We spent a couple of days driving through the tiny mass of Luxembourg, a beautiful little emerald of rolling hills and sweeping forests. And, nestled amongst the undulations – chateaux! Beautiful castles that appear as though out of fairy tale. Propped atop hills, overlooking quaint towns and nestled in valley dips, they are delightfully picturesque and make for a fun day of exploring.
Chateau Bourshied was our first castle of the day and the one we spent most time in and learning about. But first to describe the journey there… approaching the attraction we had to traverse a valley, the small town at the bottom dissipating amongst the trees as the buildings climbed the steep gradient. The road zigzagged its way down, causing us to slow significantly for the tight bends. In no time we were at the bottom crossing the river and ready to start heading up the other side.
The road back up was the same as the descent, the crags stood tall at the edge of the road hanging over us, with the tall trees hanging over them, moving and swaying in the wind. Up the other side our road flattened out, we passed though patches of woodland as we continued our journey. We rounded a sweeping bend when suddenly the strong stone walls rose up in front of us – we had reached our destination.
Entrance was only 5 euros each and this included an audio guide – audio guides aren’t usually our thing, but with the place almost to ourselves it was quite pleasant being able to wander through the remnants, taking in all the details of the ruin with a voice in our ears chatting away about the history. However, we did get the giggles a few times over the actor playing the part of Victor Hugo!
The site itself dating back to roman times, Chateau Bourschied is believed to have been built around the year 1000, but was changed and extended many times over the course of its life; the outer walls date from 1350, the Stalzemboug House from 1384, the courtyard from 1477 and the artillery bastions from the 16th Century. In the 18th Century repair work was undertaken but this could not stop further degradation resulting in talks of demolishing the impressive structure surfacing in the 19th Century. Fortunately it became a listed building, was acquired by the state and restored to its current standard, allowing full access to visitors.
Set over several different levels, we were able to meander through the various sections and rooms of the old building, from down in cellars right up to the top of the tower. Low walls gave way to views over the lush green undulating countryside. It was a changeable day with showers passing through quickly, the strong winds hurrying them away as quickly as they arrived. Subsequently we were left with fluffy white clouds tumbling across a brilliant blue sky and from the top of the tower we enjoyed the view over a perfect sweeping bend of the River Sure.
After a leisurely visit we began the journey to our next destination, driving away from the chateau we found ourselves looking back towards the tall stony fortress with which we were level. Perched on its hill, it stood out against the swathes of trees covering the land around it. Catching the light, its imposing turrets gleamed in the sunshine, shadows of the clouds above crawled across the carpet of green that surrounded it, creating rather lovely picture indeed.
We decided to forgo exploration of the inside of our next chateau, opting instead to enjoy the outside views and the surrounding area. Chateau Larochette dates from the 11th century but suffered from a fire at the end of the 16th century. It was acquired by the state in 1979, with some restoration work taking place as a result. The ruins stand 150 metres above the White Ernz which runs through the small namesake town below.
We followed a small track along the side of the tall boundary wall which was intermingled with rocky crags. A soft woodland shaded us from the sun on what was becoming a very hot day, a light breeze fluttered through but didn’t do much to cool us. Green fields fell away from us, cascading down to the small houses of the town below. We found some steep woodland steps and decided to find out where they led.
As we descended steeply the woodland path gave way to a small cobbled alleyway, twisting between the houses, finally ejecting us onto a wider but still very quaint cobbled street. Children played in the road and we could hear the hum of traffic from the main vein of the town as we ambled through the close houses. Larochette is a pretty, bustling little place and we enjoyed taking in the ambiance on our short visit.
With an ice cream in hand we started our ascent, back up the steps and into the woodland. We headed around the other side of the chateau, as far as we could before coming to a large iron gate, set firmly in the tall archway in front of us. Crumbling steps and uneven walls gave us an inclination to the ruinous nature of the site within.
Back at the van we took our time moving on, enjoying the coming and goings of the black red starts. They flitted in and out of the towered entrance, their nest poised on a high ledge with the faint chirruping of tiny offspring coming from within. Every time an adult flew in there was a raucous and several little heads wobbled above the top of the nest.
This chateau was more of a drive by than an actual stop off as the day was drawing in and we would soon be looking for somewhere to spend the night.
Located on the upper reaches of the Loire River the chateau was built in the 13th century and modified in the 15th & 16th centuries. It was built for surveillance and domination over the Loire Valley and was of historical importance during the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion, however after the French Revolution it was gradually abandoned and fell into a state of ruin. It has been listed as a ‘monument historique’ by the French Ministry of Culture since 1994.
In the dim blue light of a dusk sky, surrounded by the silhouettes of trees this tall grey structure with its jutting ruinous tops and its flags fluttering in the wind, it reminded me a lot of the larger Scottish castles we have stumbled upon from time to time. Due to our out of hours visit we didn’t get a closer look but would definitely pop in next time we are passing through the area.