Buoux is a speck of a village, and yet it can be thought of as the Luberon’s biggest and most mysterious museum. A tiny place with a handful of houses, even on foot you can be in and out before you realise it. And yet this mountainous nook in the folds of the Luberon is home to a preserved castle, an amazing ruined fort high above, a 13th century Romanesque church, cliffs and caves that provided shelter in prehistoric times and are now a rock-climbing mecca of global renown.
The story of Buoux starts in the valley of the Aiguebrun river, where a cave at the foot of a cliff (called a ‘baume’) was a dwelling for humans some 60,000 years ago. Long ago the spur of rock up above was recognised as an outstanding defensive stronghold, with a sharp drop on every side. At points where the crop is not vertical, ramparts were built, making the fort at Buoux almost impregnable.
In the 1660s Louis XIV ordered the fort of Buoux to be destroyed. Some of the fort was spared – there are vestiges of three sets of defensive walls, the church, silos and cisterns carved from the rock, a dungeon and what may be a sacrificial rock.
After exploring what remains of the fort, you are left with the most memorable aspect of this place – the view. High up, panoramic, over the ravines of the mountain, the plateau of the Claparedes, you see what people here saw thousands of years ago, all the way to Mont Ventoux, over 20 miles away, without a sign of human habitation in between. Come at sunrise or sunset and it is a spiritual experience.
Down in the village of Buoux, life centres on some important staples of life in Provence: lavender, honey, goat cheese and truffles. Nothing else matters.