Les Causses Run visits Château de Gudanes, French Pyrénées, France
This year we drove from Toulouse to Paris, covering over 1500km via the pre-planned road book, our own version of the Tour Auto. The cars met us via transporter from Paris in Toulouse at our first hotel on the Friday night. The classic cars included 2 Jaguar XK120’s Roadster, Austin Healey 100M, Triumph TR2, BMW1, Porsche 911, 912 and 930, Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato, and a Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 1and an MGB amongst others. Our visit to Chateau de Gudanes was to be the highlight of the weekend.
Image c/o Rémi Dargegen
The Chateau had been on organiser Etienne Raynaud’s radar for years (you can follow his classic car Instagram feed here), and with a ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’ attitude, wrote to the owners, to see if we could visit along the way. It was a date, lunch would be arranged by the Chateau and we had our first stop for Day 1.
Chateau de Gudanes has been plunged into the limelight recently, the story is a bit of a fairytale, recent articles in Harpers Bazaar, Vogue and the Huffington Post have done wonders to highlight this incredible restoration project. With a 192K followers on Instagram alone, owners Karina and Craig Waters’s personal blog, charts the daily life of the projects restoration, with a vast audience of subscribers.
After four years on the market, and two years of negotiation after their son found it on the internet, the Chateau was purchased by its new owners Karina and Craig Waters, who have been travelling between their home in Australia to the Chateau since the project began in 2013.
Built in the mid eighteenth century, and located on a ledge overlooking the Midi-Pyrénées, en route to Plateau de Beille, the Chateau was constructed on the site of an earlier fortress, dating back to the 13th century. You can read the Plateau de Baille full history on their website.
Over time the Chateau suffered tremendous neglect and fell into disrepair. The roof collapsed in four places resulting in extensive water damage, mould and destruction. The majority of the interior became rubble and was completely inaccessible, with the ceilings, wall and floors collapsing. The owners could just about walk through the front door when they first came to view the property.
“Our aim is to tread lightly and gently – to preserve the atmosphere and authenticity of the Chateau and region as much as possible. She will be renovated but her rawness, wear and history will not be erased, but instead integrated. In keeping with this, we also plan to use energy efficient principles and sustainable refurbishment. This means up cycling and recycling as much as possible, including building materials, design features and decor.
The Chateau won’t be a pretentious museum piece, but rather, a place to visit, reconnect with the earth and people, and restore the senses, just like she herself has been restored. It won’t be about overcrowding the walls with paintings or overflowing the floors with furnishings, but will be relatively minimalistic – a place to simply rest, breathe and enjoy the calm.” Karina Waters.
After a welcomed glass of fizz in front of the Chateau on arrival, we were invited to take a walk around before making our way to the dining room for lunch. A truly beautiful set up, with the sunlight beaming through the open windows, Spring had definitely sprung at Chateau de Gudanes.
After lunch we were offered a guided tour by the current guardians of the Chateau, Marianne and Tim. We learned more about the history and renovation plans for each space. Below you can see the the new concrete floors have begun to be poured upstairs, and a glimpse of previous decorative touches to the walls.
The Chateau hosted children’s camps during the holidays many years ago, children’s height charts from the 40’s and 50’s can still be seen, memories of times past.
In 1989 the Chateau was purchased by a Syndicate, with a plan to transform the remains of the Chateau into a luxury hotel with 17 apartments. However after the Chateau was classified as a historic monument by the Ministry of Culture and Communication in June 1994. They were faced with so many restrictions they unable to obtain planning permission. Over time, the unresolved dispute meant that the Chateau fell into disrepair until the Waters family took ownership and the restoration began in 2013.
The servants staircase from the bedrooms to the lower kitchens
Occasionally the family will accept invitations to assist in the restoration. In the image above, I discovered a corner of the Chateau filled with stacks of salvaged tiles ready to be laid. Their Instagram feed a few weeks ago shared some images of completed rooms. It’s amazing to see the place in real life and hear news of completed tasks. What an incredible project to be involved in as a volunteer.
Image c/o Rémi Dargegen
As we said our goodbyes, we headed back to the cars and began to make our way to Pic de Nore, the highest point in the Montagne Noire to watch the sun set.
Thank you to the Château for their most generous hospitality in welcoming us during our Easter run, we’ve memories to last many years.
Follow the updates of the Chateau’s progress via their blog, here.
Château de Gudanes, 09310, Château-Verdun, France
Images c/o Remi Dargegen & LWSY