On a slightly drizzly in September, a visit to a chateau is the ideal way to escape the gloom and delve into the past of this wonderfully historic area of the Dordogne.
Situated down a tree line drive between the towns of Montignac and Thonac the Chateau de Losse is a private residence and a beautifully kept chateau filled with history, manicured gardens and original features. With plenty of free parking there is really no excuse to stop off here and enjoy a guided tour and a good look around the grounds.
Although the day was dull, the lush moss and greenery that surrounded the chateau and the old moat were glowing against the typical honey-coloured stone that is used for so many of the buildings across the Dordogne region. As I entered through the main gate I was given a guide book in English (they are also available in Spanish, German, Dutch, Russian etc) that would accompany me on the self-guided tour of the grounds and also on the guided tour of the building. During high season the guided tours are available in different languages as several of the guides speak English and/or Spanish, but during my visit the tour was only available in French so the booklet was essential.
There are regular guided tours throughout the day and each one is signalled by the ringing of the gatehouse bell. You are free to wander through the grounds until you hear the bell and then you make your way to the gatehouse and await your guide. I was worried as I walking around that I would miss the bell, but to be honest, you can hear it everywhere and they give you plenty of time to get back to the main gate so no need to rush!
The book leads you around the external walls, moat and down to the river, explaining the various reasons for the different buildings and towers that are visible. Once inside the gatehouse of the chateau you can continue the tour around the gardens and of a few outbuildings that house some rather unusual rooms. The main turret to the left as you enter has a bedroom and bathroom and appears to be some kind of day room or guest quarters. The idea of staying in a turret like this, after passing along the rose-lined path, seemed rather romantic to me... Until that is, I discovered the cellar in the basement.
There are lights leading you down the set of stairs into the darkness and as I descended I was intrigued as to what I might find...the answer was a lot more darkness! So much in fact that I kind of freaked out and decided to make a hasty retreat up the stairs into the daylight.
After a quick trip around the garden I heard the bell and made my way to the main gate. This fortified gatehouse is, in fact, the largest of it's kind in Europe and is certainly an impressive nad imposing structure. The tour begins on the upper floors of the chateau with the history of the Losse family who came from Flanders in the 11th century and subsequently built a stronghold on the right bank of the Vézère.
The guide was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable, and I managed even with my basic French to pick up some of the more interesting features that she was explaining. One thing in particular that struck me was the stone flooring in the upper reception room; very small stones set out in a geometric pattern that was very popular in the Perigord region, but unusual to be seen on the second floor due to the sheer weight of the floor. I went on to see many examples of this kind of flooring throughout my time in the Perigord.
Another treat was seeing the examples of Van Dyck and Rubens sketches that the family own. The guided tour continued through the armoury, bedroom, dining room and eventually onto the terrace at the rear of the chateau that overlooks the river. The tour lasts about 45 minutes but the guide was happy to answer any questions as we travelled through the chateau and was available after as well for people to delve a little deeper into their areas of interest.
This was definitely a few hours well spent and a lovely opportunity to see and explore a more intimate chateau in the Dordogne region. There is also plenty to entertain younger children here with the gardens, labyrinth trail and treasure hunt to enjoy. The guided tour may be less interesting for young children but I can guarantee everyone will enjoy seeing the secrets of the armoury at Chateau de Losse.