Everything You Want to Know About France and More...

Chateau d’Ussé Loire Valley, a REAL sleeping beauty castle

White stone Chateau d'Usse atop a hill

If ever there was a real sleeping beauty castle, then the Chateau d’Ussé is it. A stone’s throw from the river Indre, sitting atop a ridge, this pretty castle is part renaissance, part Gothic – totally fairy tale.

Teeming with towers and turrets of white tufa stone, spanning architectural styles from the 1400s to the 1600s, view it from the bridge across the river and you’ll think you’ve dreamed yourself straight into a Sleeping Beauty scene. So it may come as no surprise to discover that Charles Perrault (1628-1703), the great French writer of fairy tales, used this castle as the setting for his tale la Belle au bois dormant – Sleeping Beauty.

History of the Chateau d’Ussé

There’s been a castle here for more than 1000 years though nothing of that early Viking fortress remains. The castle we see was begun in the 15th century and completed in the late 1600s. It’s in a fabulous location, atop a hill overlooking the countryside, backed by the forest of Chinon and surrounded by parkland.

The castle was bought in 1807 by the Duchess of Duras, a novelist. She managed to keep her head during the French Revolution though her husband lost his. She fell in love with the writer and politician Chateaubriand. Her love was not reciprocated and when he openly took a mistress, the poor Duchess was heartbroken and stopped all the hands on the clocks in the castle saying that she did not wish to be ‘reminded of the hours that passed and marked his not coming to her side…’ Not a sleeping beauty ending for her.

What to see at the Chateau d’Ussé

To this day the castle is lived in, passed through generations of the Duchess of Duras’ family, and the current owner and resident is the Duke de Blacas d’Aulps, grandson of the man who began the Egyptian Department at the Louvre in Paris.

The 17th century Mansard staircase is stunning and the rooms are beautifully decorated including a ‘royal’ bedroom. Prepared for King Louis XVI it is dominated by a voluptuous 5-poster bed though alas – the King never arrived. There are tapestries, 18th century furnishings, and porcelain on display in several rooms though you don’t get to see most of the rooms as they are of course inhabited by the residents. An interesting chapel in the grounds features the history of the castle.

You also can’t help but fail to notice the mannequins in many of the rooms or poised on the staircase. Strangely lifelike, their costumes are changed each year and they are the passion of the Duchess I’m told. I have to say, they are somewhat spooky though the original costumes dating back centuries are superb!

Fairies in the attic

And head up into the attic for a raft of rooms presenting a sleeping beauty scenario featuring the Wicked Queen, Aurora – the sleeping beauty, her prince and a whole host of fairy tale favourites. The stairs and corridors are narrow at times and it’s definitely not Disney, but kids love it.

From the top of the castle the views over the terraced gardens below are outstanding. Some of the orange trees are more than 100 years old. The gardens were originally designed by the great le Nôtre who also designed the gardens of Versailles.

Allow a couple of hours for this visit including the gardens. There’s a terraced cafe opposite and a cute shop next door full of trinkets, textiles and things that are hard to resist and make great souvenirs!

Chateau d’Ussé website: chateaudusse.fr

Discover more fabulous destinations in France with our free magazine The Good Life France

Love France? Have a listen to our podcast – everything you want to know about France and more!

All rights reserved. This article may not be published, broadcast, rewritten (including translated) or redistributed without written permission.

Scroll to Top