France // The Loire //

Château d’Ussé

Fourteen kilometres west of Azay-le-Rideau, as the Indre approaches its confluence with the Loire, is the Château d’Ussé in Rigny-Ussé. With its shimmering white towers and terraced gardens, this is the ultimate fairy-tale château – so much so that it’s supposed to have inspired Charles Perrault’s classic retelling of the Sleeping Beauty myth. The exterior resembles nothing so much as a Disney fantasy; you half expect to see Beauty and the Beast emerge. Inside, things are more restrained, apart from the rather kitsch tableaux telling the story of Sleeping Beauty. The most recent renovations are the attic areas, which are now open to visitors where you can see antiques and paintings. The château’s vineyards are also now producing wine, a sparkling Cuvée Prestige Brut, which is for sale in the grounds. The gardens, designed by Le Nôtre, are pleasant to wander in. The loveliest feature of all is the Renaissance chapel in the grounds, shaded by ancient cedars.