This is a fun castle for an excursion. After turning onto the Rennes-les-Bains road from Couiza we parked the car two bridges up the road in a tiny lay-by large enough for one car. An overgrown trail leads steeply up into the woods, a mixture of oak and Mediterranean strawberry (Arbutus). The walk to the castle takes about 20 minutes, mostof it going up hill. The path passes a small ruin. Then to the right the ‘Black Rock’ which may be reached by going off path. There are several spectacular viewing points along the way on smaller crags with vertigo inspiring drops.
The castle itself is on an enormous crag. But to avoid disappointment, I must say it is not a castle despite its name. Its foundations are far too small. At best it could have been a military outpost? Strategically it commands views of the valley from Serres to Couiza, the hills out across the Corbiere, it stares blank faced at Pech Cardou, it looks behind, up the valley at Rennes-les-Bains, Bugarach. It also looks out to Rennes-Les-Chateaux.
The crag is full of holes. Most of these grotto’s are blanked off only a few meters into the crag. One of the caves,the letterbox, goes much further back. It is calling out to be explored. Another cave looks to have been filled in. There is potential for more little secrets hidden in the bush around the crag.
The castle itself is on several levels of the crag. The levels look to have been flattened out by human hands. There are only two obvious foundations. One is a square set of stones that could have been a tower. It is at the highest point of the crag. The other is another square set of foundations a bit lower down. Both are built into the bedrock like so many Cathar castles in the area.
There is not much known about the castle. I read in one dubious book that it may have been constructed by the visigoths who’s kingdom, with a capital in present day Rennes-les-Chateaux, extended across Razes. Many theories tie in the fabulous treasure of Rennes-les-Chateaux allegedly discovered by the priest Sauniere with this castle. That is to say that the Blanchforts stashed their wealth in their crypt at Rennes for safe keeping only to be discovered by the priest a century later. But did such a family ever exist? If they did then I doubt this tower was their ancestral home. Other theories postulate that the fabulous wealth of the visigoth was buried under this fortification, the treasure that they plundered from Rome. Apparently there was a period in the twentieth century when this castle was picked through by treasure seekers. Then others suggest that the tower guarded a mine (the letterbox cave amongst other lost entrances). Or perhaps a distanced guard on Pech Cardou which was mined and where another treasure is said to be buried. The more adventurous have even suggested that the tower marks the burial place of Jesus, Mary Magdalen, or both of them. Or that the treasure of Pech Cardou is actually the bones of Jesus and Mary (possible with a chalice thrown in for good measure) and it is this that the tower guarded.
Discounting the fantastic, the ruins are certainly of military significance as a look out and signal tower. It could rapidly send messages up three valleys which otherwise would be blind to each other. Is there more to the story than this? I guess that is what is waiting to be discovered.