I was dragged around many a châteaux in France by my parents as a child. I remember lots of old rooms with big paintings of men on horses and in all honesty, it was rather dull. All I wanted to do was get back to the campsite to meet up with my new friends and jump in the pool. So why did I return almost thirty(ish) years later to the Loire with kids (my boys aged 3 and 4) to do exactly the same thing?
Well, with age comes a better appreciation of history and architecture, and I’ve grown to love the French châteaux. Plus, many of the chateaux in the Loire have diversified and there are a few that really cater for families. It’s all about finding the right one. So here are the three best Châteaux to visit in the Loire with kids, according to TraveLynn Family. With these choices you may even find time to admire the architecture and marvel the grounds with a minimal amount of whinging 😉
Château de Cheverny
Kids will love watching the feeding of the hounds at 11:30am each day, before finding the LEGO structures hidden around the rooms of the chateau’s interior. Take a picnic down to the river before finding your way through the maze. If you manage to find your way out, reward yourselves to some home-made ice-cream at Cafe de l’Orangerie.
‘Château de Marlinspike’ in The Adventures of Tintin was based on Cheverny. There’s a permanent Tintin exhibition on site, which may be the closest you get to walking through the comic book. You do have to pay extra to visit however.
Check the Château de Cheverny website for up to date opening time and entry prices.
Château du Clos Lucé
This is the place where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years. It’s not the most architecturally stunning Château in the region, but kids will love playing with Da Vinci’s inventions in the gardens. Head for a wander around the manor before heading to the gardens, as it will help parents explain the inventions when the kids start questioning.
Check the Château du Clos Lucé website for up to date opening time and entry prices.
Château du Rivau
This is a fairytale castle to ignite imaginations of all ages. The gardens are especially enchanting with giant’s legs walking through the trees, turrets to climb, and a very late white rabbit at the end of a maze. There’s also a garden of potions and be sure to look for the dwarfs hiding in their mushroom houses before venturing to the playground. If you’re visiting during the French school holidays, check the website for kids activities.
Check the Château du Rivau website for up to date opening time and entry prices.
Where we stayed
A great budget choice for families is Camping Château des Marais, Muides-sur-Loire. We stayed with Canvas Holidays in one of their pre-erected Maxi-tents, which has beds, cooking facilities and dining area (a bit like glamping). The campsite itself is set in the grounds of an old manor house and has a fantastic swimming pool complex with slides galore! There are also playgrounds, an onsite shop and restaurant, as well as kids clubs. What we liked about this campsite, is that it’s not too big, although expect to stay up late as the whole site is lively with families playing until 11pm (but that is pretty standard across France).
How to get there
For us, the easiest way to get to the Loire is to take the ferry from the South of England and drive. The Loire is only 4.5 hours from the Calais and 3.5 hours from Le Havre. Alternatively you can fly in to Tours Airport, or even Paris (which is just 2 hours away). We strongly recommend visiting by car (this may mean hiring at the airport), as it’s the easiest way to get around. That and a bike.
Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family entirely funded this trip and all words and opinions are my own.
Where would we be without our trusted Lonely Planet?