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Montmeilleur Castle

Buildings and land

Montmeilleur is an ancient fortress in south-eastern France, 60 km south of Grenoble in an isolated mountainous region called “Le Trièves”. The closest town, 3 km away, is Mens.

The oldest parts of the fortress, the foundations, are said to be about a thousand years old. Much of the main building, as it stands today, goes back to the fifteenhundreds. Of course, over the centuries, the building has been damaged numerous times by wars or fire, has suffered from neglect, was plundered during the French revolution of 1789 and finally “modernized” in 1875. By the time the current property company acquired it in 2002 it was a mess, in desperate need of restoration.

While most of the historic elements of the interior had disappeared, the outside has retained some of its medieval or renaissance appearance. The four remaining towers are a testimony of its function as a fortress, probably to the end of the 16th century. After the last great armed upheaval of the middle ages, the religious wars of the 1560s, the building lost its military function and some of its defensive features disappeared: moats, girding walls, drawbridge were replaced by terraces, gardens and outbuildings and gradually, the old fortress was turned into what the French call a “château de plaisance”.


Montmeilleur’s daunting aspect as a fortress can still be imagined from the main courtyard, the “Cour des Paysans” where the village folks would gather with their animals in times of unrest. In medieval times there were, for sure, far fewer and smaller openings in the walls than today – one wanted to be protected from enemies and give them as few opportunities to penetrate into the building as possible.

On the garden side the aspect is far friendlier – lovely carved renaissance stone windowcases and lintels and an octagonal tower overgrown with roses, glycinia and vines give Montmeilleur the look of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

The outbuildings which served as stables and barns testify to the property’s main function in peacetime: a large agricultural operation. Fortunately, previous owners did not sell their land piecemeal and today Montmeilleur is surrounded by its 45 hectares of fields and forest. No chemical fertilizer, weedkiller or pesticides are used on the property.


While little is known of the history of the building – no building permits in medieval times, and the castle archives were burned during the revolution – the owners can be traced back to the XIth century. The period of ownership by the Morges family throughout the middle ages is outstanding – it lasted more than four centuries. Followed a succession of prominent families, often absentee owners, living in Grenoble or Marseille. For a list of landlords, please consult this document: landlords (available only in French).

In 2002 the property was acquired by a non-profit foundation with the mission of restoring the buildings and opening the property to the local population and to visitors as a meeting place and for cultural activities.


Restoration took 10 years, employing up to 25 craftsmen and –women, all locals, at peak times. Great care was taken by management to respect historic substance, to restore it using traditional materials and to try to visualize what its historic appearance might have been where its elements had been destroyed or lost.

Floors, doors and windows, the library and many furniture items were made out of walnut wood in the property’s own carpentry shop, tiles were fashioned by hand and painted in the ceramic shop, lime paints were used throughout as was hemp for insulation.

Putting in modern amenities such as electric lighting, bathrooms, kitchens and central heating was a real challenge and was, of course, a compromise with the historic aspect of the interior – but today who would want to use a chamberpot or to take a monthly bath in a wooden tub?

Interested? Please browse through our before and after album.

Getting to Montmeilleur

Montmeilleur is located pretty much in the middle of nowhere and while it can be reached by air, train or bus, a car comes in pretty handy, not only to get there, but also to explore the superb surroundings.

By car

Montmeilleur can be reached via Grenoble in the North or Gap and Sisteron in the South. Either way, the last 25 km are over narrow winding country roads. Driving time from Grenoble is 50 minutes, from Gap or Sisteron it is 1 hour and 20 minutes.

For details please consult the road map.

By train

The Trièves region is on the Grenoble – Aix en Provence railway line. The closest train station is Clelles – Mens, 16 km away. Up to nine trains a day connect with Grenoble and Aix en Provence through Veynes. For schedules please consult Taxi service to Montmeilleur is available at Clelles railway station.

 By bus

Bus service to the closest town, Mens, is poor with only a few buses a day. Please consult

By air

The closest airports, Grenoble and Chambery, are no longer served by scheduled carriers, although there are frequent charter flights in wintertime. Information can be found on the airport websites.

The closest airport with numerous scheduled flights by all major carriers and by low-cost airlines is Lyon St. Exupery, an hour and 45 minutes away by car. Half hourly bus service between Lyon airport and downtown Grenoble is available. See

The adventurous can fly in to Montmeilleur’s grass runway with single-engine aircraft or light twins. For details see Montmeilleur Airfield.

 Cultural and social activities

The property is available for cultural and social activities and has become somewhat of a cultural center for the Trièves region.


Culture and sports associations, golden age clubs, schools, artists, all are invited to use the buildings and gardens of the property for their activities. For non-profit organizations the use is generally free of charge.

The property is also made available for weddings, parties or events of local folks.

For details of the current year’s events please consult the schedule.

If you want to organize an event, please contact management under

Cottage and apartment rentals

Cottages in the outbuildings and apartments or rooms in the main castle building are available for rental. Please consult the cottage and apartment rental page.