Château de La Ferté Saint-Aubin counts itself among the most beautiful and romantic châteaux on the Loire Valley. Although not as flamboyant and grandiose as its more renowned sisters, La Ferté Saint Aubin has an unspoiled charm that captures your heart and imagination from the first moment you see it. The Château was a great surprise for us. We arrived there around noon and proceeded across the front yard towards the 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 that was fascinating. But not long after our trespassing a bewildered young woman approached us, gesturing towards her watch. Between my limited French and her gestures I understood the château was closed and it won’t open for another hour. However, in exchange for the entrance fee she agreed to let us visit the grounds until the opening time. Arriving there early was a great advantage because for almost the entire visit we had the château all to ourselves.
Located about 18 km South of Orléans, the château passed from hand to hand until 1987 when it was purchased by Jaques Guiot. 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 Euros/person) is also used for the renovation.
As a result the building is not in the best shape in some places, but that makes it feel even more authentic and welcoming. La Ferté Saint-Aubin is a rare, non-commercialized French château where 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.
What sets this place apart from other châteaux we visited is the beautiful park around it that provides all kinds of old fashioned games and outdoor activities. There is even a train station and a real train with a steam engine with 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.
I particularly liked the attic area where you can see an impressive collection of carpentry tools and old roof tiles. There is also a recreation of an old classroom that will take you back into your grandparents’ time.
On the second floor of 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 Château de La Ferté Saint-Aubin. It’s a real gem. It’s magical. We really loved visiting it.