Puycelsi is known as ‘the fortress in the woods’ because it seems like it springs magically from the very heart of the forest. Planted as it is on a rocky outcrop, the village offers one of the best views in the region, the beauty of the countryside stretching as far as the eye can see.
Puycelsi, "the fortress in the woods"
It’s not surprising that Puycelsi is classed as one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’. It’s a unique place, offering something you won’t have seen before. From the first time you spy the village perched on top of its promontory overlooking the forests, you know it’s special. Then once you’ve climbed up the hill there are more pleasant surprises. And it’s a lot easier now by car, bike or motorcycle than it was in medieval times when you would have been on foot, wearing armour, and being ‘greeted’ by arrows and boiling oil! Today the welcome is rather warmer, more like a genuine smile from villagers who’ve reclaimed this old fortress to make it a haven of peace.
In 1180, the abbot Pierre d’Aurillac sold the estate to Raymond V, the Count of Toulouse, who’d spotted the strategic importance of the site. The Counts of Toulouse fortified the area and built a castle, now long since gone, which all evidence leads us to believe was their favourite.
Staying loyal to the Count of Toulouse, Puycelsi twice resisted attacks from the Montforts during the Albi Crusades; once from Simon de Montfort in 1211, and once from his brother Guy in 1213. Neither of them managed to seize the citadel. In 1229, the treaty of Meaux that marked the end of the Albi Crusades stipulated that the 25 towns that had resisted the victors should be destroyed and Puycelsi began to be demolished.
Nevertheless, the village still valiantly resisted other invaders: Vicomte de Montclar’s mercenary soldiers in 1363, 450 Englishmen during the 100 Years War, and even Sieur de Payrol, who was defeated in the Wars of Religion.
Today, Puycelsi is a place you simply have to visit. It’s the perfect stop before heading into the Forest of Grésigne, with its 7000 acres of chestnut and sessile oak trees, and its unmissable nature trails, featuring a choice of circuits that start and end in the village. The village itself has been completely renovated and it’s a joy to discover the tranquillity of its winding streets and half-timbered ‘colombage’ houses that have been amazingly well preserved since the Middle Ages.
While you’re there, have a look inside the Sainte Cornaille church with its astonishing blue painted ceiling, decorated with acanthus leaves and scenes from the passion of Christ. Or check out the old parapet walk, a great way to look around this fortified village and see its amazing views across the countryside.
From 15/06 to 15/09, parking is prohibited for visitors at the top of the village.
However, a badge is still issued to residents and visitors who have booked a gîte or bed and breakfast in the village of Puycelsi.
People with disabilities can also ride with their vehicle, parking spaces are reserved for them.
A drop-off zone and a 15min stop zone are reserved for people to do some shopping or formalities in the village.