In June 2005 we visited Montsegur with my brother Grant. Today we returned and have enjoyed rediscovering this amazing place.
Unlike our first visit, no-one fell through rotting planks on the raised entry platform of the castle. We identified the new plank of wood where Ollie, as a three-year-old, partly fell through nine years ago. We took great care on the difficult track up from the car park, and treaded very carefully on the stairs up to the castle entry.
Montsegur is the most stunning castle site I’ve ever seen. There is this hill with cliffs and steep drop-offs on all sides. The location is reputed to have been inhabited for tens of thousands of years. Somehow people built fortifications on the top. There was never any water source up there, which must have made it difficult to survive beseigement. I read that in 1243 some Cathar people defended the site against an army of 10,000 invading crusaders, but after about a year they surrendered and were burned at the stake.
We parked at the bottom of the hill and began the steep climb. A short distance up the path we came to a small hut where we paid an entry fee to continue up to the castle. I speculate that in many countries, including New Zealand, paying a fee like that would set up some sort of implied contract. The site managers would have a duty of care, which would probably result in barring entry to the more dangerous parts of the site, and warning visitors to take care. Not here. It’s a hazardous site but you enter at your own risk. Like our first visit with Grant in 2005, we carried a baby in a sling, so had to tread very careful on slippery rocks and mud. At the top, no barriers stop you and your kids getting close to the cliff tops, or climbing high up the ruined walls. It’s wild and it feels wild. I wouldn’t recommend taking kids up there in snow or ice. But we had good weather. The views from the top are stunning in all directions.