The Loire Valley is a land of castles. From the point where the great river rises at Mont-Gerbier-de-Jonc until its waters disperse into the Atlantic, the beautiful scenery of the river bank is dotted with castles, chateaux, mansions and palaces, each more magnificent than its neighbour. The sight transports us back to the fairytale lands we read about when we were kids. Each great building has its own history and character; some were homes to kings, others to nobles and aristocrats who held fabulous balls and parties and who hunted in the surrounding forests; most attest to the splendour of Renaissance art and style, and all give witness to the delicacy and good taste of French fine living.
The verdant scenery with its great cultural and architectural heritage of historic towns and villages is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where over a thousand castles vie for attention in the outstanding natural landscape of the river valley. Visiting even one of the chateaux can give you a taste of the area and its culture, but further exploration of the main monuments – Chambord, Amboise, Blois, Cheverny, Clos Luce, Vilandrey, Chenanceau – will be even more rewarding. Nothing, though, can compare to spending a few days actually staying at one of the chateaux. Here we offer a selection of those properties that have been transformed into luxury hotels and whose doors are open to welcome you, inviting you to add your own pages to their history.
Chateau des Arpentis
Tucked away on a quiet 30-hectare estate in the village of Saint-Regle, your first glimpse of the moat-surrounded Chateau des Arpentis is like a picture straight from the story books. And as you look further, you won't be disappointed. The rooms are decorated with exquisite good taste, with canopy beds, open fireplaces, bathrooms with traditional free-standing bathtubs, and large windows looking out onto the parklands and the pool.
Relais & Chateaux: Les Hautes Roches
Described as France's leading luxury troglodytic hotel, Les Haute Roches incorporates the renovated cave dormitories used by the monks of the ancient Marmoutier Abbey. It nestles back into the cliff, and its terraces and gardens look out over the winding path of the Loire. In 1990 the restaurant was granted a Michelin star for its fine Breton-influenced cuisine which focuses on seafood dishes.
Set in a 25-hectare park, just 15 kilometres south of Tours, this eighteenth-century style chateau-hotel seems to have been designed specifically for romantic getaways. The 65 rooms are spread between the chateau itself and a number of other nearby pavilions, which helps to guarantee privacy. There is also the Moulin d'Artigny, a little farther off, with just seven country-style rooms. The Origan restaurant serves gourmet cuisine and there are several private lounges that can be reserved for dining. In June 2010, a spa was added to the other facilities, which offers a range of beauty and fitness treatments in a peaceful atmosphere.
Chateau Le Choiseul
At the gates of the city of Amboise, a collection of sixteenth and eighteenth-century residences comprise this hotel set right on the river bank, overlooking the Loire. Just the sound of the building names – la Maison del'Ermite, la Maison du Duc, la Maison de l'Apothicaire (the Hermit's House, the Duke's House, the Apothecary's House) – evokes an atmosphere of romance and the elegance of by-gone times. The rooms and suites boast modern facilities and their large windows look out over the Italian garden, the river and the Chateau d'Amboise.
Relais & Chateaux Chateau de Noizay
Way back in 1560, during the conspiracy of Amboise, the castle of Noizay was the stronghold base from which the Protestants, who wanted to be allowed to practise their faith freely, plotted their attempt remove the king. Now, it is a charming four-star hotel that preserves the atmosphere of by-gone splendour. It is set on a 24-hectare estate with six hectares of park and beautiful formal gardens, overlooking the wine-making village of Noizay.
Loire Valley Tourism