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The River Armançon

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The river rises in the Côte d’Or, south of Pouilly-en-Auxois and goes through one of the finest medieval towns in the region then on to some most magnificent châteaux.

The source of the river is close to Chailly-sur-Armançon where one of the finest hotels in Burgundy is situated. Owned by Japanese industrialist Mike Sata, the château-hotel offers golf, ballooning and all luxury facilities.


The medieval town of Semur-en-Auxois rises up from the banks of the Armançon. This pretty gorge, painted by numerous artists each year, offers rampart walks leading to the cobbled streets and attractive restaurants. Huge cracks may have appeared in the mighty turrets but this fortress town lives on.

The Canal de Bourgogne joins the river at Buffon. Here you might like to stop off for a meal at Le Marronnier which has a leafy terrace on the canal bank. (If you are touring, don’t miss L’Abbaye de Fontenay and the Château de Bussy-Rabutin while you are in this neck of the woods.)

Passing close to Montbard, Les Forges de Buffon on the river is of interest. George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a scholar in the 18th C, most famous for his history of nature ‘Histoire Naturelle’, a work which ran to 36 volumes! He was responsible for the royal gardens in Paris but preferred his birthplace, Montbard, to life in the capital.

At Montbard he transformed the château and gardens. But being an advanced thinker in his time, he experimented with minerals and the development of iron and steel commercially setting up forges and diverting water from the river Armançon to power them. The forges were in full swing between 1768 and 1866 producing tools and weapons for the Napoleonic Wars. Beside the grand house, four hundred workers lived at the foundry and site has been reconstructed to give a vivid impression of the life and times. Montbard still has a steel industry to this day.

Pretty villages have sprung up along the river including Perrigny-sur-Armançon, home of Roland Gillot with his angora goats. You can visit the ‘bergerie’ and little shop Mohair d’Armançon to see hand-crafted products of a high quality.

Château d’Ancy le Franc is the first of the magnificent châteaux in the area. Its rich interior is one of the finest in Burgundy, and a visit is well recommended.

Château de Tanlay

Next, on to Château de Tanlay, another fine example of French Renaissance architecture. Two enormous obelisks guard the bridge over the moat, and the domed turrets create a powerful impact. There is an exceptional example of trompe d’oeil in the long gallery and interesting oil paintings.

Tonnerre has two particular points of interest, the Ancien Hôpital and the Fosse Dionne. The former was built by Marguerite de Bourgogne, wife of Charles d’Anjou in 1293, predating the Hospices de Beaune by 150 years. Widowed at 36, Marguerite spent her life helping the poor and sick and is buried in the chapel. The Hôpital with its oak and chestnut barrel vaulted ceiling is in tact but its imposing decorated tiled roof was destroyed during the Revolution and replaced with a lesser version.

The Fosse Dionne is a natural spring, encircled by the old lavoir, or wash-house. The depth has never been discovered, despite attempts by divers to explore the rocky galleries, giving rise to all sorts of legends. No one knows where the spring goes to – divers have explored 360 m along the passageways but as three were killed in the process, the exploration attempts have been discontinued. The story goes that it leads to hell. The pool flows over into the Armançon.

Finally, for an overview of the river valley, visit the church on top of the hill at St-Florentin. This was the site of a Roman fort, commanding fine views over the Armançon. The river now ends its journey, flowing into the Yonne, south of Joigny.