Even in a region as prosperous and well-connected as the Loire, the building boom that swept along the river in the 15th and 16th centuries was exceptional. Fired by new ideas from Italy, kings, queens, courtiers and mistresses all competed to build the most elegant and fanciful châteaux – and in the process created a template for fairy-tale palaces which survives to this day. This was not a case of importing wholesale the principles of Brunelleschi and Bramante: at earlier châteaux Renaissance motifs were grafted onto Gothic forms, and at their subsequent buildings we can witness an unmistakably French style emerge.
Our coach leaves the Gare du Nord in Paris at 12.30pm for the drive to the enchanting Château de Chenonceau – which spans the river Cher on a series of elegant arches. Continue to our hotel in Tours, and dinner.
After our first lecture we drive to the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau – one of the jewels of the French Renaissance. In the afternoon we visit Villandry, a fine château of the 1530s, made extraordinary by its restored formal gardens.
Morning lecture, followed by the Château de Blois, whose three wings were built in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, each in the latest architectural fashion. At Chambord, we examine the most ambitious of all the Loire châteaux. Group dinner.
Our final château is Cheverny, an elegant example of the French Baroque, with a dramatic roofline and sumptuous interiors. We then return to the Gare du Nord by coach for the trip’s conclusion by 5pm.
Steven began his working life as a professional gardener, and taught for 15 years in colleges of horticulture in the north of England. Now, he divides his time between writing, lecturing and conservation. He has an MA in Conservation from the University of York, writes for Country Life and advises the National Trust on historic gardens. He is also a lecturer on architectural history at Buckingham and Oxford Universities. Steven is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a Professional Associate of the Royal Horticultural Society. His book, Gardens of the Italian Lakes, was published in 2016.
£880 per person sharing in a double room.
£1,005 for one person in a double room.
Accommodation and meals
The hotel: Best Western Plus L’Artist Hôtel, Tours (3 star).
Included meals: daily breakfasts and two dinners (with wine).
Expect a fair amount of walking as our coach rarely parks near the châteaux. Steps and stairs are unavoidable.
There is no minimum number of clients required for this trip to run.
Maximum group size
Joining and leaving the trip
Flight and trains are not included, you make your own way to and from the starting and finishing point of the trip. Eurostar runs regular services between London St Pancras International and Paris Gare du Nord railway stations. Please note The Cultural Travel Company does not arrange international or domestic travel.
Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book to make sure you are happy with the advice for the places you are visiting.