Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

The Chateau de Chillon is one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist destinations. Perched on a rocky island close to the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman), its iconic setting is stunningly beautiful. On the day we went there walking up from Montreux (see last week’s post here),  the early morning sun soon turned to mist and fine rain giving the old castle a rather mysterious and haunting appearance.

Chateau de Chillon - Lake Leman (Geneva)

Chateau de Chillon – Lake Geneva with alpine peaks in background

No surprises then to find out that the history of this sometime fortress, arsenal and prison is somewhat dark despite its serene location! Although a Swiss public holiday (for Mother’s Day) it was not unpleasantly busy with tourists. We were quickly through the entry queue courtesy of our Swiss Passes. These passes are essential in my opinion for travellers to Switzerland, giving discounted entry to many museums and galleries as well as access to all forms of public transport.

The castle was originally founded in 1150 as a fortress for the Counts of Savoy who controlled the strategic north/south route between the lake and the mountains. As time went on they took control of most of the Vaud region – essentially the part of modern day Switzerland that is French speaking.

We made our way down into the dungeons passing by the extensive vaults of the castle wine cellar! The Clos de Chillon (described as a “fruity Chasselas white wine”), is available for purchase at the museum shop, though we had to pass that opportunity by as getting bottles back home again wouldn’t have been too practical.

The dungeon is almost at water level and you could hear the waters of the lake gently lapping against the heavy castle walls. It must have been torture to hear the sound of the water, so close and yet so far, for the unfortunate Francois Bonivard (1493 -1570),  the castle’s most famous prisoner. Lord Byron was inspired to write his poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon” after visiting the castle in 1816. An ecclesiastic and political activist with (by all accounts) a rather colourful lifestyle, Bonivard incurred the wrath of the Count of Savoy and was allegedly kept chained up to one of the large stone pillars that support the dungeon ceiling. He was finally released by the Bernese who defeated the Count of Savoy and took over the custodianship of the castle for the next couple of centuries or so (1536 – 1798). It was cold, damp and distinctly oppressive down in the dungeons – definitely not a place to linger, although fascinating at the same time.

We made our way up to the relative light of the main courtyard. Since 1805 the castle has been the property of the Canton of Vaud and restoration work continues today. The castle houses a number of exhibitions and hosts cultural events such as concerts. We toured through the old kitchens and dining areas where there are a number of interactive displays. Apparently you can hire out function rooms to experience your own medieval banquet or children can have a hosted birthday party with a dragon and knight theme.

I loved the displays of old wooden trunks by local artisans especially since one branch of my family were originally trunk makers in London in the 19th century.

The castle has many different sections and it does take some time to go round. One of the highlights was the view from the top tower, which you reach by taking a series of old wooden stairways. Here walkways lead along the ramparts and you can gaze out across the old roof and turrets towards the lake.

We had a few lingering looks back at the lake on the way out via the extensively stocked museum shop and headed off in search of lunch!

View of Lake Geneva and the Alps from Chateau de Chillon

Copyright © 2017 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

23 thoughts on “Chateau de Chillon – Castle On The Lake

  1. I didn’t like the castles until I saw this one. So perfect and Lord Byron et all. Love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good to hear – yes we found this castle very interesting! Obviously the location was amazing but the way they had restored it without changing the essence of the old castle plus of course the link with Lord Byron made it very special 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. restlessjo says:

    I don’t think I’ve vever seen a collection of trunks before. Interesting the family connection, Rosemay. 🙂 🙂 Hope you’ve had a good weekend. It’s good to see brighter skies here after yesterday’s torrential downpours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know it was so unexpected to come across this trunk collection Jo – I was so interested hence the large number of photos! Yes a good weekend though we are also having a lot of rain but it is of course winter here! Hope the sun continues for you this week! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gilda Baxter says:

    Old Castles fascinate me, this one is a beauty. It’s location simply stunning, I would love to visit it one day. Good idea about the Swiss pass, how long does it last for? Does it give you access to cable cars up the Mountains? Great post and beautiful photos 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gilda yes I love old castles – they are fascinating and this one could hardly have a better location! The Swiss Passes vary depending on what you want so we got an 8 day pass usable within a month. There are shorter ones for 4 days from memory and I think the longest is 15 days. You can also get them for consecutive days rather than flexible ones as we did. The cable cars vary – Mt Rigi near Lucerne was free with the Swiss Pass and we got a discount on the Gornergrat Bahn up to the Matterhorn but still had to pay some of the cost. The link in the blog post takes you to the Swiss Pass site which has some more information. They cover all rail travel, bus travel and ferries on the lakes though. A friend didn’t organise one and it was an expensive mistake apparently as they do give you a reasonable discount (only purchasable outside Switzerland but validated once you arrive) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. lclalor says:

    What a beautiful area! Too bad we won’t make it this far west when we tour Switzerland in October. This will have to go on the list for next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes this is a lovely part of the world! Switzerland is lovely though whichever part you go to. Will look forward to reading about your Swiss travels too!

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  5. Heyjude says:

    Such a lovely tour. I found it a very interesting castle too, but I’m not sure my photos were any good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jude glad you liked the tour. It is a very interesting place and at least you have the memories of going there though am sure your photos would have been lovely too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Heyjude says:

        I shall have to look them up. Never got around to posting much about Montreux but it is very interesting and some lovely walks around the town.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes it was a lovely place to wander round. We also went up to Rochers de Naye on the little train – that was a great day out too 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Heyjude says:

            We saw that, but didn’t have time to go on it. We took the funicular up by Vevey instead and then walked back along the promenade before taking a boat to Chillon Castle, then walking back to Montreux along the promenade there. 🙂 It’s a lovely area for gentle ambles despite the mountains.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. We would have loved to take the funicular up by Vevey too (think it is up to Les Pleiades). We didn’t have time so will have wait until another visit! Can highly recommend the train up to Rochers de Naye too if you ever get the chance. Will be blogging about it quite soon 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  6. thegreatfish says:

    So beautiful. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome – so glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

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  7. I love castles Rosemary, this one looks and sounds fascinating. Love the picture with the clouds to – so atmospheric! We’re just back from holidays and I’m frantically trying to catch up with reading all my favourite bloggers posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I’ve always loved castle too Joy – remember going round some on family holidays in Wales and I now love all the European ones. Chateau de Chillon couldn’t have a better location though think it is far more inviting now than it would have been back in the day! Hope you had a lovely holiday! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We had a great time Rosemary, plenty of hiking – the coast by Staithes is gorgeous and we loved exploring. Now to go through a load of photos….

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sounds lovely Joy – you must have some wonderful photos!! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I want to go here sooo badly!! Looks just as beautiful as the pix I’ve seen!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you get here one day – yes it is just as beautiful in real life as in the photos! Gorgeous location even if you just admire it from outside without going round! 🙂

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