When you head to our holidays in villas in Loire
, no doubt the magnificent chateaux which are dotted around the gorgeous landscape are at the top of your list of places to see. But one of the best things about a holiday is the new experiences you have, and a great to have a new experience is by heading off the beaten track to discover some hidden gems.
Chateau de Beauregard
It may seem odd we start our list of hidden gems with a chateau, but Chateau de Beauregard is not like the magnificence of Chambord or Villandry, but is still a wonderful part of French history. Just a short distance from Chateau de Blois, Beauregard is closed in the winter months, reopening on April 1st. But it is well worth the visit when you can. As you walk up the stone stairs after passing through the lobby, you come to the gallery of portraits. There are 327 portraits in the room, covering three centuries of French and European history, and it by far the highlight of the chateau. In addition to the castle, there is the park, which was declared a historic monument in 1992. The park and gardens have undergone major restoration, combining the history of the park to the modern-day needs.
The beautiful village of Montresor, one hour southeast of Tours, is a delightful place to spend a day out. It has been listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, and it is indeed very pretty, and proud of its heritage. A large part of this revolves around the Chateau de Montresor, which sits overlooking the village. There is a selection of great cafes and restaurants in the village, along with a very helpful tourist information office. The best place to get a view of the village, and surrounding area, is to take the Grande Rue up to the chateau. As you look out over the village, the Gothic-style church of St John the Baptist takes centre stage. There are also timbered houses and the lovely River Indrios to enjoy.
La Borne is a hamlet on the outskirts of the town Henrichemont and Morogues, and since the 13th century has been a hub of pottery making. In the 15th century, the potters mastered the firing techniques that made the local stoneware clay watertight, yet the golden age of the hamlet didnt arrive until the 19th century. During this time, there were 21 workshops, with a master potter, turners and labourers, and the kilns were shared between each shop. The products made, from milk jugs to terrine dishes, were sold throughout the region. Into the 20th century, other traditional potteries were going into decline, yet La Borne saw a rebirth, with ceramic artistes visiting to learn the secrets of the old potters. Today you can visit the Contemporary Ceramics Centre to learn about the ceramists currently working in and around La Borne.
The town of Richelieu takes its name from its founder, Cardinal Richelieu. A hugely egotistical character, he was the most powerful man in France after the King, Louis XIII. The Cardinal decided his position demanded a great residence and in 1625, he commissioned the famous architect Jacques Lemercier to design his palace and town bearing his name. From an architectural viewpoint, the town of Richelieu is very interesting. It was built between 1631 and 1642 in a grid style, very modern for its time. On the Grande Rue you can find an exhibition about the man and the town, with a recreation of his lost chateau. The town has several original properties from when it was first built, including the main church Eglise Notre Dame and the timber-framed market hall which is still in use for the weekly market. Take a wander through the grounds of Richelieus former palace; it was damaged and plundered during the French Revolution, and later demolished. However, having undergone restoration, it is no stretch of the imagination to picture the garden in its former glory, and just how much it reflected the Cardinals ego!
Take a look at our suggested itinerary of spending seven days in the Loire Valley
you can easily fit in seeing these hidden gems into your family holiday!
Here's a list of other related categories that you may wish to discover.