Chateau de La Barre

Pays de Loire, Loire Valley, France Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
An elegant chateau, home to the Count of Vanssay's family since 1404, plus 2 separate apartments for 2-4, set in glorious countryside near Vendome
The fact that so many of Château de la Barre’s guests are return visitors says it all: this place is a real find. Set amongst 100 acres of private parkland and fragrant gardens, the elegant château has been in the de Vanssay family since the 14th century and still has its ancient moat fortifications. Inside, the heritage is evident: wall tapestries, ancestral portraits and endless antiques. It’s full of heirlooms you’d normally see in a museum – but here you can eat from the priceless china, walk on centuries-old Persian rugs, even sleep in a Louis XVI bed.

But what makes this place really special is your hosts, the Comte and Comtesse de Vanssay. They’re the 20th generation of Vanssays to live here and want their home to be a place where guests can experience a true ‘aristocratic holiday'. On arrival you’ll enjoy afternoon tea in the elegant lounge; dinner is a 4-course feast served en famille in the Grand Dining Hall. By day you can ride, play billiards and croquet, try archery or head off to the magnificent Loire châteaux. Seize your chance to see how the other half live – and live it with them.

Highs

  • Regal bedrooms, with traditional Toile de Jouy fabric covering the walls and antique furniture (plus power showers for 21st-century comfort)
  • Excellent formal dinners, complemented by carefully chosen wines from the family cellar
  • Within easy driving distance of several châteaux, 12th-century Romanesque churches and the Loire vineyards
  • Welcoming yet down-to-earth hosts: Guy is a writer and wine connoisseur, while Marnie is a mine of information on French history and the château's antiques
  • And if you want a bit more independence, book one of the self-catering apartments (note there's a 7 night minimum booking requirement)

Lows

  • Dinner is not served every day – check in advance so you don't miss out
  • You're somewhat off the beaten track, halfway between Chartres and the Loire Valley (about an hour from each)
  • Not suitable for children under 12
  • Don't expect cool, contemporary décor – this is splendour of the plushest kind
  • There is no swimming pool

Best time to go

Any time of year. If you're a keen walker, the shoulder months (April, May and September) offer great weather without oppressive heat. If you're a sun seeker, book in during June, July and August and take life at a slow pace - perfect picnic and wine tasting weather! Some festivals (sound and light shows in Le Mans and Loire valley châteaux) and smaller castles may only be open in July and August. In winter, the château becomes a gloriously romantic bolthole. It's open almost all year, and privately booked for the Le Mans week every year (mid June).

Our top tips

The château is a perfect place to visit a deux and indulge in a weekend of French fine living - dressing for dinner is de rigueur so pack a couple of evening outfits!

Great for...

Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Historic Chateau
  • 8 rooms + 2 apartments
  • Breakfast + meals by arrangement
  • Only over 12s welcome.
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Tennis Court
  • Snooker Table
  • Bicycles Available
  • Deer park
  • Cooking lessons
  • Language tuition weeks
Room: Kingsize Double (Main Chateau)

Rooms

The 8 ensuite bedrooms are split between the southwest and east wings; the former overlooks the park and flower gardens, the latter a 15th-century courtyard. Sumptuous bathrobes, decanters of port and a tea tray add a homely edge, whilst power showers, Hermes toiletries and monogrammed linen sheets tick the luxury boxes. Most of the rooms have fabulous Toile de Jouy fabrics, based on those created during the 'Siècle des Lumières' (Enlightenment), and featuring a mixture of animals, castles and other motifs.

So which to choose? The vast Chambre Marin de Vanssay (the Deluxe) houses a splendid antique oak wardrobe, 17th-century Florentine mirror towers and a canopied kingsize bed, while the Kingsize Double room - Chambre Bleue - features a magnificent embroidered silk Rubelli, antique oil paintings and a balcony overlooking the park. At the end of the southwest wing sits the stunning Junior Deluxe room (Chambre Esprit de Jouy) with an authentic Louis XVIth canopied bed.

We stayed in the delightful Superior room - Chambre Jaune - the golden toile de Jouy wall fabric made the room light and bright and its double bed inside an alcove surmounted by a 17th-century Flemish painting was quite romantic. The Standard Double (Chambre aux Fleurs) was built during the Hundred Years War! There are also 2 Single Rooms, one of which (Louis XV) is perfect for an older child as it adjoins the Chambre Esprit de Jouy.

Finally there are 2 Self-catering Cottage apartments for weekly rental (Saturday-Saturday; although shorter lets may be possible, upon enquiry and at a surcharge). These are housed in a separate wing which the Vanssays call the 'cottage'. Guests have access to the château gardens and its 100-acre park but not to the château front terrace or the château itself.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe box
  • WiFi

Eating

Eating en famille with the Comte and Comtesse in their candlelit 17th-century dining hall was the highlight of our stay here. We started with a Pineau aperitif in the Grand Salon, then moved to the long oak table, lit by a chandelier, to dine off the family crystal and china. The 4-course menu is ever changing - regional French cuisine with some more modern influences - and each course is complemented by a carefully chosen wine. He chose a subtly dry Jasnieres blanc for the entree of salmon en croute, then a smooth Saumur-Champigny rouge (both Loir valley wines) for the plat principal of champignon et veau, which he continued to pour liberally throughout the cheese course.

These aristocratic-style dinners must be booked in advance, and are only available on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On other nights, you can opt for a lighter supper - salad, cold cuts, melon, cheese, a bottle of wine and a tarte tatin - served in the billiard room.

Breakfast, a spread of fruit, juices, cereals, French pastries, yoghurts and freshly laid eggs, was served in in the sunny breakfast room, where the walls are lined with Impressionist paintings. No lunches are served, but chances are you'll be out and about during the day as we were.

If you're staying in one of the apartments, you can choose to self-cater - the kitchens have hob, oven, fridge-freezer, sink and cooking equipment - or to join the Vanssays for a feast in the chateau (one dinner is allowed, depending on availability).

There are several recommended restaurants nearby, and Guy and Marnie are happy to advise and make bookings for you. St Antoine in the local village does very good regional cuisine, whilst Relais d'Antan is said to be exceptional.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Communal dining
  • Dinner by arrangement
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the grounds and Bercé forest on foot or by bicycle, then return to the chateau for a championship of billiards and croquet
  • Ask Guy for a tour of the chateau to admire its heirlooms and impressive wine cellar - he has plenty of stories about his ancestors whose faces dot the walls, after all this is the house he grew up in!
  • Take a hot air balloon from the terrace at dawn and return in time for a Champagne breakfast
  • You're an hour or so from the famous Loire Valley chateaux, including Chambord, Ussé, Cheverny, Chenonceau and Saumur, and when you get bored of castles there are 12th-century churches with period frescoes to admire
  • Go horse riding (10km away; the owners can arrange), have a round of golf - there are some excellent 18-hole courses in the vicinity, or play tennis in the local village
  • Walk through the beautiful Jardin du Plessis Sesnieres, a landscaped French formal garden and English-style tree park by a lake with a pretty tea room; or the astonishing topiary and the children's maze in the gardens of the Chateau de Villandry, near Tours
  • Go wine tasting at one of the region's excellent wineries, then buy some French bread and cheeses and have a picnic
  • Explore the remarkable old city of Le Mans, home of the Plantagenet kings and stage set for many films, although now more famous for its 24-hour racing!
  • The stunning cathedral at Chartres is within day-tripping distance, an hours' drive away
  • Europe's oldest stained-glass windows are in the magnificent Gothic Trinity Abbey in nearby Vendome
  • Indulge in a Renaissance lunch at Clos Lucé, home to Leonardo Da Vinci... afterwards, stroll through the park with interactive displays of his genius inventions

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Language courses
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Only "castle-friendly" children over the age of 12 are accepted; no child meals or discounts.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

7/
Rooms
6/
Food
9/
Service
7/
Value
7/
Overall

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},
Feedback is only from guests who have booked and stayed through i-escape

Rates for Chateau de La Barre