Some villages in the Bidache region
The location of Bidache, on the banks of the River Bidouze has encouraged river trade, particularly Bidache stone used for its hardness and characterized by its blue veins. The port with parapets, similar to those of Guiche and Came, makes it possible to manage the rise and fall of the waters due to tidal flow from the Atlantic Ocean.
Ask the tourist office for information about the heritage trail in order to fully appreciate the characterful houses along the main street, the old ramparts walk and Gramont Castle visible from its esplanade. Situated just a few kilometres from the village on the road to Saint-Palais, Gramont Bridge is a pleasant place to have a picnic or go for a paddle in the water in summer.
Bergouey-Viellenave and Arancou
Both villages are crossed by the Via Turonensis Way of St. James from Tours (the GR 655) which then heads for Saint-Palais and Saint-Jean Pied de Port. Saint-Jacques le Majeur church, in Bergouey-Viellenave, was built in the Middle Ages and restored in the 19th century : you can enjoy this beautiful ensemble with the bridge and the mill on the River Bidouze.
In Arancou, the town hall set up the Bourthaire guest house in an old 13th century farmhouse to provide accommodation for pilgrims. Visit the beautiful church nearby, very similar to the one in Bergouey-Viellenave.
The Castle of the Dukes of Gramont
From the Middle Ages ...
In the 11th century, the Lords of Gramont built a fortress in Viellenave-sur-Bidouze (today Bergouey-Viellenave) on the hill known as Butte de la Moulary. In the first half of the 13th century, this castle was taken by the King of Navarre, then by the King of England’s troops. The Gramonts then decided to settle in Bidache. Commencing in the 13th century, they built a stronghold: an imposing monumental building ideally placed to monitor everyone coming from the Landes, Béarn or Navarre regions. For centuries, the castle was subjected to several attacks and fires, including the terrible attack in 1523 led by Charles V under the orders of William of Orange.
The prosperous period
Gramont Castle was quickly rebuilt each time, each generation of the lords of Gramont bringing new embellishments to it. A defence castle until the 16th century, it was transformed into a holiday residence in the 17th century with an Orangery, magnificent gardens, stables, refined banquets ... The reputation of Bidache Castle was well established !
The Gramonts in the 16th century, at the head of 2,000-strong Navarre troops wearing red berets, lavishly welcomed Dukes and Duchesses from all over the Kingdom of France. At the end of the century, their successors, attracted by Versailles, abandoned Bidache in preference for other French Court residences. While it was uninhabited, an accidental fire completely devastated it in 1796. Overlooking the Bidouze valley, all that remains of the medieval castle is the imposing keep, called the rondache.
Visiting Bidache Castle
In order to preserve this magnificent heritage site, which was still greatly damaged ten or so years ago, the Basque Country Urban Community invested in its restoration and allowed visitors to discover it in complete safety. Gramont Castle has opened its doors for guided tours.
Bénédicte, our local storyteller, recalls its tumultuous history and invites us to imagine its bygone splendour. You can even go up on the rampart walk around the keep and enjoy a 360° panorama overlooking the Pyrenees and the Landes region. See the schedules of the guided tours in Bidache Castle (SIT link)