the hill, you are kind of camouflaged and you can spot the invaders from far away and have time to make preparations. And the sheer drops off the sides are indeed hard to surmount.

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  5. Reblogged this on husifrankrike and commented:
    Chateau Lastours is just one of hundreds of amazing historical sights more or less on our doorstep, in Minervois. From our village it is good hour steep cycling or 20 min by car to get there. Check out this nice article by Taste of France…

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  6. An interesting book on village life in the period of those castles: “Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error,” by Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie. Published originally in the 1970s, but still available. The writing is rather dry (by current standards) but intriguing — he digs into the economy and social life of the area, so you get details on what it was like for the people day-to-day, from the peasants to “the powerful village priest and shameless womanizer”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Next year for sure….we will make the time. There are so many ruins that I want to see. This one seems so special.
    I was thinking of asking you to do a series on the Cathars….you read my mind.

    Yes…everyone….the Apartments are beyond gorgeous….perfectly situated. You will feel like royalty staying there.

    Ali x

    Liked by 1 person

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