The Pierres Dorées (Golden Stones) are certainly aptly named! More than just the colour, the stones reflect the light wonderfully and bring a striking brightness to these villages in the heart of the countryside and the winegrowing area in the south of the Beaujolais region. Visitors enjoy strolling around the luminous streets while the challenge for photographers is to capture the sheer brilliance of the light.
It is sad to think that no more houses will ever be built in Pierre Dorées but, in a way, isn’t that what makes this architecture so unusual? Would we appreciate these sunlit villages in their green setting quite so much if they weren’t unique?
In the past these limestone rocks tinged with iron oxide were extracted from quarries in the south of the Beaujolais region. The quarries were worked until there was no stone left. The majority of the Pierres Dorées (Golden Stones) were used in buildings in the Beaujolais and Lyon areas. Then, at some point during the First World War, it all came to an end. All the golden stones had been used up.
Today all the quarries are abandoned, except one! No, it’s not the last bastion of Asterix’s indomitable Gauls...... it’s simply that this was where the “Pierres Folles” (Crazy Stones) was built. It’s a geology museum that tells the story of the rocks and stones used to build these houses in the Beaujolais region.
A place to be creative
More than a journey back into the past, the 39 villages in Pierre Dorées open the door to a far-off culture. Here you’ll be able to admire old and incredibly beautiful architectural styles.
Dwellings with their original 15th century fireplaces, wine tasting cellars with heavy doors that welcome you in, wash-houses that are a reminder of the days before washing machines existed and village squares with historic monuments.
These charming villages in sparkling yellow welcome painters, cartoonists and all kinds of artists seeking inspiration. A day strolling around the Beaujolais countryside, stopping off in one of the Pierres Dorées villages is enough to inspire anyone.
And imagine all that with an excellent glass of Beaujolais wine in your hand! You’ll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of these villages from the terraces of restaurants and bars during the many local festivals and fêtes.
The Pierre Dorées Route, follow the guide
Don’t know where to start? Why not with Montmelas-Saint-Sorlin and its fortified castle built in Golden Stones? It’s a magnificent building set in a vast, immaculate French-style garden with picturesque rural walks. You could also stroll around Theizé and admire the Château de Rochebonne, another entirely yellow building.
Continue on to the village of Oingt with its ochre tower that dates from 1183. It’s ten metres tall and you can climb up to the top for a spectacular view of the Beaujolais region. It’s the perfect place to observe the rolling hills where the gentle greens of the vines sit so well with the dazzling ochre of the villages in Pierre Dorées.
Another village that lovers of nature and old buildings will be dazzled by is Chamelet. This small town, located between the Beaujolais vineyards and the pasturelands, has a wonderful 16th century covered market and is the former stronghold of the Lords of Beaujeu.
Go for a picturesque stroll around the streets of Belmont-d’Azergues, a charming fortified village where the floral displays make the Golden Stones seem that bit brighter. You’ll also enjoy the streets and vaulted passageways in Chasselay that has kept the feel of a medieval walled town.
So, if you’re looking for a romantic or relaxing getaway, come and experience the “Dolce Vita” in Pierres Dorées country...