5 Loire Valley chateaux off the beaten track

It’s not all about Chambord, Chaumont and Chenonceau in the Loire Valley… there’s also Talcy, Beauregard and Villesavin. These ‘petits chateaux’ may not compete with their elders, but they’re equally worth a visit. Take advantage of the summer to explore and avoid the crowds. Here’s our guide.

The most poetic: Château de Talcy

Welcome to Talcy, home of poetry and romance! This 16th-century chateau not far from Blois was home to the love interests of poets Pierre de Ronsard and Agrippa d’Aubigné. Cassandre Salviati was the ‘mignonne’ of Ronsard, and his niece Diane was courted by Agrippa d'Aubigné, who dedicated his ‘Spring’ poem series to her. For the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance this year, they’ve come back to charm visitors with ‘The song of the muses’, a poetic course whose aural and visual installations evoke the two women. Also visit the “Charles IX” and “Catherine de Medici” rooms which recall the passage of the king and his mother to the chateau, during the Talcy ‘interview’ between Catholics and Protestants.
Château de Talcy (External link)

The most “Chambord”: Château de Villesavin

Nicknamed the “Chambord construction hut”, Chateau de Villesavin was built for Jean Le Breton, project manager for Chambord itself. The richly decorated interiors date from the Renaissance through to the 19th century, and the Musée du Mariage houses almost 1,500 objects and costumes from 1850 to 1950, from the preparation of the trousseau to the bridal chamber. In the former stables, there’s a beautiful collection of 19th-century horse-drawn carriages. After the visit, head to the children’s farm where chickens, goats, sheep and rabbits are waiting to be fed. Braver visitors can follow in the footsteps of the Villesavin ghost, following the path marked in the undergrowth... it’ll give you shivers!
Château de Villesavin (External link)

The most historic: Château de Beauregard

Get ready to feast your eyes in Beauregard! A hunting manor belonging to Francis I, it was later transformed into a charming house by its successive occupants. We owe Jean du Their – King Henry II’s Financial Secretary of State – for the Grelot Cabinet, a wooden piece from China, and the intricate Italian ceiling which we never tire of admiring. But the star of the show is undoubtedly the Galerie des Illustres, a work by Paul Ardier, Louis XIII’s minister, who invites visitors to travel through the history of France and Europe with 327 portraits of iconic characters. Lie down on one of the benches to admire the lapis lazuli ceiling – unless you’re already hypnotised by the floor and its paving of 560 tiles depicting an army marching under Louis XIII.
Château de Beauregard (External link)

The smallest: Château de Troussay

Size doesn’t matter – and visitors to the Chateau de Troussay will agree! At the smallest recognised chateau of the Loire, located in Cheverny, you’ll discover a monument but also the history of Louis de La Saussaye, historian and collector who gave his letters of nobility to Troussay by recovering decorative elements from prestigious monuments of the region. Stone sculptures, façade ornamentation, painted ceilings, stained glass windows... over the years, the chateau has turned into a real artistic madness that’s a joy to browse. Stay in one of the guest rooms in the outbuildings, or make a picnic from the local produce sold at the shop.
Château de Troussay (External link)

The strongest: Château de Fougères-sur-Bièvre

Its sober and powerful architecture contrasts with the elaborate façades of its neighbours. Chateau de Fougères-sur-Bièvre, 15 kilometres from Blois, has all the ideal chateau features with its dungeon, walkway and machicolation. The use of hard Beauce limestone for the walls and softer tuffeau from the Cher for the carvings and mouldings make it an icon in the art of building in the region. Don’t miss the ship’ hull-shaped carpentry in the high gallery.
Château de Fougères-sur-Bièvre (External link)

The Loire Valley