Almost anyone can meet the challenge of naming the bigger châteaux, famous as they are, but knowing the dozens of others is the mark of the true local expert! Visitors are dazzled by the "giants" like Chambord and Chenonceau, but the smaller châteaux have their own beauty, and all have major historical and aesthetic interest. Some have the advantage of attracting a rather limited public visits, making their atmospheres particularly haunting, which can really make you feel you've travelled in time.
The Château de Talcy is one of these. Located 25 km from Blois, it is a real curiosity among the Renaissance architecture of the area. Built in 1520 by the Florentine merchant Bernard Salviati, who had acquired the lordship in 1517, it was built in a medieval style against the fashion of the time, while the construction of Chambord was beginning.
A striking feature of this château is its amazing state of preservation - the furniture, the dishes, the books, it feels like the old lord himself is keeping watch, you half expect to see him walk in at any minute. Sixteen sumptuous rooms are open to visitors.
Pierre de Ronsard
More than a historical monument, the Château de Talcy gives the impression of being lived-in and alive, despite the centuries that have passed. Time seems to have stopped when Pierre de Ronsard wrote his famous "Mignonne, allons voir si la rose" for Cassandra, the daughter of Bernard Salviati. Five hundred years after the acquisition of these lands by Leonardo da Vinci, the event was celebrated with throughout the year 2017 with events and exhibitions.
In Tour-en-Sologne, 9 km from Chambord and 6 km from Cheverny, the Château de Villesavin puts on a sumptuous display of authentic exteriors and interiors. Built for the governor of the works in Chambord in the sixteenth century, it underwent some changes in the nineteenth century that only made it more elegant. This is probably one of the favourite châteaux for visitors coming with the whole family, as it has lots of activities for children, young and old alike.
The happy ghost of Villesavin
First of all, it is just possible that this château is haunted - the kids will have a whale of a time chasing the clues to find the happy ghost of Villesavin! In the park, a signposted trail with riddles, puzzles and other activities for the mind and body lead the children on their investigation while having fun. Afterwards, head to the mini-farm to meet the goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens, as well as the famous Poitou donkeys with their long hair doe eyes. Children will learn how to care-for and feed the animals. Detective and farmer in one day - what more could they ask!
The Château de Villesavin is also known for its collections, including a fascinating exhibition of 1,500 objects on the theme of weddings, gathered in the wedding museum. The old stables house children's carriages and horse-drawn landaus. Lovers of beautiful old machines have a vintage car and motorcycle day to look forward to in June in the château park. For those who prefer the scent of flowers to engines, visit the beautiful saffron gardens, installed in 2016, and the "path of fragrances" organised each summer in the gardens.
The Chateau de Beauregard, also built during the Renaissance, is another "small" château that charms all its visitors. Located between Blois and Cheverny, The former hunting lodge of King François is the ideal place for a romantic weekend away. Spring and summer are the best times moments to enjoy its 40-hectare park. You can order a picnic basket at the château and enjoy your spread in a royal setting, with your other half or with friends.
The portrait gallery
After lunch on the grass, you can't leave Beauregard without discovering the interior of the château and its amazing portrait gallery. 327 paintings of famous people, from Louis XIII to Suleiman the Magnificent, adorn the walls. Another gallery next door has many other portraits ... of dogs. This permanent exhibition, full of humour, will introduce you to Typhoon, Alphonse and Moujick IV, the pets of Giscard d'Estaing, François Mitterrand and Yves Saint-Laurent!
The Portrait Garden
You also have to see the Sentier du Savoir ("Path of Knowledge"), an outdoor portrait gallery, arranged by country, with a map of the evolutionary world. The Garden of Portraits is by landscape gardener Gilles Clément (who also planted the André Citroën Park and the gardens of Quai Branly in Paris). This garden is a mix of French and English styles, illustrating Clément's philosophy of the "garden in motion." Twelve plots are associated with the characters and events on display in the Gallery of Portraits.
And what if you did not leave ... what if you were to you settle in here? Not as outlandish as it seems - the Château de Beauregard has a large cottage with all the comforts of modern accommodation and charm at a reasonable price.
The Château de Troussay is one of the most intriguing, and also the smallest châteaux in the region. In the nineteenth century, this former mansion was decorated with towers, a chapel and other ancient décor by Louis de la Saussaye, a scholar born in Blois in 1801. After admiring the stone sculptures, fireplaces and painted ceilings, Louis XII tiling and art furniture collected for five centuries, visitors can go outside to discover the English style grounds.
Oaks, blue cedars, giant redwoods and other majestic trees dominate the gardens, and are home to many wild animals, such as deer, rabbits and buzzards. A kitchen garden and an orchard are also open to the public, as well as two small pavilions converted into a museum of antique dolls.
Sleeping at the château
If château life is for you, Troussay will be pleased to welcome you for a stay in the château itself, in one of three guest suites, or in the outbuildings, for 4, 8 or 12-14 people, with private gardens.
And because you're never happier than when you're well fed, the Troussay shop offers lots of local produce, as well as picnic baskets to enjoy in the shade of centuries-old trees. Take a look inside!
Fougères-sur-Bièvre is another small château, a sort of idealised fortress. As you enter through an imposing gate in the curtain wall, you can't help but be struck by the powerful architecture of the building, very different from other châteaux of the Loire Valley.
Originally built in the eleventh century, and almost entirely destroyed during the Hundred Years War, when only the towers remained standing, the rest of the château was rebuilt in the 15th century in the Gothic style. Today, this magnificent château fascinates visitors from around the world. Fougères-sur-Bièvre has changed little over the centuries, and remains very impressive, despite its modest size.
The beautiful timber lofts are open to visitors, where you can appreciate the complexity of the building.
Outside, a garden of medieval inspiration is watered by the river Bievre, which flows across the field.