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Visit Chateau d'Ussé
The Chateau d'Ussé is a pretty castle situated west of Azay-le-Rideau close to the River Loire over which it has very attractive views. The Chinon Forest adds further to the scenic setting.
Like many of the castles of the Loire, the Chateau d'Ussé was built on the site of an earlier castle - there had already been a castle in the location since the 11th century at the time the current version was constructed in the 15th century.
Explore the Chateau d'Ussé
A certain number of defensive capabilities were included in the newer castle, but these were removed during extensive 17th century renovations, and from that date on the castle has been 'decorative' only. It was these 17th century modifications that removed a large northern section of Chateau d'Ussé with the goal of opening up views to the terraced gardens and to the Loire River and countryside beyond.
The castle itself sits slightly raised above its surroundings, and is an architectural treat with its numerous circular towers, turrets and chimneys. The removal of one side of the castle has left the three remaining sides overlooking an open courtyard, with substantial buildings to either side.
It is said that the Chateau d'Ussé was the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale and to celebrate this there is an exhibit of costumes in the castle relating to the story of Sleeping Beauty.
The surrounding gardens are in the formal French style and meticulously maintained, and include a lovely 17th century orangery. The garden layout was designed by the renowned Le Notre, famous for his work designing the gardens at the Versailles palace.
Be aware that the castle is still lived in and much of it is not open to the public, but there is still plenty to enjoy, including the impressive 'trompe l'oeil' painted ceiling in the Salle des Gardes, the 15th century kitchen, an impressive dining room, a grand staircase and some richly decorated and furnished bedrooms.
Children will also enjoy the staircase hacked out of stone leading into the room where castle residents sought refuge in times of attack. As with the wine cellars, the soft 'tufa' rock lends itself well to being carved and shaped.
Another highlight of your visit is the castle chapel, above all for the Aubusson tapestries it contains.
The lovely village of Chinon and its impressive chateau, the Chateau de Chinon, is nearby. Chinon would make an excellent base for a visit to the chateaux of the Loire Valley. The Chateau de Langeais is also nearby and has an French formal garden with views over the village of Langeais below.