Chateau Hautefort

The weather, since we arrived, has been nothing like we had anticipated. We had expected for the temperatures to be higher than back in the UK. Apart from a couple of days, the temperatures have been quite low, the days have been dull and the last couple of days have been decidedly wet.

With that in mind, we decided to hedge our bets and do a château tour.  At least, if its raining, we can be inside.

So off we set on, Sunday morning, for Hautefort which is to the west of Brive-la-Gaillarde in the Perigord. And so as to not get distracted we programmed the satnag for the quickest route, including tolls.

Before one reaches the village of Hautefort, you are treated to glimpses of the château from several miles out.  Built, as it is, on a promontory the château dominates the landscape. Shame the weather detracted somewhat but here is a shot to give you some idea of the scene.

Chateau Hautefort - A distant view through the rain and mist
Chateau Hautefort – A distant view through the rain and mist

We initially parked immediately below the château and walked up into the village. Planning to have lunch before entering the chateau proper.

Although there were several eateries, it transpired that they were fully booked. This being a Sunday, I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised. Never mind, just a few hundred metres further on we came across Le “Me” Loko, a brasserie. We were soon seated, orders taken and beers delivered. I had what was basically a Ciabatta roll filled with hot roast beef, onions, mushrooms and gravy with chips and salad on the side. Gerry had a salad of prawns with pineapple and sun-dried tomatoes. Not a gourmet meal but good nonetheless.

Throughout the meal we were observed by a white wolf, well perhaps a white alsation type dog. She seemed to keep coming and sitting by our table with a canine smile, patiently waiting for any scraps. Obviously she didn’t know me and how rare scraps are when I am around. I did ask her if she had seen John Snow recently. She seemed to perk up at the mention of his name. Or, maybe, I just imagined it.

After lunch we completed our tour of the village, which meant we had walked the perimeter of the château base. Arriving back at the car park we decided to move the car up nearer the ticket office, to save ourselves from having to climb the hill again.

The château is most impressive and one forgets that it is also an ancient fortress. However, the presence of a drawbridge acts as a quick reminder.

Apparently Chateau Hautefort is built on the site of former Roman camp and historical records indicate the presence of some kind of fortress as far back as 1000 A.D. Since then the château has gone through some dramatic transformations culminating in the grand building which dominates the landscape.

For many years the château was left untended, until 1929 when it was purchased by Baron and Baronne de Bastard. Baron de Bastard carried out considerable works to save and restore the château. These works were interrupted by WW2 when the château was used to store art collections from eastern France. After the war restoration works continued before stalling again due to the death of Baron de Bastard.

Baronne de Bastard took up the baton, continuing the restoration.

In 1959 the gardens were opened to the general public and by 1962 the buildings became habitable. There aren’t that many rooms inside to visit and to be honest this isn’t like visiting the likes of Uppark, Arundel Castle or Windsor Castle. Where the rooms are stuffed with pictures and furniture.

You have to remember the origins of the château, as first and foremost a private residence, that has only recently become a charitable institution. And then there is the major catastrophe that struck on the night of 30th August, 1968 when a fire destroyed the building with the exception of the wings. Baronne de Bastard decided to rebuild and that restoration continues to this day, albeit under the management of a charitable foundation.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and would recommend others to take the time to tour both the château and the village.

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