The chateau at Lassay-les-Châteaux

The town of Lassay-les-Châteaux boasts three castles, but two are ruins. However, the main one near the town centre is in a remarkable state of preservation. It was built to its current design in 1458 when it was restored from a ruin that had originally been built during the 12th century. The castle has eight towers connected by massive walls surrounding an inner courtyard, and is built on a rock.

Your visit will begin at the barbican, shaped like the prow of a ship so that the cannon balls tend to deflect off it. It was put in place some time after the original castle was built, to protect the drawbridge which, unusually, is in two parts; a narrow entrance for pedestrians and riders in single file, and a broader one for carriages and equipment. The mechanism still works and you can operate the drawbridge with two people.

There is only one mention of the walls having been breached, in 1559 between the two western towers when the castle surrendered under seige, but there is no mention that the barbican was ever breached.

The castle is set in pretty gardens and a visit will also take you into the current living quarters where you can see some wonderful medieval furnishings and kitchen equipment. Notable past guests at the castle include Lavoisier, and Victor Hugo was refused entry for looking too scruffy.

The town of Lassay-les-Châteaux itself is a "petite cité de charactère" and is worth strolling around; many of the old buildings have posters explaining their age and function, summarised in English, and you can visit the ruined castles as well.

Entry to the castle is by guided tour only, offered on selected days from Easter to the end of September. It's best to phone first to check. There is a small admission charge, and texts of the guided tour are offered in English translation.

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