Around the castle
Step out of the castle and go from one magical world into another. With Burgundy ‘s wine regions now World Heritage Listed, and together with the already listed Abbey de Fontenay and Vezelay, the only difficult decision will be lunch. With Chablis, the Abbey and Vezelay just 30 to 40 minutes away you’d be challenged to find a more beautiful region at your doorstep anywhere in the world. Nearer to home, is the enchanting medieval village of Noyers and the local butcher, dairy, and farm for all your supplies.
Abbey de Fontenay
Fontenay Abbey in Burgundy was founded in 1118 by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a leading French saint, and is the oldest preserved Cistercian abbey in the world. Recognized as French historic monument in 1862, it was declared World Heritage by Unesco in 1981. It was one of the first French monuments on this list, which has distinguished the exceptional interest of the Abbey and its natural environment.
Distance from Castle: 36 Minutes
Standing proud on the hillside overlooking the Cure valley, the Basilique Ste Marie-Madeleine dominates the enchanting town of Vézelay. Climb to the top of the hill, past the boutiques and galleries, cafes and restaurants and there you will find pretty alleyways and courtyards bourgeoning with geraniums throughout summer. Wander around the ramparts, pass the traditional old houses and soak up the atmosphere of Burgundy at its best. The medieval town is well preserved with 15th, 16th and 17th century houses, gates and ramparts and it is classified as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Distance from Castle: 43 Minutes
Placed centrally in Burgundy, Avallon has been important strategically in history. This fortified town lies between two ravines and from the ramparts you can look across the rooftops to the Valley of the Cousin. It is a quiet market town now, but it is ideally situated for forays into the Morvan Forest and exploring the centre of region.
Avallon really comes alive on Saturday morning when the market comes to town in the Place Géneral-de-Gaulle. Morvan honey, local cheeses such as the Abbaye de la Pierre-qui-Vire and wine from the Auxois are specialities to look out for. There are several excellent suppliers in town such as butcher-charcuterie Viandes et Terroirs in Grande-Rue-Aristide-Briand. For a good value lunch head to Bar le Relax on Rue Lyon. This unimposing café is frequented by local businessmen and is always full.
Distance from Castle: 30 minutes
Famous Grottes d'Arcy – ancient cave paintings
The most ancient decorated cave in the world after that of Chauvet. With evocative paintings from the medium and late palaeolithic age in northern France, the Grottes d’Arcy is located south of the Paris basin, between Auxerre and Avallon.
It includes a set of caves dug out by the Cure river into a coral massif that emerged at the end of the secondary era.
Paintings in numerous panels display over 140 graphic units, including sixty animals. Animal life, mainly focusing on mammoths (50 %) it is made up of species rarely represented in other decorated caves but which are to found in the fairly similar proportions in the cave of Chauvet, Ardèche, (bears, rhinos, felines and birds).
Distance from Castle: 35 minutes
This is the town where Chocolat was filmed. Built around a Benedictine abbey founded in the 8C, this Burgundian village not only relates its medieval history through its ramparts, fortified gates, cobblestone streets, houses and mansions but also through its aniseed-flavoured sweets that are still made in the former abbey and the smell of which will welcome you as you arrive !
Distance from Castle: 40 minutes
This is the most picturesque town in northern Burgundy. Pass by the geranium-clad lavoir, over the river Serein to the medieval gateway.
Inside the town walls there are half-timbered-houses, pigeonniers, pretty squares and arches dating from the 13th to 19th centuries. As the tourist information says: 'in Noyers, every stone is steeped in history: the church, chapels, cobbled streets and squares, the half-timbered houses, nestling in a loop of the river Serein and surrounded by a rich green landscape'.
Around town see groups of artists practising their skills and take a pleasant river walk, passing the old defence towers of the town. From April onwards the town comes alive. Enjoy a coffee or lunch and watch the world go by framed in medieval beauty. There’s a growing group of artists and craftsmen in the village, all worth checking out. See more on Noyers under “Food” below.
Distance from Castle: 12 minutes
A magical walk from the Castle into the local forest to discover a druidic Menhir – La Dame Blanche
Local historian, Ernest Petite said "The slender shapes and the delicacy of this menhir give rise to the idea that it could be enshrined in the Druidic religion to a deity represented by a young girl, as Néhalène goddess hunting, likened to Diana by the Romans." To get there: from Annoux and towards Châtel-Gérard, stop at the entrance of the first forest road on the right just after the sign indicating "Forest of Châtel-Gérard." Take this road for about 300 meters to reach the first road on the left Follow this road for 300 meters.
One of the most famous white wines in the world comes from this area in the north west of Burgundy. Monks from the Abbey of Pontigny were the first to plant Chardonnay grapes here on the slopes surrounding the River Serein realising that the microclimate in this area with its cold spring was essential for the dry, honey-scented flavour of the wine. The wines fall into four appellations: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. For an overview of Chablis wines, see Jancis Robinson's article in our Wine Region section.
There is evidence of the town’s lasting prosperity all around. The wine domains, the boutiques and specialist shops, the luxurious hotels and restaurants all herald the visitor. Visit Domaine Michel Laroche in Rue Auxerre or their wine bar, boutique hotel, restaurant and shop, the Hotel du Vieux Moulin, 18 Rue des Moulins, to taste some of the best of local wines. Laroche offers a one day wine course, with lunch included.
Distance from Castle: 30 minutes
Auxerre - Situated on the River Yonne, Auxerre is a very pleasant town with an unhurried air about it. The town originally became prosperous as an active port on the wine route. Then the railway superseded river transport and it turned into a trade backwater. Now holiday cruisers and hotel barges bring the river to life making it one of the focal points of the town. Stroll along the leafy boulevard on the bank and people-watch from the terraces of the cafes and restaurants. See the Cathedral visited by Joan of Ark then go to eat at Restaurant le Rendezvous
Distance from Castle: 44 minutes
Autun - This ancient Roman town backed by wooded hills, overlooking the Arroux Valley, is the main town. With 2000 years of history makes Autun a "must-see" town in Burgundy. Great for antiques and meandering.
Distance from Castle: 1.28 hr
The historic wine capital of Burgundy, Beaune is a walled town at the center of the Burgundy winemaking region. Surrounded by the world famous vineyards of the Côte de Beaune, the cobbled town is renowned for an annual wine auction held at the Hôtel-Dieu. Recognized by its colorful, geometric-patterned tile roof, this 15th-century former hospital is now the Hôtel-Dieu Museum, showcasing masterpieces like "The Jugement Dernier" by Rogier van der Weyden. The ancient walled town of Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy’s famous Côte d'Or vineyards, Pommard, Corton-Charlemagne, Romanée-Conti, Meursault, Santenay and Savigny-les-Beaune bring a twinkle to the eyes of wine lovers; Beaune is famous for the Hospice de Beaune (Hôtel-Dieu) Recognized by its colorful, geometric-patterned tile roof, this 15th-century former hospital is now the Hôtel-Dieu Museum, showcasing masterpieces like "The Jugement Dernier" by Rogier van der Weyden. Enjoy Wine tasting, museums, leisure activities, Wine Auction, cellars, restaurants year round.
Distance from Castle: 1.14 hr
Dijon is the capital city of the Burgundy region in eastern France, one of the country’s principal wine-producing areas. It’s known for its vineyard tours, autumn gastronomic fair and building styles from Gothic to art deco. The distinguished 1787 Musée des Beaux-Arts, housed in the vast Palace of the Dukes, holds a rich collection of paintings, sculptures, crafts and antiquities.
Distance from Castle: 1.24 hr