Those travellers who have an eye for the wayward and the gothic should wind their way to the oft-overlooked ruins of Montrognon. Situated fifteen minutes way from Clermont-Ferrand in the uplands of the village of Ceyrat, Montrognon is one of the last remnants of a time when Auvergne was ruled — some would say terrorised — by feudal lords called seigneurs. In former times it was a full-fledged, battlemented castle that enabled its aristocratic owners to spot danger from afar. Those days are long gone, however, and a half-dilapidated tower is all that remains of Montrognon’s past. And yet, like a wayside chateau out of a Gothic novel — it stands austere and alone on the summit of a hill encircled by towering pines and thickets of hawthorn, rose, and sloe.
The ruins of Montrognon are accessible via a precipitous path that starts from a cul-de-sac at the end of the Avenue de Fontimbert. It takes about twenty minutes to reach the top, but hikers should be careful not to ascend or descend too quickly, as the trail is full of loose stones that could easily send incautious persons tumbling down the hillside. On clear days, the summit becomes a natural observation deck, offering magnificent views of the puy de Dôme and the Limagne.
A piece of advice: those who consider themselves romantics should journey to Montragnon at dusk. Take a bottle of wine, some local St Nectaire cheese, and perhaps a a few slices of saucisson — the dry-cured sausages so loved by the French. Sit hand-in-hand with your partner amidst the ruins of a lost age and watch the sun dive beneath the purple-hued sky. As the crickets buzz around you and the bats flit around the mouldering battlements, feel the wind as it tickles your skin. Look above and count the stars, sparkling like crystals in a dimly lit cave. Take a moment to reflect. No fees, no bills, no bookings and yet — a date night like no other. You are in Auvergne.
For more tips on must-see attractions in Auvergne, click “Trip Ideas” below.