Visit the Chateau Rochefoucauld in Charente, Poitou-Charentes
Located to the north-east of Angouleme in the Charente, Rochefoucauld sits on a rocky spur above the Tardoire River and the town of the same name.
Remarkably the castle has been owned by the same family for its entire history (since 980).
Originally the castle was a fortified 11th century building - the donjon is the main feature from this period. Following enlargements during the 15th century, it was then converted into an impressive renaissance dwelling in 1520 - most notably it was at this time that the grand staircase was added, the towers, the south wing and the splendid three-levelled open galleries. It is possible but not certain that the staircase was designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
It was then further enhanced during the 17th and 18th centuries - with the addition of the west wing - to be the fine castle we see today.
The 'complete' ensemble is both attractive and fascinating, and there is a great deal of fine detail in the workmanship to be admired (above all perhaps the balconies and the staircase and the ceiling in the chapel).
The gardens around Chateau Rochefoucauld are also carefully maintained in the traditional French style and held in almost as much esteem as the castle itself.
Map showing location of Chateau Rochefoucauld