France // The north //

Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique

About 30km west of Laon and 15km north of Soissons, in hilly countryside on the far side of the forest of St-Gobain, lie the straggling ruins of one of the greatest castles of the Middle Ages, Coucy-le-Château. The castle’s walls still stand, encircling the attractive village of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique. In the past this was a seat of great power and the influence of its lords, the Sires de Coucy, rivalled and often even exceeded that of the king. The retreating Germans capped the destruction of World War I battles by blowing up the castle’s keep as they left in 1917, but enough remains, crowning a wooded spur, to be extremely evocative.