It’s best known for the beer brewed by local Trappists, but the small and ancient town of CHIMAY, 14km west of Couvin, is a charming old place in its own right, governed for several centuries by the de Croy family, a clan of local bigwigs who continue to occupy the Château des Princes de Chimay in the centre of town. A considerably altered structure, it was originally built in the fifteenth century, but was reconstructed in the seventeenth, then badly damaged by fire and partly rebuilt to earlier plans in the 1930s. Today the main body of the building is fronted by a long series of rectangular windows, edged by a squat turreted tower. Tours are led by the elderly Princess Elizabeth de Croy herself, who is an engaging and personable guide and speaks excellent English. She’ll show you the old chapel in one of the turrets, lots of family portraits (right up to the present day), a hotchpotch of period furniture and – the highlight – the carefully restored private theatre, modelled on the Louis XV theatre at Fontainebleau, where you can watch a short film on the family and the property. Many of the de Croy family were buried in the Collégiale des Saints Pierre et Paul, a mostly sixteenth-century limestone pile with a high and austere vaulted nave. The church’s walls crowd the town’s slender Grand-Place, an eminently bourgeois and exceedingly pretty little square surrounding the dinky Monument des Princes, a water fountain erected in 1852 in honour of the de Croys.
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