The first Harry Potter film wowed viewers with its portrayal of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the fictional British boarding school where Harry, Ron, and Hermione came of age while foiling a multitude of sorcerous plots. With its soaring turrets, deep dungeons, and geographic situation in the midst of here-be-dragons landscapes (e.g. the Forbidden Forest and the mermaid-haunted Great Lake), Warner Brothers’ Hogwarts is a fine example of escapism done right.
Few are aware that Hogwarts has a real-life doppelgänger in Auvergne: the Chateau de Val — a fifteenth-century castle in the commune of Lanobres in Cantal. Perched — with its picturesque machicolated towers — atop a rocky promontory overlooking the Bort-les-Orgues lake, the castle could easily be mistaken for the lonely residence of some banished wizard or alchemist. But despite its uncanny resemblance to Hogwarts, the Chateau de Val has no ostensible magical associations. Originally, the castle was part of an aristocratic estate, the holdings of which included vast tracts of forested land in the Dordogne Valley. In the 1950s, however, the entire property was flooded in order to create the Bort-les-Orgues dam. The Chateau de Val and its adjoining chapel were the only structures left standing.
Today the castle is owned by the Bort-les-Orgues municipality. In addition to serving as a museum, concert hall, and exhibition space, the Chateau de Val functions as an exclusive bed and breakfast. Visitors can rent an entire apartment and effectively have a section of the castle to themselves. The apartment — which can host up to four guests — features two bedrooms, a private bathroom, a kitchen and dining room area, and a terrace. It is hard to imagine a more romantic setting. The grounds of the chateau also include a sandy beach as well as a docking area for boat trips.
For more tips on must-see attractions in Auvergne, click “Trip Ideas” below.