Famous for it's Spring Garden festival the first weekend of June, where owner Countess de Nicolaÿ gives out the Redouté Rose prize as well, I initially visited Le Lude more for just the gardens. What a fabulous surprise it was to discover the extraordinary history, architecture and furnishings as well. Château du Lude is definitely one of THE major grand Loire Valley castles. And one of the only ones still privately owned, where you will often encounter the owners in the garden, even trimming the roses, or else arranging bouquets in the reception rooms. The setting is incredibly romantic, on the embankments of the buccolic Loir river (the small Loir river, without an "e", the one where there are no maddening crowds of tourists, and you can discover quaint villages with authentic and friendly people. It lies just about 15 miles North of the larger Loire, overcrowded from May till september). The castle itself dates back to the middle ages, and was owned by the infamous Gilles de Retz, companion of arms of Joan of Arc. It's main part was rebuilt in the Renaissance, with intricate sculpture around the windows, and a further wing added on in the XVIIIth century.
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