Château de Bouillon

Castle in Bouillon

Slouching like a great grey dragon high on Bouillon's central rocky ridge, Belgium’s finest feudal castle-ruin harks back to AD 988, but it's especially associated with Crusader knight Godefroid de Bouillon, the first 'Belgian' ruler of Jerusalem. The super-atmospheric site has everything you might wish for in a castle: dank dripping tunnel passages, musty half-lit cell rooms, falconry displays, rough-hewn stairwells and many an eerie nook and cranny to discover. Plus there are off-beat surprises like maturing cheeses and a caligraphy mini-museum.

Audio guides (€2.50) or guidebooks (€1.50) offer extra historical background in four languages. Access is across crag-spanning stone bridges from the car park at the castle's upper northeastern tip. Between March and October, time your visit to include the 45-minute open-air bird shows (11.30am, 2pm and 3.30pm; no extra charge), when trained ‘wig-snatching’ owls, hawks and eagles swoop low over spectators’ heads. In July and August there's an extra 5pm show. To really get the heebie-jeebies prebook a night-time torchlight tour (adult/child/torch hire €10/7/2.50, 10pm Wednesday to Sunday in July and August).

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