In the Loire Valley of France, you will find many marvellous chateaux surrounded by beautiful gardens. Having visited a healthy number of these chateaux, I can say that the gardens at Chateau de Villandry were the most impressive that I have seen. An easy 9 mile car trip from Tours will drop you at the castle car park, which is free. Entry to the gardens will cost € 7, or for a look in the fully restored chateau as well as the gardens you pay €11.
Villandry – Entrance to the grounds
Firstly, as you enter the grounds you will notice the large courtyard of carefully raked pebbles, with stone pathways leading you through to the Chateau.
(We marvelled at the patience of the gardeners to keep those stones so immaculately in order!)
Villandry views – from the terrace
Walking across the bridge over the moat, we made our way up the old stairs on to the terrace for views over the entire property. Such beautiful gardens, all perfectly sculpted and beckoning us to explore further.
A gentle slope led us down through the woodland walk and deposited us at the far corner of the gardens near the greenhouse.
The water garden at Villandry
After that, we strolled to the park-like water garden and imbibed the serenity of the manicured lawns and meticulously clipped ornamental plants.
Turning down the avenue of ancient trees standing like sentinels of the garden, providing just the right amount of shade in respite from the sun. At the end of the avenue, we wandered into the contrasting freedom of the sun garden.
Villandry’s sun garden
Clouds of flowers billowed from the gardens, in carefree fashion, ushering us into the central area featuring the 8 pointed fountain. Stopping here for a few more photos with the fountain, Mum managed to perfectly capture the water – as though it was a whale spout coming directly out of my head. (Feeling grateful for digital cameras right now because you can check the image before you leave!). Consequently, while laughing hysterically, we tried again. All the while attempting to suppress giggles that kept coming back.
The renaissance maze
Subsequently, we ventured into the renaissance maze. This maze is not a torturous labyrinth of dead ends, but a steady winding path symbolising the progress of life. The centre of the maze provides an elevated platform one can ascend to contemplate their journey. Dad and I opted to take the reflective journey to the centre, meanwhile Mum kept a watchful eye on our progress.
Villandry herb garden
The herb garden is a traditional garden of the middle ages and displays culinary and medicinal herbs. Aromas that make you feel healthy, surround you as you pass through the garden. Set amongst clipped topiary and colourful perennials, the herb garden leads you towards the kitchen garden.
The kitchen garden at Villandry
The pièce de résistance was the kitchen garden. Vegetables transformed into a work of art. Geometric garden beds surrounded by clipped miniature hedges with seemingly laser-cut precision. Furthermore, each bed includes a symbolic standard rose, according to the tradition of the monks in the middle ages. So many perfectly formed vegetables with not a leaf out of order. However, can you imagine the work involved in maintaining this garden?
Intersecting pathways provide lattice clad shelters covered by climbing roses. Under the shelter of the roses, there are seats offering a fragrant, shaded position to relax whilst admiring the surrounding beauty. In addition, the side boundary of the garden boasts espaliered miniature fruit trees. Climbing roses clinging to an ancient rock wall give a final “wow”, as you reluctantly proceed to the exit.
In conclusion, it was such a relaxing time to walk through the outstandingly picturesque gardens. Each section has its own unique character to be savoured. As we meandered through the grounds we imagined what life was like for the occupants of such a magnificent place. Truly amazing.
UNESCO world heritage site
As an added bonus to me, in 2000 The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List!
For more details visit: http://www.chateauvillandry.fr/en/
Next time you are near Tours, this garden is absolutely worth a visit!