Visits to medieval castle gardens have been a feature of my life for many years and, although many castles are in ruins, there are still some where gardens can still be enjoyed along with the original medieval kitchen they supplied. Walk into one of these kitchens and you can instantly imagine the medieval recipes that were conjured up there! The castle cooks must at times have been under tremendous pressure when preparing for a special celebration.
In addition to fresh meat, poultry and fish, a castle cook needed a ready supply of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs. Hence why many castles created and cultivated their own medieval garden. There are some great examples of medieval castle gardens that can still be seen today. Amongst the many that I have personally visited, photographed and filmed is the amazing French medieval castle at Castelnaud-La-Chapelle in the Dordogne.
French Medieval Castle Kitchens & Gardens
Before I delve into the kitchen and medieval garden of this amazing castle, I’d like to help you absorb its surroundings, atmosphere and location.
Castle Location & Architecture
Looking up from the valley below, you wonder how the medieval builders ever got the stone up there for the construction of this castle! The location is quite incredible and is brought home very clearly once you are up inside the castle grounds. As this short video clip shows, the strategic importance it once had cannot be underestimated.
The view from inside the castle was no less breathtaking! This is just one of the photos I took looking down over the river Dordogne.
The castle also has a unique silhouette with its main donjon and additional inner perimeter wall highlighted against the sky.
This artist’s impression is published (with permission) here for the first time – painted by my dear friend and talented artist Tricia Brownbill. Thank you Tricia, I love it!
Inside The Medieval Castle Kitchen
The preservation of this castle is impressive to say the least and this includes a medieval kitchen which makes you feel like you have travelled back in time.
I took this photograph standing in the kitchen, trying to take in all the different aspects of what a medieval cook had at their disposal. Key things to notice in the photo:
- the scale and size of the fireplace – you can walk into up and stand up inside!
- the bread oven in the side wall where many medieval bread recipes were baked. Notice the heat-scorched marks above it.
- the storage of grain in the corner plus jars and crockery in a wall shelf.
- the meat and game (replicas here of course!) hung awaiting preparation for cooking.
The Medieval Castle Garden At Castelnaud-La-Chapelle
The castle garden that greets the visitor today is a replica of what was once there. The attention to detail and accuracy of what once grew here and supplied the medieval kitchen is stunning. A real culinary treasure trove! As was common practice in medieval times, the garden is split into quadrants, each dedicated to a specific type of plant including ones used for medicinal as well as culinary use. The herbs and flowers grown here were popular in medieval France with many still as popular today. Medieval herbs are a key feature.
With the river Dordogne a key feature in the nearby landscape, it is very likely that fish was often on the menu at the castle. Here is a medieval fish recipe using freshwater fish, herbs, wine and breadcrumbs – the type of dish that might have been prepared in this castle’s medieval kitchen. Interested to know more about what a medieval garden was like? Here’s my dedicated medieval garden page.
The romance of a medieval garden has been portrayed in many art forms from art to music and literature. I have a special feature about this here, previously published in the Medieval Recipes Blog. There are many amazing medieval castles in France and here is a great web page which goes into detail on several of my favourites including Chinon – Read about French medieval castles.