Montbrun les Bains
The pretty village of Montbrun les Bains, classed as one of the prettiest villages in France, is built on 6 levels of a hill in the beautiful and remote Baronnies, a wonderful and secret corner of northern Provence.
High Point Holidays runs a guided walking holiday, as well as in independent walking tour in this quiet part of Provence and Montbrun les Bains is a must-see stop on both French walking holidays. The guided walking holiday stays for three nights in the lovely Maison de Marguerite close to the village, where guests can enjoy the pool and delicious cuisine. Our self-guided walking holiday: Secret Provence - Tour of the Baronnies, passes through Montbrun-les-Bains at the end of the first day, starting out in Sault, passing through the pretty village of Aurel before arriving at Montbrun.
Montbrun les Bain was the southern outpost of the Barons of Mévouillon who ruled over the Baronnies from the 11th century for more than 300 years and later became the stronghold of Charles Dupuy-Montbrun, the best known of the Protestant military commanders in the Provence during the Religious Wars. At the base of the village there are a number of shops, bars and other services. There is a Provence market on Saturday mornings which sells produce from local producers and is a last stop on our guided walking holiday before leaving the Baronnies.
From the bottom of the village, you enter the upper historic village by walking through the gate of the belfry. The historic heart of Montbrun les Bains has a wonderful collection of 16th century stone dwellings perched precariously on the hillside and often on several levels, whilst above the remnants of the Montbrun-Dupuy château sits on top of the hill.
The village church of Montbrun les Bain sits above the southern entrance to the village and has been modified greatly over time. It was originally constructed in the 14th century and was for a time a Calvinist Temple during the Protestant uprising. The Catholics then regained the church, enlarged it and added a high baroque style. Recent restoration has enhanced some frescoes from the end of the middle ages. Another feature of Montbrun les Bains which can be seen on both our guided and independent walking holidays is the belfry tower, which is a well conserved relic of 13th century military architecture. This ancient defensive structure still has many of its original features such as the arrow slits. Unfortunately the Renaissance chateau is only visible from the outside as it is in private ownership. However you can get an idea of its splendour by walking around its edge. The original medieval Chateau was destroyed by Royal decree in 1560. In its place Charles Dupuy-Montbrun had a large chateau built which was one of the most beautiful in the region.
Charles Dupuy-Montbrun became a passionate ambassador for the new protestant movement and led many sieges in the name of this new religion, with his friend the Baron des Adrets. In 1575 Charles was injured and captured by the catholic Baron de Gordes of Provence, before being decapitated. He became known as the “brave captain”. Our independent walking notes include further details.
Montbrun les Bains has a large number of fountains in the old village, but it’s not this water that has given Montbrun les Bains a new lease of life. To the east of the village lies a sulphurous water source which has been known through the ages but was first exploited for tourism by the Count of Aulan, who built a thermal spa in 1860. After some difficult times during the 20th century, the spa is now a popular place for treatment and relaxation. Montbrun’s spa treatments are known for managing respiratory disease and other medical disorders. The thermal spa is reserved in the morning for medical purposes, but it is open to the general public in the afternoon for a range of spa, health and beauty treatments.
Les Baronnies is a secret and unspoilt corner of France where the Alps meet the Provence with beautiful historic villages clinging to rocky mountain sides decorated in purple lavender flowers. This region of mountains reaching around 1500m in height is hidden away from the mass tourism elsewhere in the Provence and is due to be classed a regional park in 2012.
Sheltered by the mountains, the Baronnies' privileged position and distinct climate gives this part of Provence a remarkable light that draws you into the rugged and beautiful landscapes laid out before you. But it's not just your sight that will be bombarded, it is also a region where wild Thyme, Lavender, herbs and pine produce a wonderfully scented landscape. Each corner of this fascinating area has its own characteristics.
Early summer is perhaps the best time to visit as you are more or less assured good weather and the Lavender is starting to flower. We have chosen our guided walking holiday: Secret Provence - Les Baronnies, to coincide with this period, whilst are independent walking tour is available from April to June and in September and October.
More detailed information about the Climate of the Baronnies in Provence, southern France.
Take a look at our slideshow of the Baronnies region of France