Perched on a butte high above the Luberon, Fort de Buoux is not for the acrophobic. It seems France may be one of the last bastions of taking responsibility for your own actions, and guard rails are nowhere to be seen in this 12th century fort.
If you fancy a spot of cardio to work off the croissants and are in the mood for a bit of a scramble (or wanting to wear the kids out!), then this is a worthy detour off the beaten track. Easily reached from Apt, Fort de Buoux (pronounced byooks, or so I could gather) is a spine tingling trip into the past and an impressive reminder of how resourceful we can be when we want to be.
Even the hike up from the car park will have you breathing a little harder, if not for the steep uphill slog, then for the impressive overhanging cliff. Seeing the enormous boulders piled up underneath (that looked disturbingly fresh!), it’s hard to feel more than an insignificant speck – the sheer scale of the cliffs in this area are truly incredible and you can understand why they’ve acted as shelter for people for thousands of years.
But once past the ticket office (take a peek into the quaint sitting room), the trail gets even more interesting. Not much more than a rocky path winding up the side of the cliff, it gradually brings you to the top of the butte and your first glance at the fort that was. A tower still stands guard over the entrance arch to the site and you get a small insight into how impressive the fort must have been.
Wandering over to the very edge of the butte, it was hard not to test out our Aussie bush calls. A loud “coo-ee” produced the most amazing echo and after quite a bit of practising (and laughter!), we were amused to hear some returning calls coming from farther up the fort! It seems others couldn’t help but test out the echo as well. I wonder if bored guardsmen did the same thing 800 years ago.
Along with the entrance ticket, you receive a guide to the fort and working your way up through the ruins will take you past guardrooms, lavatories, a church, grain stores and various battlements. Perhaps the most exciting is the Hidden Staircase. This is one of the 2 ways down from the Fort and there was no way I was going to miss it.
The initial part was indeed a rocky staircase but then we were lead along the ridge line, ducking under bushes and scrambling amongst rocky slopes and not seeming to get any lower. And then we reached the staircase. I’ve never seen such a steep and forbidding staircase. Each step was about knee high and the climb down certainly left my thighs trembling. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted but if you don’t mind heights and your knees are in good working order, there’s no reason you couldn’t tackle the staircase – it’s certainly a memorable way to get down!
If you’re in the area and have an hour or two to spare (in good weather), the Fort is definitely an interesting diversion and will certainly help combat the goats cheese and confit you may have over-indulged in, or is that just me??