Forteresse Royale de Najac

Top choice in The Lot

High on a hilltop 150m above a hairpin bend in the River Aveyron, Najac’s fortress looks as if it's fallen from the pages of a fairy tale: slender towers and fluttering flags rise from crenellated ramparts, surrounded on every side by falaises (cliffs) dropping to the valley floor below. Its crumbling architecture is somehow beautifully preserved, and the view from the central keep is unsurprisingly superb.

Look for the secret passage leading out of St Julian’s Chapel, the dungeon, which imprisoned Knights Templar, and symbols carved in walls by stonemasons.

A masterpiece of medieval military planning (check out the extended loopholes that allowed two archers to fire at once), and practically unassailable thanks to its position, Najac was a key stronghold during the Middle Ages, and was hotly contested by everyone from English warlords to the powerful counts of Toulouse. Richard the Lionheart signed a treaty here in 1185.

Reach the fortress via a steep path from the bottom of town.

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