Gardens du Donjon de Ballon, Ballon, Pays de la Loire (Sarthe)
Just 30km south of us is the remarkable chateau-fort of Ballon, perched high on a rocky spur overlooking the plains towards Normandy. A fortress chateau was built by William I of Bellême in 1005 at this strategic point in the Sarthe, halfway between Mamers and Le Mans, to serve as an outpost guarding the entry to the territory of the Maine (Anjou) from potential Norman invaders. Like several other chateaux along the Normandy-Maine border such as Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, Ballon therefore bears the title of “Porte du Maine”.
Repeatedly besieged by William the Conqueror and his sons after him, the fortress at Ballon changed hands 25 times in the 11th century; through the following centuries it repeatedly swapped between English and French stewardship, being several times partially destroyed and rebuilt in the process. The final major reconstruction took place in the 16th century after the 100 Years War.
This little treasure of a château fortress is not well known but it has been classed as a national monument for almost a hundred years.
The château of Ballon has a spectacular setting on a rocky outcrop looking northwards over Normandy – its lofty position overlooking the plains far below means you get some superb views from the gardens, as you’ll see from the pictures in the video.
The gardens that now surround the fortress were developed during the 1960’s and include a knot garden, topiary, orchards, medieval and renaissance style gardens. The plants include 70 varieties of fruit trees, 110 old-fashioned roses, 45 clematis, 50 paeonies and 55 viburnums.
21 May to mid July, the gardens are open every weekend from 14.30h to 18.30h.
Mid July to 3rd weekend August, gardens and castle open every day except Wednesday from 14.30h to 18.30h.
Nearest parking is in the small square at the top of the hill as you come in to Ballon town centre from the west. The château and gardens of Ballon are not well signposted – they are actually down a narrow street from this square.
There is more parking further on in the main town square near a hotel/restaurant which we have never tried but which seems popular.
Further on is a friendly bar which serves sandwiches at lunchtime – it is at a crossroads as you leave the town to the east. The bar’s terrace is next to the road but is not too noisy once the middday lunchtime traffic has passed.
Tel. +33 (0)2 43 27 30 51
We’ll be adding more gardens during the year, so keep reading! In the meantime, there’s a summary of the gardens near us on our B&B website Gardens of Lower Normandy and Upper Pays de la Loire.
All gardens are within easy reach of our bed and breakfast accommodation http://normandie-chambres.co.uk
Access to the garden from the B&B:
Like visiting gardens? See also :
Gardens to Visit #1 – Jardin d’Atmosphère du Petit Bordeaux