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Visit the Top 5 Château Gardens of the Loire Valley

Updated on January 18, 2016
SheilaMilne profile image

After living in Paris for 3 years, my love of France developed into a passion. My holiday home there allows me to explore the whole country.

Five wonderful Loire Valley gardens you shouldn't miss

In truth almost all the châteaux and castles in the Loire Valley have beautiful gardens but most are visited primarily because of the château itself. Some of castle buildings, though, are almost outshone by their gardens especially if you're at all interested in plants and gardens.

It hasn't been easy to reduce the list to five but these are the ones I know and love. I've listed them in alphabetical order rather than try to rank them, because of course they each have their own particular appeal.

♥ Azay le Ferron

♥ Chamerolles

♥ La Chatonnière

♥ Rivau

♥ Villandry

The photos are my own unless otherwise stated.

I have added links to each chateau under the individual sections rather than show opening hours or entrance fees because they are so subject to change.

Fairytale castles in the Loire Valley - So many chateaux, so little time

The Chateau of Usse, the Sleeping Beauty Castle
The Chateau of Usse, the Sleeping Beauty Castle | Source

There are so many beautiful châteaux to see in the Loire Valley, many of them very famous indeed. Unfortunately, with the fame come the crowds. This is especially so during the summer months. If you want to see the best known châteaux at the height of the season you'd be well advised to get there as soon after they open as possible.

Alternatively, you could opt to see some of the less well known châteaux. Very often they have made something more of an effort with their gardens and many of them are positively magical. I don't mean that the large chateaux don't have lovely gardens, they do, but people visit them primarily for the château itself [with one major exception and I'll be coming to that later]. The ones I want to take you to this time have put a lot of imagination into the outside grounds.

The picture above is of Château d' Ussé, the Sleeping Beauty Castle. I visited a few years ago and thought it was a shame they made so much of the Sleeping Beauty connection and had done so little with the gardens. I think they have been improved since.

A path in the grounds of the Chateau of Azay le Ferron
A path in the grounds of the Chateau of Azay le Ferron | Source

The Château of Azay le Ferron

Azay le Ferron is more out of the way than many of the Loire Valley châteaux, being on the edge of the Brenne National Park. Its history dates back to the 13th century and it was owned privately until 1951 when it was bequeathed to the city of Tours.

I am particularly fond of this one because when we arrived, we were too late to tour the château itself, but the lady there suggested we paid for looking at the gardens. We were welcome to stay as long as we liked although there would be nobody around. She carefully showed us the way to get out and assured we were could return after lunch to see the inside if we still wanted to. There is nothing like a welcoming and helpful attitude to make you warm to a place.

The gardens are very large, laid out into an English style garden, a French garden, and with more formal areas closer to the château itself. There are winding pathways and discovery trails to lead you through the park. There is are gardens with roses dating back to the 17th century, vegetable gardens, 40 different varieties of grapes, orchards. Enough to while away the longest afternoon. You can even have a picnic there.

Their official site

Photos from the gardens of Azay le Ferron

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A view of the chateau across the parterreAn arch in a yew hedgeTopiary clipped into the shapes of chess piecesClimbers around some windowsPart of the French gardenFrom Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/Rose covered archwaysFrom Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/Just one of the magnificent rosesPart of the vegetable gardenFrom Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/A fountain.
A view of the chateau across the parterre
A view of the chateau across the parterre
An arch in a yew hedge
An arch in a yew hedge
Topiary clipped into the shapes of chess pieces
Topiary clipped into the shapes of chess pieces
Climbers around some windows
Climbers around some windows
Part of the French gardenFrom Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/
Part of the French garden From Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/
Rose covered archwaysFrom Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/
Rose covered archways From Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/
Just one of the magnificent roses
Just one of the magnificent roses
Part of the vegetable gardenFrom Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/
Part of the vegetable garden From Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/44425842@N00/sets/72157624724577793/with/6116135008/
A fountain.
A fountain.
The Chateau of Chamerolles
The Chateau of Chamerolles | Source

The Château of Chamerolles

Chamerolles was built by Louis XII's chamberlain in the 16th century. It still looks like a medieval fortress but it was designed to be a place of residence. It was at one time the centre of the Protestant religion.

During the Second World War it was occupied and looted. Afterwards it fell into disrepair, neglected and fell into ruins. Eventually in 1987, the département of Loiret bought it and spent 5 years repairing and restoring it.

The gardens were created during the Renaissance. There are six separate areas: herbs and spices, fruit orchards, vegetables, the ornamental garden, the labyrinth or maze, and finally rare plants from abroad.

The Château has recently developed its own site so you can find out more, opening hours and such, here.

Photos from Chamerolles' gardens

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The chateau at Chamerolles seen from the vegetable garden Herbs and spices in the Chamerolles garden The labyrinth at Chamerolles The ornamental garden at ChamerollesThe Beehive at ChamerollesThe archway walk at ChamerollesThe ChateauPergola with roses
The chateau at Chamerolles seen from the vegetable garden
The chateau at Chamerolles seen from the vegetable garden | Source
Herbs and spices in the Chamerolles garden
Herbs and spices in the Chamerolles garden | Source
The labyrinth at Chamerolles
The labyrinth at Chamerolles | Source
The ornamental garden at Chamerolles
The ornamental garden at Chamerolles | Source
The Beehive at Chamerolles
The Beehive at Chamerolles | Source
The archway walk at Chamerolles
The archway walk at Chamerolles | Source
The Chateau
The Chateau | Source
Pergola with roses
Pergola with roses | Source
The Château de la Chatonniere
The Château de la Chatonniere | Source

The Château de la Chatonnière

La Chatonnière is a château that is still privately owned. The present owner's father, Manuel Gonzalez de Andia y Talleyrand Périgord, Duke of Dino, bought it in 1955 but it wasn't until 30 years later that Beatrice de Andia transformed the gardens.

There are twelve separate gardens in all which, when I saw it in 2007, were still being developed. The grassy area you see in the picture here is the Garden of Dance which bursts into wonderful displays of 40 thousand narcissi during the spring. In spite of the beautifully maintained gardens there is still an air of being a friendly and homely place.

We had no idea at all about this château before we visited but I happened to spot a signpost as we went by. What a very lucky chance visit that was.

They have their own website with far more detail.

Photos from La Chatonniere

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Garden of Abundance, a vegetable garden laid out in the shape of a leaf.  On the bank behind is the Crescent of Fragrances.The château and Garden of Intelligence seen from the Garden of Sciences through the arches.The Garden of France.  The field of poppies and cornflowers ripple in the breezes like a flag.The Garden of Intelligence - pinks and blues arranged in geometrical patterns.The Garden of Romance where 30 outdoor "rooms" or bowers encircle a lawn.The Garden of Sciences laid out in a checker-board, the squares containing one of 40 different medicinal plants.The Garden of Senses - each of the senses can enjoy this garden full of perennials and roses.
The Garden of Abundance, a vegetable garden laid out in the shape of a leaf.  On the bank behind is the Crescent of Fragrances.
The Garden of Abundance, a vegetable garden laid out in the shape of a leaf. On the bank behind is the Crescent of Fragrances. | Source
The château and Garden of Intelligence seen from the Garden of Sciences through the arches.
The château and Garden of Intelligence seen from the Garden of Sciences through the arches. | Source
The Garden of France.  The field of poppies and cornflowers ripple in the breezes like a flag.
The Garden of France. The field of poppies and cornflowers ripple in the breezes like a flag. | Source
The Garden of Intelligence - pinks and blues arranged in geometrical patterns.
The Garden of Intelligence - pinks and blues arranged in geometrical patterns. | Source
The Garden of Romance where 30 outdoor "rooms" or bowers encircle a lawn.
The Garden of Romance where 30 outdoor "rooms" or bowers encircle a lawn. | Source
The Garden of Sciences laid out in a checker-board, the squares containing one of 40 different medicinal plants.
The Garden of Sciences laid out in a checker-board, the squares containing one of 40 different medicinal plants. | Source
The Garden of Senses - each of the senses can enjoy this garden full of perennials and roses.
The Garden of Senses - each of the senses can enjoy this garden full of perennials and roses. | Source
The Château of Rivau from the vegetable garden
The Château of Rivau from the vegetable garden

Château du Rivau

Having twelve gardens seems a popular choice and here at Rivau we have another. The twelve areas are based on the images and stories brought to mind by fairy tales. So we have

  • Garantua's Kitchen Garden with enormous vegetables
  • Thumbelina's garden where the tall grasses and flowers take you back to your childhood
  • The Cassinina, a hideout or shelter made from bamboo
  • The Love Potion Garden, where medicinal plants mingle with scented roses.
  • Rapunzel's Garden, named after the fairytale princess
  • The Secret Garden, the chessboard of roses in a garden that at one time would have been kept as a places for the ladies.
  • Alice's maze with White Rabbits and other Lewis Carroll inhabitants.
  • The Enchanted Forest
  • The Orchard of Paradise full of heritage fruit trees
  • Truffle oaks replanted after the 1999 storm
  • The Fairies' Way going into The Lover's Wood

- Lavender flowerbeds

Their website.

Photos from the fairytale gardens of Rivau

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Alice's maze The chateau The secret garden From The Enchanted Forest The Fairies' Way Thumbelina's GardenGargantua's vegetable garden The Fairies' Way leading to the Lovers' WoodThe lavender beds
Alice's maze
Alice's maze | Source
The chateau
The chateau | Source
The secret garden From
The secret garden From | Source
The Enchanted Forest
The Enchanted Forest | Source
The Fairies' Way
The Fairies' Way | Source
Thumbelina's Garden
Thumbelina's Garden | Source
Gargantua's vegetable garden
Gargantua's vegetable garden | Source
The Fairies' Way leading to the Lovers' Wood
The Fairies' Way leading to the Lovers' Wood | Source
The lavender beds
The lavender beds | Source
The chateau of Villandry seen across the ornamental garden
The chateau of Villandry seen across the ornamental garden | Source

The Château at Villandry

The one that can't be missed

I wonder if these are the best known gardens in the world? They are undoubtedly world famous and deservedly so. Not only is the chateau beautifully restored with more rooms being opened to the public all the time, but the gardens almost defy description.

I first visited Villandry nearly 30 years ago and was bowled over by the gardens then. They are constantly being improved, new sections opened, and the plantings change regularly so I make return visits whenever I can.

There are nine different sections to the grounds, each one a joy in its own right:

  1. The Wood
  2. The Ornamental Garden - first area
  3. The Audience
  4. The Water Garden
  5. The Sun Garden
  6. The Maze
  7. The Ornamental Garden - second salon
  8. The Kitchen Garden
  9. The Herb Garden

Their website gives much more detail, and is a delightful visit in itself.

Photos from Villandry

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The first ornamental gardens looking towards the chateauThe ornamental gardens from above showing the patterns symbolising the different types of love: tender, passionate, flighty and tragic.A shady walk under a pergolaThe first ornamental gardens againThe second ornamental gardensThe quiet and peace of the water gardenRose bowers at the junctions of the paths through the vegetable garden.The gardeners who make all this possible.  There must be armies of them.  The garden is gradually becoming organic.Part of the vegetable garden, decorative and immaculate
The first ornamental gardens looking towards the chateau
The first ornamental gardens looking towards the chateau | Source
The ornamental gardens from above showing the patterns symbolising the different types of love: tender, passionate, flighty and tragic.
The ornamental gardens from above showing the patterns symbolising the different types of love: tender, passionate, flighty and tragic. | Source
A shady walk under a pergola
A shady walk under a pergola | Source
The first ornamental gardens again
The first ornamental gardens again | Source
The second ornamental gardens
The second ornamental gardens | Source
The quiet and peace of the water garden
The quiet and peace of the water garden | Source
Rose bowers at the junctions of the paths through the vegetable garden.
Rose bowers at the junctions of the paths through the vegetable garden. | Source
The gardeners who make all this possible.  There must be armies of them.  The garden is gradually becoming organic.
The gardeners who make all this possible. There must be armies of them. The garden is gradually becoming organic. | Source
Part of the vegetable garden, decorative and immaculate
Part of the vegetable garden, decorative and immaculate | Source

How to Find These Châteaux and Plan Your Visits

As you can see from the map below of the Loire Valley and beyond, three of these chateaux are very close together, Rivau, La Chatonnière, and Villandry. It would be very easy to see these in a day unless you really do want to linger - and I can appreciate that you very well may. If you drive south from Paris using the A20, you will see Chamerolles signposted, so it would be worth a detour. Azay le Ferron is more out on its own but it's on the edge of the wildlife park, the Brenne, so you may be able to combine it with that. That would be very well worth it in my opinion.

show route and directions
A markerAzay le Ferron -
Azay le Ferron
get directions

B markerLa Chatonniere -
Route de Langeais 37190 Azay-le-Rideau
get directions

C markerVillandry -
Villandry
get directions

D markerChateau du Rivau -
Le Coudray 37120 Lemere
get directions

E markerChateau de Chamerolles -
45170 CHILLEURS-AUX-BOIS
get directions

Two of the Above Gardens - Villandry and Rivau

I hope this article has given you a taste of what you can see by way of beautiful gardens in the Loire Valley, and maybe even help you plan a visit to France.

Your comments and thoughts - Do you enjoy visiting gardens? Have you seen any of these?

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    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      It's beautiful. Did you walk through that maze? Nice photos.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 4 years ago from New York

      What magnificent gardens! Hope to see them someday.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Gosh, I really want to go there.

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      Gorgeous!

    • malena10 profile image

      malena10 5 years ago

      Beautiful pictures of gardens, I love it!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      How glorious! I am used to Chinese Gardens, but to see these is a delight. I hope some day I will have the chance to visit these beautiful gardens. I especially love the labyrinths. What fun!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      These are really beautiful. I had been to the Loire Valley but did not focus out trip on castles. Next time, I will look for these and really go in.

    • MermaidDoc profile image

      MermaidDoc 5 years ago

      Beautifully written lens and it's very inviting. One day I hope I will be able to see these wonderful Chateaus and their gardens.

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Thank you for taking me on this lovely tour of these gardens. They are beautiful!

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Another lovely lens by yourself.

    • hartworks lm profile image

      hartworks lm 5 years ago

      I bicycled around this area a LONG time ago and I don't remember the specific names but the formality of the gardens was very pleasing.

    • rallo-smith profile image

      rallo-smith 5 years ago

      Beautiful gardens! Thanks for sharing them.

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 5 years ago

      I would love to visit all of these, particularly Chateau du Rivau with is interesting gardens. Thank you for posting this beautiful and informative lens.

    • SheilaMilne profile image
      Author

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      @flycatcherrr: Quite hard work to maintain them, I imagine. I have a small hedge and that's enough for me. :)

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Oh my, these are such beautiful gardens. I'd loved to have a maze.