Having taken the Normandy beaches, we have finally arrived au Château d'Harcourt, which originally consisted of earthworks, before being built with wood and finally in stone. Today, this impressive twelfth-fourteenth century castle is a fine example of medieval architecture, one of the best-preserved in Normandy. The western side retains its medieval appearance, with a double moat, fortified courtyard and circular towers on either side of the facade.
Having played a defensive role in the fourteenth century, the castle took on a residential purpose in the seventeenth century. The eastern side bears witness to the work undertaken to transition towards a more classical architecture, typical of country residences. This can be seen in the filled-in moats, the terrace leading to a flower garden (previously a typical French-style garden), a facade with high classical windows and apartments decorated with wood panelling and parquet floors. Harcourt lies in the middle of a vast 200 hundred year old Arboretum.
One of the largest tree gardens in France, the Harcourt Arboretum is a unique botanical collection in terms of both the age and the dimensions of the specimens it comprises: over five hundred species, some of which are between one hundred and fifty and two hundred years old – and over forty metres tall.
Some of the greatest names in the worlds of horticulture, botany and forestry – including Delamarre, Michaux, Pépin and Vilmorin, all of whom worked here at some time since 1810 – have left their mark on its history. It is home to outstanding, majestic trees such as cedars of Lebanon, a London plane, giant sequoias and thuyas, unusual trees such as dwarf beeches, and primitive trees from another age such as ginkgo bilobas and dawn redwoods. Harcourt is now a vast expanse to be explored, Sydney, or simply to enjoy a walk in the woods this beautiful Friday evening.