Although we visited the Maison Forte de Reignac back in August, it seems all too fitting to post about it now in the run-up to Hallowe'en.
(Spot the excuse for being so slow at posting anyone?)
We arrived on a warm summers day to see the house that had been built into the rock many centuries before.
The car park was at the foot of the cliff and so we had to climb up a way before finding the old house. Smoke was pouring from the chimneys, mixing deliciously with the sunshine.
Yet to step inside was to enter a world of shadows and the past. And whilst at first everything felt relatively benign, as we discovered more about the history of the house and its inhabitants, an increasing sense of unease began to accompany us on our tour of the rooms.
After visiting a cosy kitchen area, the visitor is guided through to a chamber built into the rock which acts as a museum showing all of the objects found on the site, some dating from prehistoric times!
It was incredibly fascinating to see all these artefacts in the place they were actually discovered. In comparison the rooms of the house itself, which was built in the 14th century, seemed relatively modern!
The entire house is richly decorated and visitors are allowed to explore the rooms fully without any rooms being cordoned off which was great.
All of the rooms have at least one wall made from the original rock which helped the mansion become one of the strongest forts in the area. Despite the obvious lack of sunlight from these sides, there was a lot of light in the rooms although there was still a strong feeling of being deep inside a cave somehow.
I really enjoyed looking around the house - I'm a huge fan of spending weekends wandering around National Trust properties. I appreciate museums to an extent but find it much more exciting to see the items in their "natural environment" and get a better idea of what it would have been like to live in a different time and place. I don't know about you but it leaves so much more of an impression to really feel the atmosphere of a place.
There was one room though that had a little too much atmosphere.
It was the smallest room in the house. The walls were smooth and white and a couple of small portraits hung there. A small window overlooked the beautiful valley below. Yet this cosy, light-filled room which resembled a monk's cell in its clean simplicity harbours a troubling history.
According to writings from the time, it was the room of the Billy Goat of Reignac, a man who was well-renowned for exercising his right to the first night. This essentially means that newlyweds had to be presented to him and he was allowed to do whatever he liked with the poor bride.
The information sheets in the room detailed how he would have used the room's small dimensions to back the girls into corners with little hope of escape. Absolutely horrible. As we all stood there discovering the morbid history of the room, it felt like a cloud skimming across the sun.
As I was leaving the room, I hit my head on a low door frame. It didn't hurt (although it made a rather impressive "clunk") yet I couldn't stop myself from bursting into tears and then I couldn't stop crying for a good 10 minutes! It was the oddest feeling - I felt completely fine both mentally and physically yet the tears kept flowing and my shoulders continued to shake and shudder.
After that, the house didn't feel quite.. right.
After coming back outside into the daylight, there was an option of visiting an exhibition on medieval torture. I spent about 5 minutes in there before freaking out and coming out to get some air.
It may have been the middle of summer but it really felt like Hallowe'en had come early.