1. Aguilar is not technically open to the public in the evening, but I’ve always found that my favorite time to visit this Cathar château is at dusk.
2. Unlike nearby Quéribus, Peyrepertuse, and Montségur, Aguilar is mostly in ruins, today. It is as much an expression of the local terroir of the garrigue as it is a beacon of the medieval past of the region. The moniker of the “Cathar” chateau is a bit of a misnomer: this, like the other castles in the region, were actually built by the locals of the Languedoc, though they were used to protect the Cathars, dubbed heretics by the Catholic church, from being captured and tortured by the Spanish Inquisition.
3. From the inside of what remains of the castle, you can see the mountains all around you. You can also explore some of the former rooms of the chateau, including where soldiers would have been posted to defend it from invading armies. The French are far too stoic to really believe in hauntings (that’s something that I find is more often relegated to the Brits and the cemetery walks and ghost tours that you’ll find throughout the British Isles), but there’s something to be said for standing in the middle of all of that history and imagining all of the people who came before you.
4. When I first visited Aguilar ten years ago now (is that even possible?) I remember being caught off-guard by how few security barriers had been placed. It strikes me as something quite un-American, but I don’t hate it: it allows you to really take in the enormity of what was accomplished by the builders of the castle, not to mention how foreboding it must have been to attempt to take it.
5. And of course, those views really can’t be beat.