Little-known Loire
French Property News|May 2020
Escape from the showstopping châteaux of the touristy Loire Valley and discover a lesser-known but very beautiful triangle of châteaux nearby, advises Carolyn Reynier.
Carolyn Reynier

My brother is 16 years younger than me and, as the last of five children, he ended up spending several holidays with just my parents after we all left home.

This sometimes resulted in a generational gap in interests. I recall speaking to my mother shortly after the three of them returned from a Loire Valley holiday. They planned to stay with our friends Jean and Claudine Baumard, makers of great Anjou wines from their vineyards at Rochefort-sur-Loire near Angers, and then set off upstream to visit the rest of the Loire valley. However, on the fourth day, as another architectural masterpiece slid into view, a voice was heard from the back seat: “Not another bloody chateau!” To be fair, it’s a sentiment probably shared by local artisans of the day for different reasons.

Lovers of the mighty Loire Valley will be familiar with the names of the great medieval and Renaissance châteaux – Chambord, Cheverny, Chaumont and Amboise to name but four. But how about Loches, Montpoupon and Montrésor? Hmm, I hear you say, not so sure about them. Yet leave the famous stretch of Loire between Tours and Blois, travel a few kilometres south over its Cher tributary and you enter the easternmost corner of Indre-et-Loire. I’d like to explore with you property in and around a triangle of lovely, yet lesser-known, châteaux.

TERRIFIC TRIO

At the western base of our triangle lies the Château de Loches, a huge 9th-century fortress with a famous square keep. Standing guard over the Indre valley, it is the main landmark of the Cité Royale of Loches, one of the finest fortified French cities. A department sous-préfecture, Loches is lively, especially from spring to autumn, with lots of arts, music, and literary events. Two works by Caravaggio are on permanent display in the St-Antoine Gallery.

With its Romanesque collegiate church, St-Ours, and its Royal Logis (once an upmarket B&B for passing monarchs), Loches is labelled a Ville d’art et d’histoire. Its biweekly market is considered one of the best in Touraine and it has a forest on its doorstep that you can explore on foot, horseback or by donkey.

The eastern base of our triangle is the historic fortress and Renaissance château of Montrésor in the Indrois valley. The community is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France – all white tuffeau stone, half-timbered houses, and semitroglodyte dwellings. Human presence in limestone cliffs in the Loire Valley dates from the Neolithic period, but the transformation into dwellings occurred in the Middle Ages. The little River Indrois, 40km long, rises in the neighbouring Indre department, traverses Montrésor and joins the Indre north of Loches. Keen cyclists among you will enjoy the 60km circuit which passes through this and other pretty picturesque Indrois villages.

Near Montrésor the 35ha Chemillé water sports centre provides pedalos and boating plus pike, carp and sander for fishermen. To the north you can kayak along the Cher passing through the pale stone arches of the famous Château de Chenonceau.

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