A grand library, spacious dining hall, turrets and oodles of history… This is the reality of Château des Monthairons, a 19th-Century grand mansion just 12km south of Verdun. As you may have already guessed from the post title, a little over a week ago, all of my (fairytale) dreams came true and I slept in a real-life French château!
Château des Monthairons: A History
Built between 1857-1859 by Charles-Henri de la Cour, the estate has seen plenty of history over the years. This includes the fact that the Château is actually built on the grounds of a former grand mansion. The Castle’s name, ‘Monthairons’ derives from the French meaning ‘Mount of Herons’. There is still a heronry on site, though its exact origins are unclear.
During WWI, the château was used as a military hospital for US troops. Many French in the region, and indeed throughout France, credit the US troops who came to help fight as the real reason the war ended when it did. Indeed, the entire Lorraine region is home to many museums and monuments dedicated to WWI.
In 1985, the castle was purchased by the Thouvenin who had a dream to run the castle as a hotel. Following four years of restoration works, the hotel of Château des Monthairons was open for business and began welcoming countless guests. Today, the grand mansion operates as a 25 bedroom family run hotel with excellent food and remains in the hands of the Thouvenin family.
Of all the communal spaces in the château, my favourite was probably that of the cosy library. There, you’ll find a comfy space to sit, read and relax for a little while (or an entire afternoon- it is a really lovely room). Wander into the library at Château des Monthairons and you’ll also find that it contains a vast series of photographs chronicling the Castle over the past century or so. Within the collection, there are photos of the Château while it was used as a hospital in WWI among other things.
The Chapels and Grand Park
The Hostellerie du Château des Monthairons is set among many hectares of green parkland. A tributary of the river Meuse flows through the grand grounds of the Hotel, providing stunning scenery for woodland walks and a great backdrop for the leafy foliage that dominates the park from Spring through to late October.
Stroll around the parkland and you’ll find that the hotel has not one but two chapels on its grounds. One is a chapel, whereas the other is a hermitage set a little way off into the forest. Although both are closed for reparation works, we were incredibly lucky in that we were allowed a sneak peek inside the doors of the chapel adjacent to the château (see below!).
The chapel adjacent to the château is just mere metres away from the château’s grand façade and is set in its own pretty little vegetable garden (which was pretty in golden hues when we visited). I’m told that the chapel was built so close to the house so that the Grand Lord of the manor would not have to travel to attend church when it was cold or rained (and indeed, the chapel is around three minutes walk door-to-door from the Château’s grand entrance)!
The Dinner and Dining Area
The candlelit dining room is filled with the scent of well-cooked food and decorated with dozens of vases of fresh flowers. The ambience is lovely and the room is filled with the sound of diners enjoying a quiet moment among loved ones.
Although I’m not normally a ‘foodie’, dinner was definitely one of the highlights of staying at the Château. (Disclaimer: it was hard to pick a ‘favourite’ part as the entire experience was fascinating!) But then again, how could dinner not be one of my favourite parts? After all, the food is cooked to perfection, and the desserts are divine (think plenty of local Lorraine specialities including Dragées de Verdun and fruit that’s grown in the region).
I even tried a pear poached in red wine! We started our meal with a house cocktail (sparkling wine with Mirabelle liqueur- a local speciality made from plums!) and ended with the most incredible cheese platter I’ve ever seen (see photo below!)
Breakfast at Château des Monthairons
Breakfast was served in the room adjacent to the Dining Room, just across from the tiled entryway. There was plenty of fresh fruit, cold cheeses and meats on offer. The pastry and bread selection were all freshly baked and I could have stayed there all day, sampling a little of this, trying some of that!
In total, the family-run hotel operates twenty-five bedrooms, with varying sizes meaning that rooms can sleep between 2-6 people- perfect for both a full family getaway or a romantic weekend with your partner. I stayed in one of the duplex rooms, which is set over two floors with an internal staircase- hence why I’m quite hesitant to call it just a ‘bedroom’ in the title! The room came fully equipped with all the amenities you’d expect of a four-star hotel; A TV, working area with desk, complimentary bottles of water and goodies in the bathroom.