Lastours Castles are a tight group of four defensive structures clustered on rocky ridges of the Cabardès hills north of Carcassonne, built as a novel variant of a single larger castle. They were built in the 11th century, at the peak of the Cathar (and antil-Cathar Albigensian) period.
The four Lastours castles were built as a defense against Simon de Montfort during the Albigensian Crusade. They were quite successful in that regard, as much to do with the steep mountainous surroundings as the castles themselves. They eventually surrendered to Montfort, but only because the whole region had succumbed.
The castle ruins we see here today aren't the original Cathar-era structures. Like most other 11th-12th century castles, they've largely been destroyed and rebuilt, or extensively and repeatedly renovated over the centuries.
All four castles are located along a north-south line of rocky ridges about 500 m north of Lastours village. We've included a couple of maps of the locality, showing the positions of all four castles, with with our photo gallery for the Lastours Castles. Their location at the gap in this valley controlled the main access routes between the plains near Carcassonne and the Black Mountain and Cabardès regions to the north.
The northern-most castle Cabaret was the first built, and is the main citadel of the group. It has a barbican defence system, with its fortified northern gateway and tower. The crenelated walls include surrounding ramparts. Inside are residential buildings and a polygonal keep at the south side.
This small castle is called the Tour Régine, or the Royal tower. It was apparently built well after the Albigensian Crusade of 1209-1229. First written mention of the Régine Tower is 1260, and the name also indicated a Royal construction. It fills a gap between the northern Cabaret castle and the central Surdespine castle. It's built of white limestone, flanked by a spiral staircase, and is enclosed inside a small walled area. Régine has the largest below-ground cistern of the group.
The very narrow Surdespine castle is built on the highest part of the Lastours site, and it's the least preserved of the four castles. It had a rectangular protective wall, around square tower, a house and a large cistern.
Quertinheux castle is the furthest south of the four, and rises up vertically from a narrow rocky outcrop. It has a large circular tower, and a "courtine", a walled defensive area between the two parts of the castle. A series of blind arcades and an elaborate chicane defended the principal entry.