As regular readers to my blog likely know by now, I love a castle, and if there’s one close by when I’m travelling, I have to visit it.
During our stay in Parthenay, our hosts had told us the best castle nearby was in the town of Montreuil-Bellay, so that’s where we headed on our second day in the region.
When we arrived in Montreuil-Bellay, we found the castle was closed for lunch, so we found a café where we had a bite to eat and then spent some time wandering around the town until 2pm when the castle was set to reopen.
The town of Montreuil-Bellay has a long history as it’s strategically placed between the historic areas of Anjou, Poitou and Touraine (all former Plantagenet strongholds). As a result, it’s home to lots of attractive, old buildings.
We spent a pleasant half hour or so ambling around the town’s streets, admiring the old buildings and fortifications (including the 15th century St John’s Gate, above) and looking in the odd shop, before making our way back to the castle.
The huge, beautiful castle is still inhabited so it can only be visited by guided tour at certain times of the day.
The current castle was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, but there’s been a castle on the site since the 11th century and it has quite the storied history.
Its moat sheltered starving peasants during the Hundred Years War between England and France, while women thought to be sympathetic to the royalist cause were imprisoned here during the revolution of the 1790s. It also served as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the First World War.
After buying our tickets, we had time to spare before our tour began so we set off to explore the castle’s gardens and ramparts.
The castle, which overlooks the River Thouet, boasts 13 towers and some 650m of ramparts, and I had great fun climbing the garden’s towers, exploring the ramparts, from which I had fantastic views of the river below, and strolling around the landscaped grounds.
The gardens were really pretty with beautifully manicured lawns and hedges, and flower beds filled with red, pink and white flowers.
There’s also an enormous, elegant chapel (below). After spending a good half hour roaming the grounds and taking lots of photos, it was finally time for our guided tour.
The guided tour, which takes you around the castle’s ground floor and the cellars, was carried out in French and English, and lasted just under an hour.
Among the rooms on display were the music room, dining room and the Duchess of Longueville’s bedroom, as well as the impressive medieval kitchen and the huge cellars where they used to make wine.
We weren’t allowed to take any photos inside, hence the lack of indoor pics, but the tour was interesting and our guide knowledgeable.
Montreuil-Bellay is a beautiful château and an interesting place to spend an hour or so, but I’m not sure it was worth the hour or so drive there and back from Parthenay.
Unfortunately, you can’t see much of the castle other than those few rooms on the ground floor and the cellars, which is understandable when people still live there.
But it felt as though it was lacking something, especially given its long and fascinating history. It’s lovely, but if I’m honest, it’s not the most interesting castle I’ve visited in France.
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