What finer place than the Loire valley to taste the charms and the mysteries of castle life? A listed Unesco World Heritage site, the banks of the Loire unveil its great and eventful history. And it's a story that is several centuries long. And adventure that begins right here, in Loiret. Over a distance of 120km (75 miles), a genuine stream of fine and noble properties nestling on either bank of the River Loire and ready to open there doors... to you. If that's not royal!
Château de La Bussière © Ludovic Letot
Château de Sully-sur-Loire © Christophe Lörsch
Château de la Ferté-Saint-Aubin
Château de la Ferté-Saint-Aubin
Les principaux châteaux de la Loire, dans le Loiret !
The fortified castle in Sully-sur-Loire
With its keep and its towers proudly standing skywards, its machicolations and its wall-walk, its vast moat at the foot of its thick walls, here is a magnificent edifice that is exactly what you expect of a French château! An impressive and spectacular medieval fortress. And to make sure don't miss a single one of its many treasures, then head for the rooftops. You can admire its incredible 14th century oak and chestnut roof beams. On either side of the portal door, referred to as the 'blue grid', a decor of blazing cannonballs reminds us that the lord of the manor, the first Duke of Sully, was Grand Master of Artillery under the King of France, Henri IV. Memories of the Duke and of his descendents remain amidst the luxuriously furnished apartments of this splendid fortress, built on the banks of the Loire in the late 14th century.
Château de Chamerolles - the perfume castle
On the edge of Orléans Forest, between Orléans and Fontainebleau, the Château de Chamerolles is the perfect first step in your tour of the Châteaux of the Loire Valley. Developed in and around this pearl of Renaissance architecture, a quite original 'Perfume Walk' tells the story of personal hygiene and perfume, from the Renaissance period to the 18th century, via a collection of astonishing objects. Some of them are sure to surprise you! When you leave the château, you will know all there is to know about these gents' and ladies' art of washing... or not!
Château de la Bussière – the family castle
The Giennois area has its own little jewel: the Château de la Bussière, also known as the fishermen's castle. This delightful family castle is furnished and decorated on the theme of fishing and is surrounded by a fine park designed by Le Nôtre. In the summer, families come to the vegetable plot to collect raspberries and strawberries and to buy the day's vegetable harvest at the boutique – all fruit and vegetables are grown naturally without pesticides. Meanwhile, the kids can have lots of fun in the park's cabins.
Don't miss a visit of nearby Briare. A short and worthwhile detour for you to discover a very rare site: the longest metallic canal bridge in France: at 660 metres above the River Loire! A crossing is a must.
Between Sully-sur-Loire and Orléans, you will come to the Val d'Or. Make sure you don't miss the Carolingian Oratory in Germigny-des-Prés and its 9th century mosaic. If you are fond of Roman art, then continue another 5km towards Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire, where you can visit Fleury Abbey, locally referred to as St. Benedict's Basilica and featuring a rare tower porch and an 11th century crypt.
In the same area, the Musée de la Marine de Loire in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire is 'the' museum to offer a comprehensive insight into the Loire and its history.
Château de Meung-sur-Loire – the Orléans Bishops' castle
Between Orléans and Blois, enjoy a short break in Meung-sur Loire. The former residence of the Bishops of Orléans can be visited from its underground galleries to its attics, via its kitchens and bathrooms. On school holidays, recreational historic activities are much appreciated by the young and the not so young. On the opposite bank of the Loire, Louis XI once enjoyed some well-deserved respite in 'his' basilica in Cléry-Saint-André.
As for Beaugency, the entire town is worth a detour. In the superb seigniorial lodge that once belonged to Dunois, Joan of Arc's loyal companion, you will plunge into the private lives of 15th century nobles, with a few spicy details into the bargain...
The Château de la Ferté-Saint-Aubin – the games castle, just a stone's throw from Chambord
Now let's head southwards, towards Sologne: the Château de la Ferté-Saint-Aubin shares the waters of the Cosson with its neighbour, the Château de Chambord. This castle's distinctive characteristic lies in the world of play and games. From wooden games, games of skill, mini-golf, life-size game of the goose to a collection of old toys and dolls on display in the Orangery, as far as amusement is concerned, you'll be spoilt for choice. Then enjoy a moment's respite over some home-made honey-flavoured madeleine cakelets, straight from the oven. Absolutely delicious!
In the Pithiverais and Gâtinais areas, many private châteaux and stately homes open their doors or their grounds to visitors over the summer months. So make the most!
In Orléans, the guest house of the Kings of France
Here you are in Orléans, once a royal capital and now a regional capital.
Orléans no longer has a castle; however, you will find a fine Renaissance hotel, once 'guest house' to the Kings of France and, today, home to the town council: the Hôtel Groslot (unaccompanied tours). We recommend that you discover the town of Orléans on foot: the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the cathedral, the old quarters and the Loire quaysides... And don't be surprised if you bump into Joan of Arc on the corner of every street: she is the town's heroin!