If you like your castles to be brooding, dark and dramatically handsome, then the Chateau de Joux in the Jura, Franche-Comté is for you.
Visit to the Chateau de Joux
Sandwiched between the mountains of the Vosges in the north and the Alps in the south, the Jura is a land of pinacled spires and soaring plateaux. There’s no better place to pop a castle than on top of one of these towering mountains to make impregnable. The Chateau de Joux is perched on one such rocky peninsula along one of the ancient major trade routes of Europe and it tells a tale of a thousand years of military history.
A visit here is not for the faint-hearted, those who have mobility issues and definitely no pushchairs. There are no lifts or ramps, you have to get into the castle via steep stairs. It’s worth it though because this isn’t like any other castle. “Here we dream of history” said Francois Miterrand when he visited and he’s right, this place feels alive with the past – 1000 years worth.
A dramatic, stark chateau
It was also once a prison: “the little sister of the Bastille” says the guide. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck just to think about those who have been locked up in this chateau. There have been many, including the unfortunate Berthe de Joux, wife of a crusader. Believing herhusband was dead, she fell in love with one of his companions. Alas the husband returned, killed the lover and locked his wife in a tower where she stayed for years until he died.
You can visit the cell where prisoners were held. When the guide turns out the light, the darkness weighs like a tangible horror, totally without light and silent, you can’t help but shudder. And, when the guide pours water down the well, in complete darkness, it takes several seconds until you hear the splash…
There are no glamorous furnishings, no pretty gardens to walk through – this is the bad boy of castles with seriously impressive views to match and kids will love its dramatic story. Parents might like to visit nearby Pontarlier afterwards where absinthe is made!
Open April – November, guided tour only, see the website for events and night time tours. Audio guides in several languages are available.
For more tips on what to see and do in the area see the tourist office website: https://en.bourgognefranchecomte.com/