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.
As you enter the grounds the first thing you will notice is 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!)
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. From there 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, we wandered into the contrasting freedom of the sun garden. Clouds of flowers billowed from the gardens, in a carefree fashion, ushering us into the central area featuring the 8 pointed fountain.
Next 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, with the centre providing an elevated platform one can ascend to contemplate their journey.
The herb garden is a traditional garden of the middle ages, and displays culinary and medicinal herbs, with aromas that make you feel healthy just by passing through the garden. Set amongst clipped topiary and colourful perennials, the herb garden leads you towards the kitchen garden.
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. Each bed including a symbolic standard rose, according to the tradition of the monks in the middle ages.
Intersecting pathways provide lattice clad shelters covered by climbing roses, containing seats offering a fragrant position to relax whilst admiring the surrounding beauty. The side boundary of the garden boasts espaliered miniature fruit trees, with climbing roses clinging to an ancient rock wall as you reluctantly proceed to the exit.
It was such a relaxing time to walk through the outstandingly picturesque gardens, each section having its own unique character. As we meandered through the grounds we imagined what life was like for the occupants of such a magnificent place. Truly amazing.
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!