Chill out visiting French ‘châteaux’ in the Loire Valley.

The Loire Valley is a renowned area of beauty peppered with impressive ‘châteaux’, reminiscent of chivalrous days gone by, and listed in part, amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But before embarking on a castle-hopping tour, sift through what’s on offer and choose the pick of the crop. We’ve searched the web and come up with the following suggestions, from a list by the BBC.

As home to a succession of French monarchs, including Charles VIII and Louis XI, who used it as their weekend escape, stately Amboise castle is not to be missed. Or how about the multi turreted, 440 roomed, Chambord, with its 365 fireplaces and 85 staircases? It’s the largest châteaux in the valley. Dating back to 1519, it’s the epitome of French Renaissance architecture, and François I's country getaway. His friend, Leonardo da Vinci, supposedly designed its double-helix staircase so that his wife wouldn’t run into his mistress.

And if you’re looking for more quirky connections, try Ussé in the forest of Chinon, supposedly, the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty. The views across the Loire countryside and River Indre are fabulous. Local legend has it that this castle inspired Disney’s magical kingdom. You can also visit the perfectly maintained castle of Cheverny, which provided the inspiration for Captain Haddock's stately home in Hergé's Tintin.

The valley is also famous for its wineries, many of which offer interesting visits. Ryanair fly to Tours, at the heart of the region, from London Stansted and Dublin. Alternatively, take a Eurostar to Paris and then a high speed TGV train to reach the area. Bon voyage!

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