The Château de Bazouges is a delightful castle that stands peacefully beside the secret Loir river. It’s just one of the 140 châteaux along this little known part of France where you can avoid the crowds and take the journey at your own pace.
The Loir Valley really is a secret to be discovered. The little known cousin of the mighty Loire River is a place for slow wanderings, taking small roads to quiet towns and villages, and coming across small gems like the Château de Bazouges.
Château de Bazouges
The 1900s might have been the Belle Epoque and a time of conspicuous consumption but away from the big cities, grand, often crumbling châteaux were proving too expensive for their owners to keep up. It was time for a huge change of ownership from the landowners who had managed to survive the French Revolution, clinging onto their old châteaux and manor houses, to a newly influential and wealthy class.
New owners take over
Today the Château de Bazouges is owned by the family of Gilles Serrand who runs it with his daughter Charlotte Lorge.
In 1910, Adrien Mithouard (1854-1919), co-founder of the literary revue L’Occident was an influential figure in Paris, an essayist, poet, publisher and politician. He looked at two châteaux to buy at roughly the same price. They were the Château de Bazouges-sur-Loir and…Azay-le-Rideau in the Loire Valley between Tours and Saumur. Does Gilles regret his grandfather’s choice? “Too many rooms” he laughs at the idea of owning the latter.
We met the family on a warm August late afternoon when the sun sparkled on the Loir river. Their love of the château was palpable and their concerns about the huge upkeep obvious (just look at the rooves of châteaux you visit – often the most expensive item).
The family took us on the route visitors follow. You start with its 15th-century beginnings when the château played its part in the defence of France against the English in the 100 Years War. The secret Loir valley was an important battleground.
Walk into the entrance where the huge imposing space is now empty of gates, the drawbridge and other contraptions of previous turbulent centuries. To one side there’s a small chapel. You come out into the courtyard then go into the château itself.
The medieval rooms are sturdy, the former Guard room with its massive fireplace and tapestry on one of the walls a reminder of the past.
Then you see the abrupt change from medieval to the 18th century. Walk through a doorway: on one side of the thick wall it’s rough stone and plaster; on the other the delightful rooms are covered with gracious panelling painted in the pastel colours that were oh-so chic in the 18th-century.
These were the rooms where Adrien Mithouard entertained the writers and artists of the day. And these are the rooms still used by the family when the visitors have departed. The former owners are still there, at least in the form of a sculpture of Mithouard and a copy of a portrait of his wife by Renoir who became friends of the couple in the early 1890s.
Up into the roof
We climbed up wooden steps into the huge roof space of the main tower, then outside and along the narrow battlements where for centuries graffiti has been scratched into the walls. Don’t look down through the iron grills to the ground if you have no head for heights. However if you do, imagine the lot of attackers trying to scale the walls and getting vats of boiling oil, stones and anything the defenders could find (like the contents of chamber pots) raining down on them.
Stories from the Château
There were plenty of stories to hear…about the screen depicting members of the family that was instantly classified as a Monument Historique by the official who had come to assess the château’s suitability for the classification. It’s by Georges de Traz (1881-1980) and is quite charming.
…About how the family hope to make the château into an arts centre, which could partly be funded by film companies. However, the best chance for that was lost some years ago when Roger Vadim came to see the château for a film starring…Brigitte Bardot. Gilles Serrand’s grandmother, a formidable lady who saw off the Nazis in the area, was horrified at the inclusion of the actress and the idea was dropped.
Outside, the more formal Italianate garden takes you past arbours, under arches and along straight walks of green grass shaded by rows of tall trees. A huge weeping willow, a perfect hiding place for children, punctures the formality.
The visit doesn’t take long; this is a small castle. But do try to see the Château de Bazouges in the secret and lovely Loir valley; it’s well worth it.
Château de Bazouges
39 rue du Château
72200 Bazouges Cré-sur-Loir
Tel: +33 (0)2 43 45 36 85
No website so telephone in advance to check opening times
Admission Adults and children over 12 years €6.50
How to get there The Château de Bazouges-sur-Loir is an 8 minute, 7.6 km/4.7 min drive from La Flèche
How to get there
More about Ferries to France from the UK.
We were on a self-driving press trip organised by the Vallée du Loir tourist office. The trip also took in Le Mans, slightly to the north east of the Château de Bazouges.
Also check out the Region’s Atlantic Loire Valley Tourism website
If you want to see the Loir’s famous cousin, here’s a guide to the complete Loire Valley Tour
Read more about travel to France at the time of Covid-19 regulations