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Brightly plastered facades and slated roofs capture the light here, as if determined to illuminate this estate that defies the centuries with a harmonious blend of styles and eras. The formal gardens, the old moats, the chapel, the barn and the dovecote surround the chateau and retrace its history from medieval origins to the splendour of the 18th century. Following recent renovations, holidays and private or professional events can now be organised with the upmost refinement and the banks of the Mayenne which crosses the Laval nearby.
We already owned a property, a hotel-restaurant chateau, in Normandy. Over time, we wanted to refine our professional activity by focusing on accommodation alone, and so we started looking for another property. Maine is very close to Normandy and is the part of the Pays de la Loire that resembles it the most. The countryside is largely wooded with gently sloping hills. In this region, the horse is king. It is close to a city, on the road to Brittany and not far from the Loire. And last but not least, the part that decided it all, is this chateau that we fell head over heels for when we visited. The property was in a state of total abandonment, urging us to restore it to its former glory. That was exactly what we had in mind during our first visit that preceded then ten years of restoration work.
The chateau is a beautiful example of a building whose many years of construction across different eras have, perhaps surprisingly, resulted in a perfectly coherent appearance. There is a great deal of elegance in the mixture of styles. The pavilions of the main house, the chapel and the dovecote evoke the Renaissance, whilst the facade of the house and the small corner pavilion illustrate the classical spirit and that of the Enlightenment respectively. Other defining features include the park and gardens. There is a remarkable garden on the terrace at the rear of the chateau which is reached by a stone staircase. On one side is a line of lime trees, and at the centre is a beautiful covered well surrounded by a rose garden. It is something of a little corner of Italy in Maine. Many of the property's features are now protected as they are listed as Historic Monuments.
The first mentions of Hauterives appear as early as the 13th century. In 1209, the manor and its numerous outbuildings belonged to Guillaume de Hauterives. In 1485, the count of Laval granted the remission of feudal rights. In 1515, the seigneury was promoted to the rank of castellany. Through marriages and inheritance, the chateau then passed into the hands of several famous families including the Du Bellays and the Hauteforts. Marie de Hautefort, who stayed here, was called to the court of France at the age of 14. In 1625, she was assigned as a lady in waiting to Marie de Medici and later became King Louis XIII's mistress. In 1737, the chateau was sold to Jean-Baptiste Berset, the son of a wealthy banker, for 131,000 pounds. He introduced the current facades which still bear his coat of arms. Most of the construction is his work. Jean-Baptiste Berset also renovated the chapel, which then came under the authority of the bishopric of Le Mans. His descendants kept the chateau, through the Fitzgerald and Montalembert families, until 1975. It was then abandoned until 2007 which is when we began restoring it to its former glory.
We both have dual French/Canadian nationality and are fluent in English and French. We have kept photos and videos from all stages of the chateau's restoration that are sure to interest any visitors with a penchant for history and architecture. Some of the original pigeonholes where the pigeons came to roost still remain in the dovecote - guests will certainly find themselves "cooing" over the beautiful atmosphere in this guest room! Guests staying at the chateau are free to explore the gardens and woods, and there are numerous walking trails bordering the property for more than ten kilometers. The calm, the rest and the beauty of the gardens mix very well indeed!
The department of Mayenne has one of the highest numbers of privately owned chateaus in France. Thirteen of these beautiful homes, of which we are one, open their doors and gardens to the public. Three large, organic markets attract shoppers to Argentré, Laval and Bonchamps every weekend. Local producers await! La Copo d´Argentré, an artisanal brewery, produces organic beers that come in several flavours - it is definitely worth a visit. The medieval village of Sainte-Suzanne enchants visitors with its local craftsmen, such as those creating natural and intoxicating scents at the soap factory, who have preserved traditional skills and expertise.
In addition to the chateau are the former stables transformed into a reception room, a caretaker's house, a restored dovecote dating back to 1534, a chapel from 1762, and a large French-style garden made up of boxwood trees and roses. The chateau is located in the countryside with no visible wiring that might complicate shots. A forest, valley and walled garden complete the ensemble.