Designed as an impregnable citadel, the village of Usson roosts atop a volcanic plume, 8km east of Issoire. The daughter of Henry II and Catherine de Médici, Marguerite de Valois (known as 'la reine Margot'), was imprisoned here by her brother, but after her release she remained in Usson to restore its castle and assemble a court of advisers. The fortified stone-and-slate village still feels frozen in time, and enjoys a peerless panorama of the Chaîne des Puys.

Follow the salamander symbols for a self-guided tour of Usson's fortified walls, fountains and the 11th-century Église St Maurice (open April to September only).

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