•Hérault (34160) • Population: 5,208 • Altitude: 70 m
Located just 10 km northeast of Montpellier, this ancient Roman town is today a bedroom community for its larger neighbor.
The most interesting historical site here is the 17th-century aqueduct built by Paul Riquet. Apart from that, we didn't find much of interest to visit in Castries.
The grand looking castle, Chateau de Castries, is privately owned and not open for visiting. There are a few medieval streets [Photo-04] close to the chateau, which we discovered while searching (vainly) for an entrance to the chateau or the famous park irrigated by the canals of Riquier. The best you can do for the chateau is get a glimpse of the towers from the south edge of town.
For the Chateau Gardens with the famous irrigation canals, we never did find a possible entrance, either open or closed.
The Roman Domitienne Way passed by the southern edge of Castries. Using the IGN map 2843OT, we visited the section still marked as the Ancienne Voie Romain, now part of the GR 653 hiking trail (Chemin d'Arles).
Located 3 km east of Castries center, "we were there", but there really isn't anything to see. This section of the trail is a straight, dusty road, and immediately adjacent to the autoroute.
Pont des Tourilles
This is apparently the meager remains of a small Roman bridge crossing a little stream 3 km northwest of Castries. The remains of the Pont des Tourilles is a stone arch that once supported the bridge [Photo-10]. We understood the context after seeing a similar, but more intact, Roman bridge at Vacquières [Photo-11].
To find the Pont des Tourilles, drive northwest out of town on the D26. The road goes straight as a die for 2 km before turning sharply right. Don't turn right; park on the left side of the road at the bend, and walk a couple of minutes more (still northwest) to find the bridge ruins.
Paul Riquet built a magnificent aqueduct in the 17th century (1670-1676) to bring water into the Castries castle from the northwest.
Some of the tall stone aqueduct is located at the northern edge of the town center, actually crossing the road into town [Photo-09].
Driving northwest out of town on the D26 (direction Guzargues), there's a section of tall aqueduct crossing the road less than a km out. A parking area on the right, just before crossing beneath the aqueduct, has an information panel describing some of the history of it.
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History of Castries
Prehistoric: A prehistoric burial grotto was located at La Carrière. Other nearby prehistoric sites were located at the roude de Baillargues (to the southeast), Le Moulinas and the Bois de Clastro.
Gallo-Roman: Castries was an ancient Roman castrum (hence its name) on the Roman Domitienne Way. A Roman villa was located at the Bois de Villemagne, to the northeast.
Medieval: The Castries castle was first mentioned in the 11th century, and rebuilt in the 15th century. The Duc du Rohan captured Castries in 1622, The commune was raised to the level of a marquisat 1645, and then a duchy in 1788.
Tel : 04 99 74 01 77; Fax: 04 99 74 01 78
We searched and searched all over the tiny "center" of Castries for mention of an Office de Tourisme. We walked up and down every possible street, toured all around the town, examined the shops and signs in the center, and never found any mention of a tourist office. No signs, no panels, no posters, nothing.
Imagine our feeling of stupidity when we discovered the bright, new Office de Tourisme building. All we had to do was drive into town from the south and it was right there beside the road. (Closed for mid-day and no way to park, but never mind.) Unfortunately we had arrived from the north, and were now leaving town.
• GPS: 43.67897, 3.98576
IGN (1/25,000) #2843 OT "Aigues-Mortes, La Grande-Motte"
The land here is pretty flat, and very built-up, with farms and properties, so isn't a great place for wandering. The GR 653 is a possibility for out-and-back hiking, but there aren't any loops. And the eastward part of the GR 653 follows beside the autoroute most of the way to Gallarguesl-le-Montueux.