Five towns, three châteaux, two churches and a cathedral, my recent road day trip to the Loire Valley with some friends was packed with fairytale moments amid downpours of rain. Just over two hours drive away from the centre of Paris lies the Loire Valle. And with around fifty French châteax lining the river Loire and its tributaries, there are many to pick and choose from, allowing you to form your own day fairytale road trip itinerary.
Day Trip to the Loire Valley Itinerary:
Château de Cheverny
Featured in Tintin novels as Marlinspike Hall and famed for its beauty, the first château we visited was that of Cheverney (pronounced sheeverney and not to be confused with Giverny). The smallest of châteaux on our day trip, the castle was built in the mid-1600s by Henri Hurault, the military treasurer for Louis XIII. Six centuries later, one of his direct descendants is now the present day owner.
Opening times: Open 365 days a year, the castle has only been closed three times since its opening to the public (once for the queen’s visit, once for a wedding and once due to a death).
Prices: €10.50/ €7.50
Château de Chambord
So large is the domain of Château de Chambord that you end up driving along the tree-lined boulevard leading to the castle for at least ten minutes, passing many ‘beware of the deer signs on the way’ before the highly decorated pointed turrets suddenly loom up above the horizon. It is quite a sight to behold!
Built in the French Renaissance style in the first half of the 16th century and originally intended for use as a hunting lodge for Francis I, the castle has seen many changes during its history. Although it is unclear whether the rumour is true, it may well be the case that Leonardo da Vinci himself– you know, painter of the Mona Lisa– had a hand in designing the castle (especially some of the spiral staircases).
After the end of the French revolution in the ate the 18th Century, the château then lay empty and abandoned for a long time before its renovation in the 20th Century. Today, the castle is equipped with spiral staircases, roaring fires and furnishings aplenty. The little hamlet beside Château de Chambord is absolutely dwarfed in comparison with the enormity of the old hunting lodge. It is equipped with a church and Hôtel de Ville.
Opening times: Every day of the year except bank holidays: April September 9am -6pm, October- March 9am- 5pm
Prices: €11/ Free for EU citizens under 25
Lunch stop at Blois
There is little in the way of food around the castles themselves and considering we didn’t want to sit down and pay for a meal in a restaurant, we ended up stopping at a Quick by the side of the autoroute. Note to self: We definitely should have fuelled up at this point as we were almost out of diesel by the time we finally reached Châteaudun!
Château de Châteaudun
Built on the side of a mountain, Châteaudun was definitely the most ‘fortified’ of the castles that we visited. Built between the 12th and 16th centuries, the visit includes a keep from the 12th Century, one of only seven Sainte Chapelles left in France (the main one is in the centre of Paris and another at Château de Vincennes).
Opening times: Times vary depending on the time of the year. see website for more details.
Prices: €5.50/Free for EU citizens under 25
After a quick look around the castle, we had a wander around the old part of town; full of medieval houses and historic churches, it’s a must for any history lover! We then descended the steps to look at the fortifications and prisons below. (We even entered one of the old prison cells- see video below)! A highlight of the day for everyone on the road trip had to be the wine shop located in a grotto at the bottom of the town (la cave des fouleries).
Read more: A quick and historical guide to Châteaudun.
The last stop of the day on our fairytale inspired trip was the historic town of Chartres. Reaching Chartres as the sun had just dipped below the horizon and night was starting to set in was a fairytale moment in itself. The cathedral is enormous; stretching up above the quaint building surrounding it, dominating the surrounding landscape.
One of my favourite moments after our Cathedral visit was discovering the free outdoor lending library (see video below). The idea is that you borrow and return books as you please. You can also leave your favourite books and share the book lending love so to speak…
And with our last town tour of the day complete, we grabbed a couple of bottles of wine, slabs of cheese and bread and headed home for a particularly French meal!
If you’d like to see more of my adventurous road trip, I made a YouTube video about it: