We were already getting into the swing of our Burgundy trip having had an exhausting but fulfilling day exploring the Chablis vineyards. But any hopes of the weather improving were soon dashed when we looked out of our accommodation and saw the rain pelting down onto the ground the next morning…
But no matter, it was to be several days of visiting the region’s castles, which was more than fine by us. We love them! There’s something particularly magical about the châteaus in France. When you think of the picture postcard ideals of castles from fairytales with high towers, drawbridges and romantic gardens, then France has them in droves. And in Burgundy, you don’t have to travel too far to find several close to one another as we discovered on our recent road trip.
Located in Treigny, the magnificent Guédelon Castle, is a local project which has gained worldwide attention and notoriety. I’ve written a separate post about this fascinating site and how privileged it was to be part of living history. We had such a wonderful time and Guédelon was definitely a highlight of our whole holiday.
Because we were only staying down the road in Le Maison Jeanne d’arc we had a short stroll through the pretty town to the Château Saint-Fargeau. The façade of this fairytale castle is rather deceiving from its front. It looks much larger once you walk around the imposing courtyard, and it’s only then do you really get a sense of scale. It’s pretty impressive…
You may recall I’ve mentioned Michel Guyot, who owns the 1000 year-old castle. He spearheaded the project at Guédelon, which explains why he has such an invested interested in French castles and how they are built. The Château has had a chequered history, it was first constructed by an Auxerre Bishop as a hunting lodge way back in 980. But since then has had several famous owners including Lords of Toucy, de Bar, Charles VII’s famous silversmith, Jacques Coeur and Anne-Marie Louise d’Orléans, the Grande Mademoiselle first cousin of King Louis XIV, who was exiled to here.
Nowadays, Saint-Fargeau is open for history shows and candle-lit vists in its vast, spectacular grounds. Walking through the courtyard and out behind the Château leaves you spellbound, such is the immense beauty of the ponds, and the surrounding park. We spent some time wandering the outside – Monkey wanted to watch the horses in the enclosure, and marvel at the old stream engines and stage coaches.
Unfortunately Noemi, who owns Le Maison Jeanne d’arc but actually lives and works in the castle was poorly, so she was unable to give us a personal guided tour. We decided not to join the large group heading inside as the tour was in French and Monkey was getting quite fidgety. I’m sure we missed a treat, but perhaps next time…
Château Saint-Fargeau Open from March-November until 6.00pm; Adults €10, Kids €6
Château de Ratilly
We had a lovely lunch with the Extraordinary Chaos family at a quaint restaurant in Treigny called Le Cafe Du Bal where the kids braved garlic snails and we enjoyed the great friendly service and chilled wine.
And amazingly, the rain had subsided – for a short time at least. So when we pulled up to the hidden entrance of the hidden 13th-century Château de Ratilly, we felt like we were walking towards a chocolate box castle along the sweeping driveway. We were the only people there which made it seem even more special and allowed me to take some wonderful photos.
We were met by super-friendly Claire, so keen to share the fascinating history of not only the castle but her family, and how they came to own Ratilly. Claire’s parents Jeanne and Norbert Pierlot brought the Château back in 1951. Professional potters, the Pierlots not only restored the castle to its former glory, but turned it into a centre for contemporary art. Claire’s sister Nathalie has carried on the family tradition and continues to run the pottery school and workshops and much of her work is available for purchase.
There are several interesting features of the castle including the towers flanking the drawbridge as well as all the characteristics which have been duplicated at nearby Guédelon. Our favourite part was when Claire took us up some wooden steps to the stunning dovecote. It still has the original ladders which Monkey thought he would swing on, much to our horror! There are over 1000 nesting holes for the birds, even though now, it remains pretty empty – Claire though, thinks it’s because not that long ago an owl found its way in and scared the doves away.
The Château Ratilly often hosts open air events, as well as art/pottery holidays as well as contemporary art exhibits. There’s a real sense of community amongst the artists there, as well as Claire and her siblings – some of whom still reside in the castle. Claire, however, doesn’t anymore, telling us how cold it can be in the winter!
We really enjoyed our tour of the castle and spent some time browsing the pottery as well as the small exhibits detailing the Pierlot family history. Monkey also enjoyed having free reign of the grounds and courtyard. Helped all the more by the sun shining on this romantic building.
Château de Ratilly Open until September, and then reduced hours; Entrance €4
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*Want some more posts about France? Here are some Top Tips for Le Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy