Travel 2016 – Tip 25 – France – Salses

The last tip for my trip to France is a recommendation to visit Salses-le-Chateau near Perpignan. The town of Salses is about 12 minutes away from Perpignan on the train. The fortress is about 5 minutes away from the station and coming from Perpignan you  do have to cross the track to get to the exit! Then walk down Rue Laurent Colman and follow the road round to the left. Then turn left and be careful as there’s a narrow tunnel back under the railway. The fort is then visible to the right.

The fort was originally constructed by the Spanish in the 15th Century to guard the Roussillion border from attack by France. Salses withstood four sieges before being taken by the French in 1642. The defences are massive and sit low down within what would have been the moat. To look at the ramparts take the guided tour of the fort.

Travel 2016 – Tip 21 – France – Queribus

As with yesterday’s tip, this is an easy recommendation. Queribus is one of the most famous ‘Cathar Castles’ in the foothills of the Pyrenees and along with Puilaurens, Peyrepertuse, Termes, and Aguilar formed the five sons of Carcassonne defensive line.

Queribus is visible on its rock pillar many miles away. It’s bigger than it first appears as some of the interior is below ground level. It’s a 10-minute uphill walk from the car park and the views in all directions are magnificent. It can be very windy up at the castle and make sure to wear shoes/boots with a good grip, especially in wet weather.

After the fall of Montsegur in 1244, many Cathars came to Queribus and would have stayed here until the fall of the castle in 1255, however unlike at Montsegur, the Cathars would have had chance to escape when the castle fell.

Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland, Scotland

Dunrobin Castle was modelled on a Loire chateau by the architect Charles Barry. This castle is the seat of the Sutherland family who once used to ‘own’ 1.3 million acres of land in the area although I was unable to ascertain how much of this land came at the expense of evicted crofters. The gardens are fairly small and do show the visitor how beautiful the castle looks from a distance. The gardens have many fine examples of Gunnera plants also known as the giant rhubarb. Falconry displays take place during the day and the birds of prey are kept outside for visitors to take pictures of although you are advised not to get too close. The day I was at Dunrobin the temperature in the garden was around 20 degrees Centigrade. A lawn sprinkler had been placed next to the Steppe Eagle and was slowly soaking the bird, which was spreading his wings out slightly as if enjoying the experience. The Bengal Eagle Owl had its own little garden shed and was sitting on the front step looking quite glum.    

This is an extract from my forthcoming book.