Château du Lude, Le Lude, Sarthe
This Patrimoine weekend we paid an end-of-season visit to the Château du Lude.
Le Lude is the northernmost of the recognised Châteaux of the Loire and the closest to where we live, being located just south of Le Mans where the historic regions of Anjou, Maine and Touraine meet. Note, however, that the river on which it is located is le Loir, not la Loire, which it eventually joins via the river Sarthe near Angers.
The first castle was built at le Lude on the banks of the river Loir in the 10th and 11th centuries, originally to defend Anjou from the attacks of the Normans and then from the English during the Hundred Years War.
At the end of the 15th century, Louis XI’s chamberlain, Jehan de Daillon, transformed the fortress into an elegant personal residence, to which his descendants subsequently added a Renaissance façade and the main courtyard. The château has welcomed a number of famous guests under its roof: Henri IV, Louis XIII and the Marquise de Sévigné.
In 1751 Le Lude became the property of Joseph Duvelaër, head of the French East India Company, and it has remained in the hands of the same family for the last 250 years. The Marquise de la Vieuville, his niece, added a wing in the Louis XVI style and, thanks to being on good terms with the local townsfolk, she held on to the château during the French Revolution. Her descendants, the Talhouët-Roy, carried out extensive restorations in the 19th century. Today Le Lude is looked after by the Count and Countess Louis-Jean de Nicolaÿ.
The moat around the château is dry and allows a great walkway around the foot of the edifice – it can be accessed via an unusual spiral staircase, capped with a conical “beehive” roof, near the main entrance. The moat level also gives public access to tunnels which lead to underground cellars. There is another access point on the river side of the château, leading back up to the terrace gardens.
The interior of the château du Lude is open to the public – the decoration and furniture are truly magnificent.
NB Château du Lude INTERIOR is open AFTERNOONS ONLY. The gardens are open morning and afternoon but close for lunch from 12.30 to 2.00pm.
The Gardens of the Château
The gardens of Le Lude château are laid out on several levels and extend along the banks of the river Loir.
On the river side of the château is an elegant terrace garden edged by a stone balustrade.
The lower gardens running along the riverbank were originally a vegetable garden, but were changed in the 19th century into a leisure garden in the French style with formal beds, lawns and ponds. About the same time, the fields that on the opposite bank of the Loir were made into a park.
At the far end of the lower gardens is a herbaceous area, at its best in spring, which features an “oriental-style kiosk” – we think this is actually some sort of pumphouse.
The walled garden contains greenhouses, an orangery and nursery beds. Rows of fruit trees, flowers and vegetables could be seen through the gates. When we were there this area was closed – it did not look as if it was ever opened to the public.
Finally, next to the château at the foot of the Louis XVI façade, the “jardin de l’éperon” is constructed on a rocky outcrop and features a box maze and a rose garden.
How to get there
Le Lude is about 90km south of our bed and breakfast accommodation by route nationale (N338), or 115km by motorway. A visit to the wonderful Jardin d’Atmosphere at St Biez-en-Bélin is a must while you are in the area.
Opening times, Entry Prices
The Château du Lude is open from April 1st to September 30.
NB it is closed Wednesdays in April, May, June 1st to 15th, and September.
Gardens open 10:00 – 12:30 noon and 2:00 – 6:00pm
Guided Tours of the Château are afternoons only, 2:30 – 6:00pm
A visit to the château and garden is 7€ for adults, 3.50€ for children aged 7-15.
It is possible to visit the gardens only, for 4.60€ and 2.30€ – but for the difference in price it’s worth paying the extra couple of euros to see the sumptuous château interior while you are there. I wouldn’t go just to visit the gardens unless I was also doing something else in the area – better do the château interior as well.
Why not visit the Jardin d’Atmosphère in the morning, have lunch then come to the Château du Lude for the afternoon?