Château d’Essalois is splendid ruin on the edge of a promontory above the River Loire. Signed off the D108 south of St-Just-St-Rambert, it is a short drive to a large car park with woodland walks and a large sign saying no cars beyond this point, five minutes walk to the château.
In fact it took us twelve minutes along a rough road. There is actually some parking outside the château and a small auberge which also has accommodation and caters for events. It was very busy and we probably saw more people here than we had seen all week.
Château d’Essalois is a large square stone building with two round towers at the front and two square towers at the back. It is open daily from 9-7 and admission is free. Access to some of the rooms is restricted to pre-arranged tours.
It was built on the site of a Gallic oppidium which extended 500m behind the Château. The remains of the walls are now covered by broom. There was a château here in the 14thC and the present building dates from the 16thC. It was the centre of a large estate with farms, woodland and meadows. It was lived in until the 18thC but was in a ruinous condition by the 19thC. It was bought by Hippolyte Sauzea, a merchant in St Étienne, at the end of the 19thC who restored it and bequeathed it to the Hospices of St-Étienne. His coat of arms can be seen on the western front.
The building is again in a ruinous condition and owned by the local community. On the front is a sundial dated 2007 with a sign explaining how to make corrections for the different months of the year. Steps inside the round tower give access to the first floor, a large open area, and also to the roof for good views of the surrounding area. Below, on an island in the Loire, is Château de Grangent.
You get glimpses of the château as you drive south along D108. From a distance it looks dramatic. However, we felt this is another place best admired from the outside as there isn't a lot to see or photograph inside. It didn’t repay the time invested to get there and we would give it a miss another time.