Thursday, June 30, 2011

Now THAT's a castle

The medieval donjon (keep) at Loches is everything you want in a ruined castle. Enough of it has survived that there is plenty to climb around in. There's a torture chamber. There are tunnels inside the walls where shooters would be positioned for defense. There's a meticulously tended middle ages garden.

The very top of the tour ronde in Loches. Click to crenelate.

The taller of the castle's two towers is the actual keep, but it's just the shell. All the innards (floors and stairs) are long gone. It's the older part of the castle, built in the eleventh century. You can still climb to the top, however, thanks to a set of steel stairs (160 steps) that have been installed in recent years. The views from up there are amazing.

This photo is of la tour ronde (the round tower), the shorter of the two. It's amazingly intact and you can climb all the way to the top, visiting its various rooms along the way. Each room has a little exhibit about something related to the castle's history, including a model of what the entire castle probably looked like back in the day. The tower was built in the fifteenth century (newer than the rest of the castle).

The tour ronde has a characteristic castle defense feature called machicoulis (machicolations in English). These are comprised of the the stones that look like inverted steps at the top of the wall (called corbels) and the open spaces in between from where defenders could shoot arrows or drop stones (or maybe even boiling oil!) on their attackers.

We didn't go up into the keep this time, but we did climb up the 102 steps to the top of the round tower. While up there, we noticed something peculiar. A stiff wind was blowing right up the side of the tower wall and was forced through the open spaces of the machicoulis (they have steel grates on them now to keep your feet from falling through). The wind was pushing little droplets of water up into the air; the droplets hovered on the air current for a few seconds before blowing away. Very cool.

We climbed down and wandered around the garden for a bit. Then, as usual, we exited through the gift shop.


  1. I have fond memories of visiting French Donjon's and they never dissapointed me. Never made it to the one in Loches but hopefully will one day. What a grand tower! The one in Pons (dept 17) is quite good too.

  2. Well, from all the visits we did last month, Yves considers this donjon to be the best . We went to the tower and the underground gallery but we did not go up the long staircase of the keep also. The legs were not willing to move after the tower :-)

  3. Exited through the gift shop. :-) Did you see the movie of the the same name about the graffiti artist Banksy? Awesome.

  4. Donjons can be fairly scary and unpleasant places I think. We visited the one at Crest in the Drome and it was chilly and spooky. Nasty. I couldn't wait to get out.

  5. Thank you for the tour. I still love a good castle, after all these years.

  6. craig, there's a great castle down in the Lot valley called Bonaguil. Almost entirely intact and fun to wander around in.

    t.b., I know what you mean!

    judy, glad you're liking them!

    diogenes, no...

    jean, they can be chilly and spooky, but that's part of the fun!

    stephen, I'll bet your favorite part is the moat. ;)


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