Montaigle Castle Ruins, Falaën, Belgium

By - October 13, 2010 (Updated: January 5, 2016)

Montaigle Castle Ruins, Wallonia, Belgium

Montaigle Castle Ruins, Wallonia, Belgium

Today the Web Guy steps away from the computer to write about another of his favourite things – History (and climbing on things).

I like castles. I think it’s because I’m drawn to the extremes they represent: the romance of court life and the violence of battle. However, it could also be because I like to climb on things. My father jokingly asked me the other day, how many castles we’ve visited. I didn’t really know. Searching through CheeseWeb, we’ve visited castles, chateaus, fortified towns and ruins throughout Europe. There was Les-Baux-de-Provence, Mont-St-Michel, The Rhine Valley, Groot-Bijgaarden, Arcen, Wawel, Villandry, Chenonceau, and many more. Each one has its own character and its own history. Although perhaps best known for chocolate and beer, Belgium also hosts a large number of castles and chateaus that are worth visiting.

A while back, our friend, Gilbert, told us about a ruined castle, in southern Belgium, called Montaigle. The ruins sit on a rocky spur overlooking a couple of small rivers, close to the Meuse and the city of Dinant. Gilbert said, the ruins had an interesting history and the area was worth a visit. Alison and I have visited the Dinant area before and really liked it. The drive along the river is reminiscent of the Rhine river valley, with many castles, beautiful vistas, and gorgeous chateaus. Since we had not been on a Sunday Mystery Drive in a long time and last Sunday was a gorgeous October day in Belgium, Alison and I decided to get out of the city and enjoy the day.

Located in Falaën, Montaigle castle is about an hour south of Brussels, using the fastest route. The castle itself is found on D-roads, meaning the roads get small, winding, and, if you like driving, very interesting.

Once you find the castle, it’s a bit challenging to find a parking spot, as there isn’t a parking lot and access to the site is via a private road. We were lucky and found parking at the bottom of the private road. We then walked the 750m to the entrance of the ruins which turns out to be on private land. In fact, the whole site is privately owned (by the del Marmol family), so don’t be shy. Just head for the renovated barn that houses the museum and ticket office.

Montaigle Castle Ruins, Wallonia, Belgium

Montaigle Castle Ruins, perched above a private home.

After paying 4 euros, you trek up a fairly steep path to the castle ruins. The ruins you enter are from the 14th century, when the main castle was built by Guy de Dampierre, Count of Namur. During the 15th century, the castle became a principal town, in the county of Namur, and was renovated into a more comfortable residence. Floors were added to increase living space, as well as large windows for more light, chimneys, latrines, vaulted cellars, and more. In the end, the castle was destroyed by Henry II of France in 1554, after being abandoned by Charles the Fifth during the Italian War of 1551-1559 (also known as the Habsburg-Valois War).

The site, of course, has a much longer history than the current castle. Many archeological investigations, over the years, have revealed the site has been used defensively for the past 1500 years, starting with a Roman garrison established there around the 3rd century. There is also evidence the caves in the area were used by pre-historic man. Even after the castle was destroyed, archaeology has shown there have been various attempts at living there over the past 450 years.

What remains,  is a few of the larger outer walls, an outline of the interior rooms, the courtyard, water well, and some of the cellars. The preservation and stability of the site is thanks primarily to the work done since 1865 by the “Friends of Montaigle,” to minimize the deterioration of the walls from weather and vegetation. As with most ruins in Europe, you are pretty much free to wander around the site wherever you want. Very few railings or other restrictions exist.  If you are able to visit on a nice day, it’s a nice spot to enjoy a picnic, as the courtyard is now covered with grass rather than cobblestone.

Montaigle Castle Ruins, Wallonia, Belgium

The interior of the Montaigle Castle Ruins

If you like history or you just like to see old architecture, Montaigle and the Dinant area has a lot to offer. When people think about tourism in Belgium, they usually come up with beer and chocolate, and  maybe World War I.  But the castles in Belgium should not be overlooked. Combined with a scenic drive through rural Belgium, there is a rich history out there to be enjoyed with a glass of beer and a piece of chocolate!

For more great castle articles, be sure to visit our Castles in Belgium page where you’ll find links to all of the castles in our little country.

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Andrew is our resident tech-geek and is normally found lurking behind the scenes on CheeseWeb doing things with code that Alison finds mysterious. He comes out of hiding occasionally to write about history and technology. He loves castles, driving on narrow, twisty mountain roads and relaxing with a glass of peaty Scotch. Follow Andrew on Google+
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  2. Comment by Sherry Ott

    Sherry Ott October 13, 2010 at 16:25

    Belgium is looking as beautiful as ever! Looks like a fun Sunday activity. Plus – I kinda like it when any road is described as interesting! I didn’t get to Dinant area when I was there and wish I would have! Then again this doesn’t seem like something I could have gotten to without a car!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison October 13, 2010 at 17:51

      Yes, it’s definitely venturing into car territory. When you come back and visit us while we’re actually here, we’ll have to take you to this part of the country. It’s really lovely!

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew October 13, 2010 at 17:54

      It was a nice drive on a beautiful day! Dinant is a place you can get to without having a car… Montaigle, not so much. I honestly think that the drive down along the Meuse is as nice as the Rhine river valley… especially as there are less tour buses. If you time it right you can go to Dinant to watch the bath tub races! 🙂

  3. Comment by Amy

    Amy October 13, 2010 at 16:35

    Looks really interesting! I’ve never heard of this one, but it’s going on the list. It’s amazing that even after 2 years here, we still haven’t seen everything in this tiny country.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison October 13, 2010 at 17:53

      2 years? It’s been 5 for us and I feel like we’ve hardly scratched the surface! I keep hearing about more and more of these little hidden gems that I need to add to the list. You and I will have to sit down and compare notes 🙂

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew October 13, 2010 at 17:57

      Hi Amy, Did you look at the list of castles!? It’ll take you forever just to scratch the surface! 🙂

      The remarkable thing about Belgium is how little anyone knows about it… there are parts that almost feel like a bit of undiscovered country! Best plan is to just get in the car and wander aimlessly… keep turning until you get on a road that you swear must be a driveway… then you’ll find something interesting!

      Good luck and have fun!

  4. Comment by Gilbert

    Gilbert October 13, 2010 at 20:27

    We took the bikes on the train down to Dinant and then did a mix of road and off-road to get there. It’s not so difficult to get to but there are some surprising inclines if you’ve never cycled in Wallonia before and you’ll need a good map.

    There’s also a pub with a big car park on the opposite side of the river which would double the walking distance but they have a good terrace.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison October 14, 2010 at 14:07

      We did notice that terrace and it looked like a lot of people were taking advantage of the nice weather to have one last beer outside before the rainy Belgian winter sets in 🙂

    • Comment by Andrew

      Andrew October 14, 2010 at 14:57

      Bikes are an excellent option as well for those who like a more leisurely pace. 🙂 Even with the hills at least it is pretty and worth stopping when you’ve run out of air!

      We didn’t check out the pub, but we did end up at Maredsous… although so did half of Belgium so we didn’t stay long!

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