(Photo: Mansart Chapel of Castle îsle Marie)
The Cotentin is an ideal holiday destination for those who love history and rediscover the calm and beauty of unspoilt nature. We have selected for you a few castles and gardens that you can visit over several days while touring the Cotentin peninsula: fortified castles, perfectly preserved authentic 17th century salons, French gardens, English gardens, famous houses and grandiose landscapes. “Small, narrow roads that lead nowhere and everywhere,” said the French poet Jacques Prévert.
Located a few minutes from the Château de L'île Marie, the village of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte is famous for its medieval castle of the 10th century. Its 25-metre high keep reinforced by buttresses was built in 1346 by Geoffroy d'Harcourt. Listed as a Historic Monument since 1840, a visit to the castle allows you to discover the imposing Keep, the prison courtyard and the Robessart dwelling.
Dating from 1522 and inhabited until 1755, it was abandoned in the 19th century until an association acquired it in 1980. After many years of voluntary work, part of the castle and its outbuildings have now been restored.
You can take beautiful walks around the castle. Animations and temporary exhibitions are organized during the summer season.
Built on the basis of an old pavilion, Pierre Jallot Seigneur de Beaumont had this mansion built at the beginning of the 18th century by the architect Raphaël de Lozon. In the 19th century, after the French Revolution, the property will belong to our family d'Aigneaux who already owned the Château de l'Isle Marie. The Hôtel de Beaumont will be their winter residence.
Also called the "little Norman Versailles", it is a historical monument of great value that you can visit as well as its French gardens. You will live a unique experience as you immerse yourself in the refined atmosphere of the aristocratic lifestyle of the 18th century.
Tatihou is an island in front of Saint-Vaast-La-Houge, with a surface area of 29 hectares and now belonging to the Conservatoire du Littoral. It is accessible on foot at certain tides or you can take a shuttle bus. You will find a Vauban fort built in 1694 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a former Lazaret built in 1720 which houses the maritime museum, a naval carpentry workshop, a customs house and a beautiful botanical garden. The island is also a bird reserve since 1990. More than 150 different species can be observed on the island such as herring, brown and sea gulls, Belon's shelduck, oystercatcher, pigeon, little egret, Steller's eider, whistling duck, black-legged gull, snow bunting and woodcock.
Built in the 19th century, the Gatteville lighthouse is the 2nd largest lighthouse in France with 75 m high! The construction required 11,000 blocks of granite for a total weight of 7,400 tons.
The Gatteville lighthouse has as many steps as there are days in the year, as many windows as there are weeks and as many levels as there are months.
Once at its summit, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the peninsula and the Channel Sea.
Medieval manor belonging to the royal domain, it was sold by François I to Jean II de Ravalet, Lord of Tourlaville. He had a Renaissance castle built on the manor (of which only the ruins of the old keep remain), which he later offered to his nephew, Jean III.
Following serious financial problems, the Ravalet family sold the estate to Charles de Franquetot in 1653, who improved the interior layout before he was murdered under the blows of his valet. The park of the Château was redesigned around 1870 with two ponds and a cave. It is decorated with a greenhouse built in 1875 and many exotic plants.
The 16th century castle is surrounded by a moat and comprises a long main building flanked by a round tower with a pepperpot roof. The gatehouse is now isolated from the rest of the building. On the facade of the castle, one can read the following inscription: "The English drew the seven of August 1758", recalling the last offensive landing of the English in Normandy. A magnificent English-style park known for its rhododendrons and azaleas and including a pond and a river lined with arums. The whole is situated in a green valley opening on the sea.
Visits, from May 1st to September 30th: Weekly, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. This one starts at the concierge's office. Inside the postern and its drawbridge, which is the oldest part, you will find information about the history of the park and the castle.
In the 1930s, the poet Jacques Prévert fell under the spell of the Pointe de la Hague. All his life, he loved to contemplate the ocean and regularly returned to visit this end of the world. In 1970, the poet bought a house in this "corner of paradise". Fitted out by his friend Alexandre Trauner, Jacques Prévert lived in this house until his death in 1977. He is buried at the foot of the village church with his wife, his daughter and Trauner. A discreet refuge for the poet, the house was opened to the public in 1995.
The house is open from 16 June to 31 August: Tuesday to Sunday, from 2 pm to 7 pm.
The castle attracted many crowned heads who visited the castle park during the 19th century: Empress Josephine and Marie-Louise during the First Empire, as well as Empress Eugenie, Queen Victoria and Emperor Pedro I of Brazil during the Second Empire.
Today the English park has preserved most of its constituent elements: the large grassy meadows, the woods on the heights, the ponds and water mirrors crossing the park from east to west, the "Reserved Garden" with its collections of exotic conifers sheltering clumps of tree rhododendrons, the vegetable and flower gardens and their enclosing walls. The ensemble, animated by the horses of the stud farm, the llamas, the swans, the geese and the ducks, retains a very English and romantic character.
The Botanical Garden contains more than 1,000 species of plants native to the southern hemisphere. Covering an area of 4.5 hectares, it offers a succession of scenes that are as exotic as they are surprising. Palm groves of trachycarpus fortunei from China, royal ferns from Tasmania, the imposing Gunneras manicata basin from Brazil, eucalyptus from the Basin of Wisdom, or even smell the scents of the exotic garden... Thanks to the Gulf Stream, a coastal current that flows off the coast of Vauville, fascinating tropical essences grow here that the creator of this little paradise, botanist and perfumer Eric Pellerin, has been able to acclimatize since 1948. Following in the footsteps of the passionate and talented landscape architect Guillaume Pellerin, his son Eric Pellerin is today continuing to embellish this jewel case and he is happy to welcome you throughout the season to share his passion with you.
The castle dates from the 17th century and is surrounded by a park of several hectares enriched with woods, ponds and a magnificent octagonal tower. Its garden of dahlias, open to the public all year round, brings together 1150 varieties. Communal property since 1986, this castle is also a place of cultural life offering exhibitions and shows.
The central body of the castle is open to the public for summer and winter exhibitions and is closed the rest of the year. However, the exterior, the park, the dahlia garden and the woods surrounding the castle are accessible free of charge throughout the year.
In the heart of the Cotentin peninsula, coming from Carteret or Valognes, the village of Bricquebec rises up, dominated by the mass of its powerful keep. A rich history is attached to it, Bricquebec always leaves a strong and unforgettable impression on its visitors.
The inner courtyard has preserved its fortified enclosure and its keep of the XIVth century. From the parapet walk linking the keep to the Clock Tower, there is a view of the town and its surrounding hedged farmland. Guided tours are organised by the Pays d'Art et d'Histoire de Valognes.
Implanted on a Viking site, Pirou Castle is a 12th century fortress. The very old legend of the geese of Pirou, one of the most popular in the Cotentin region, claims to link the origin of this fortified castle to the Scandinavian invasions.
A knight of Pirou took part in the Conquest of England and received a domain in Somerset where his family founded Stoke-Pero. Following the sieges of the Hundred Years' War, the castle was restored in the 15th, 17th and 18th centuries. Since 1966, Pirou Castle has been undergoing restoration. Under the aegis of Abbot Marcel Lelégard, the Lucerne Abbey Foundation continues the reconstruction of the medieval castle. In its present state, the fortified castle, built on an island in the middle of an artificial pond, retains in its oldest part, ramparts from the 12th and 14th centuries.
One of the oldest abbeys in Normandy Founded in the 11th century, a century that saw a veritable monastic proliferation, Lessay Abbey is one of the oldest abbeys in Normandy. Barbey d'Aurevilly visited the abbey in 1864. As soon as he saw the monastery, he was seduced by the purity and majesty of the building.
Construite par les seigneurs de La Haye du Puits, l’abbaye de Lessay est mondialement reconnue pour être l’une des premières églises romanes à présenter des voûtes sur croisée d’ogives. Cette innovation architecturale et la pureté de ses lignes font de l’abbaye de Lessay un ensemble majestueux très apprécié des visiteurs. Presque entièrement détruite en 1944, elle fut reconstruite à l’identique après 13 ans de travaux.
The Château de Gratot, 4 km from Coutances, nowadays presents vestiges of buildings dating from the 13th to the 18th centuries. The castle is in the form of a quadrangular enclosure surrounded by a wide moat supplied with water by the "fountain of the Fairy". The legend: "A lord of Argouges returning from hunting met at the fountain a beautiful young woman named Andaine, the fairy of Gratot. He fell madly in love with her and asked for her hand. The beautiful woman told him that she was a fairy and that she agreed to become his wife on condition that he never uttered the word "dead". The lord promised. One day, during a banquet organized for his cousin, the lord of Granville, the lord of Gratot, who was tired of waiting for his lady who was getting ready, said to him: "Lady, be slow in your work, be good to go out to seek death! ». The fairy then uttered a heart-rending cry, climbed up onto the window sill and disappeared, leaving the imprint of her foot and hand. "Events and demonstrations are being organized on the spot.
Founded in the 12th century in the Siena valley, the abbey welcomed Benedictines until the eve of the Revolution.
It was the object of long and patient restoration work for more than half a century. Listed as a historic monument, Hambye Abbey is one of the most complete medieval monastic complexes in Lower Normandy and is integrated into a majestic environment protected as a sensitive natural area.
The castle, built at the beginning of the 17th century, is now an International Cultural Centre where the Association of Friends of Pontigny-Cerisy organizes cultural and scientific meetings from 13 May to 29 September 2019.
Guided tours of the castle, a historic monument, are organised in July and August on Thursday afternoons, and by appointment for groups.
The Château de Canisy is a private property classified as a Historic Monument. Magnificent architectural ensemble in the heart of a vast park and agricultural estate of 300 hectares, Canisy is one of the "7 wonders of the English Channel". This castle has sheltered illustrious people: alongside William the Conqueror, Hugues de Carbonnel, Lord of Canisy, took part in the conquest of England and the first crusade in 1096. Or Hervé de Carbonnel, the son-in-law of the Count of Thorigny, Marshal of France, who rebuilt a large part of the castle in the 16th century; Justine de Faudoas who married Louis-Gabriel de Kergorlay and who escaped the guillotine in 1794 during the French Revolution. Several of their portraits appear in the salons and dining rooms of the castle.
The castle can be visited during Heritage Days, its gardens are accessible during the summer season.
Built at the end of the 19th century, the villa Les Rhumbs, Christain Dior's childhood home, owes its name to the term marine designating the thirty-two divisions of the compass rose, a symbol that appears in a mosaic decorating the floor of one of the entrances to the house. In 1906, Christian Dior's parents acquired this bourgeois house with a winter garden, located in a protective park. Christian Dior was particularly fond of this place. In his autobiography "Christian Dior and I", he wrote: "the house of my childhood... I have the most tender and marvelous memories of it. What can I say? My life, my style, owes almost everything to its location and its architecture. When in 1932, shortly after Madeleine Dior's death, the industrial father was ruined by the crisis, the property was put up for sale. Bought by the town of Granville, its garden was opened to the public in 1938. In 1997, the villa became the "Christian Dior Museum", the only "museum in France" entirely devoted to a couturier.
"A lost Loire château in Normandy", "the highest roofs in France", "a real stone lace", the architecture of this atypical château with its original elegance, has inspired many comments and raised many questions. The architecture of the castle is quite singular: it was built in 1200 and does not look like a medieval castle. The interior visit of the Château de Fontaine Henry allows you to admire a fine sampling of French furniture, covering the Renaissance and the reigns of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. Also to be seen are the porcelain, silverware, as well as moving memories of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. The painting collection of the Château de Fontaine Henry is renowned, with works by artists such as Rubens, le Corrège, Titian, Rigaud, Mignard, Hubert Robert, Largillière and others. There is also a remarkable collection of engravings by Van der Meulen, comparable to those of the Grand Trianon.
Photo credit: wikipedia