Ranked as one of France’s “les plus beaux villages” (most beautiful villages), Castelnou is located close to the Spanish border, approximately 20 kms southwest of Perpignan.
The village’s design is dictated by the sheer, jagged ridges of the rock on which it was built - set against the stunning backdrop of the Canigou, the Catalans’ mythical mountain. It is guarded by Château du Vicomtal, which originated in the 10th century and which over the centuries has been destroyed and restored twice. Ramparts were built in the middle of the 14th century to protect the village. They feature eight towers and you access the village between two of them.
Cars are not allowed inside the village at all (there is a car park outside the walls), you can’t see a single electrical cable, all the streets are still cobbled, and building is prohibited with any renovation work strictly regulated to stay faithful to the original materials and techniques. Here, you can truly pretend to live in the Middle Ages.
The local community is so small (only 70 regular inhabitants). Houses in the village are sought after and about half are second homes, mostly belonging to wealthy Parisians. Castelnou is a draw card for artists and artisans too, including jewellery-makers and potters who take their inspiration from the beauty of the village and surrounds.
Images courtesy of Trekearth and Les Plus Beaux Villages de France