Château d’Artias is is about 20 minute drive from Retournac. It was a better drive than it looked on the map, possibly because there is a large quarry site off the road. The road climbs up the side of a wooded gorge onto the plateau, with a super view of the château on top of a volcanic plug silhouetted against the sky.
There is an obligatory car park in the small settlement below the château of well maintained houses with red tile roofs. It is surrounded by natural hay meadows with wild flowers especially red clover and wild carrot. A steep track leads up to the château with hazel, hawthorn, maple, marjoram, wild thyme and honeysuckle, past a house with caged budgerigars and canaries outside and four noisy small dogs. There is a small information centre in a restored farmhouse which was shut in mid September. This is set in a nicely maintained area with grass and flower beds. There are some information signs.
A steep footpath with rough stone steps leads up to the ruins of Château d’Artias. Traces of the original ramparts can still be seen. This a superb site on top of craggy peak looking down onto the River Loire.
This was one of the oldest châteaux in the area dating from the 11thC. Building began in 1085 and took 70 years. Originally it was under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Le Puy en Velay but was later sold and belonged to noble families close to the French throne. In 1402 Charles VI granted the right to hold two fairs annually. It was abandoned in the 18thC after the Revolution and was later bought by a carrier for use as building stone. Not much is left.
The 12thC Chapelle St Denis stood just inside castle wall and may well have had a defensive function as well as a religious one. All that is left is the west end and remains of the north wall with window and capitals. TA bell tower was added later.
The Corps de Logis is 11thC with 15thC additions. All that is left are a few standing walls from the courtyard and the three towers. The area is unsafe and fenced off.
There is an orientation panel at the end of the site. There are excellent views of the Loire Valley with Retournec and Chamaliers-sur-Loire with the Sucs (Puys) to the north. We were the only visitors and the only sounds were bird song and crickets.
This is ignored by the guide books and there isn’t much information on the web. It is a delightful place to drop out and enjoy the scenery and peace and quiet.