Few visitors to the Loire Valley take time to visit the beautiful Chateau de Saint-Aubin. Most of them probably never even heard about it. It’s fair to say that the little Saint-Aubin doesn’t measure up to the grandiose Chambord. Or the flamboyant Chenonceau. But what it lacks in size and glamor, the chateau compensates in charm and seclusion.
Discovering the Chateau de Saint-Aubin
Chateau Saint-Aubin was a good and unexpected surprise. We stumbled upon it totally by accident. We were about 18 km South of Orléans, trying to find another castle, but instead ended up here.
It was around noon when we arrived. The ticket booth seemed closed and nobody was around, so we proceeded across the front yard towards the main building. We passed by the ticket booth without even noticing it, hidden in a big building on the side. Since nobody stopped us on the way, we continued to the back of the estate, fascinated by the idilic landscape.
Shortly after our trespassing a bewildered young woman approached us, gesturing towards her watch. Between my limited French and her gestures I understood the castle was closed and it won’t open for another hour. However, after purchasing the tickets, she agreed to let us visit the grounds until the opening time.
A Brief History of Chateau de Saint-Aubin
Chateau de Saint-Aubin has been mentioned in notarial archives since the middle of the 19th century. The building however seems to be much older. The estate once belonged to the Countess of Trébon, a descendant of Trébon who served King Louis XIV as a Black Musketeer.
The estate changed hands several times over the centuries, eventually being acquired by The Piffaut Family. The new owner decided to open the estate to the public in order to finance the huge renovation works that have been continuing for the past 25 years. The fee charged for the entrance (€10/person) is also used for the renovation.
What to Expect at Chateau Saint-Aubin
Since the renovation is still in progress, the building is not in the best shape in some places. However, that makes it feel even more authentic and welcoming.
Unlike other châteaux, Saint-Aubin is a rare, non-commercialized castle. Here you can actually explore every room, from cellar to attic, and even sit on the furniture. The owners want you to experience life in a château and they invite you to feel at home. I found that concept very attractive, especially when compared with the strict rules and corded barriers of the other châteaux in the Loire Valley.
The Chateau Grounds
What sets this place apart from the other châteaux we visited is pristine park around it. The castle grounds are sprinkled with all kinds of old fashioned games and unexpected attractions. There is even a train station and a real train with a steam locomotive and a wagon from the mythical Orient Express.
The waiting room at the station is inhabited by a family of cute little bunnies that hide fast under the dusty benches when visitors arrive.
There are over 30 games around the park, like chess, draughts, croquet, golf, or archery. These most likely make the visit very attractive to families with children, but we enjoyed them just as much.
What to Visit Inside the Chateau
In the attic there is an impressive collection of carpentry tools and old roof tiles. On the floor below, you’ll see a recreation of an old classroom that will take you back into your grandparents’ time.
In the Orangerie there is a great collection of antique dolls and toys, some of which are very valuable. The only thing we couldn’t visit was the château’s Chapel, which seemed to have been closed for renovation. But seeing the exterior was rewarding enough, especially with its reflection in the lake.
There are lovely photographic opportunities in this place, both outside and inside. If you happen to be chasing French châteaux on the Loire Valley, don’t overlook the beautiful Chateau Saint-Aubin. It’s a real magical place that few people know about. We really loved visiting it!