About Chateau de Gratot
The Château de Gratot is a ruined medieval castle in the commune of Gratot in Normandy, France. First built during the 14th century, Château de Gratot underwent many transformations until the 18th century. Consequently, the structure is built in a number of styles the most recent addition being a pavilion built in the 18th century.
By the 19th century, Gratot had slowly fell to ruins covered with overgrown ivy. However, today Château de Gratot is classed as a Monument Historique by the French Ministry of Culture and is open to the public.
Château de Gratot history
The Château de Gratot was first built in the 14th century and belonged to the Argouges family between 1251 and 1777, when it later became the seat of a marquisate. Over the centuries, the castle was remodelled and enlarged, surrounded by a moat believed to be supplied by a fairy and thus named ‘la Fontaine à la fée’.
Legend has it this fairy met a Lord of Gratot at the well. Besotted with her, they were soon after married on the condition he never used the word ‘death’. However, enraged at waiting for his wife to dress one night, the Lord said the fateful word and his wife disappeared.
The castle itself featured a 15th century Lord’s House, redressed during the 17th century, alongside an 18th century pavilion and 2 impressive late medieval towers. Opposite the castle stood several large rectangular buildings from the 16th century, separated from the castle by a double-entry postern across the moat.
The octagonal tower, decorated with balusters and gargoyles, continues to be known as the ‘Fairy Tower’, referring again to Gratot’s legend of the fairy likely derived from the European folklore figure, Melusina, a water sprite.
The castle was neglected throughout the 19th century; used as a fodder warehouse for local farmers and the subject of romantic paintings. Gratot was definitively abandoned at the start of the 20th century. However, in 1968, a workforce of volunteers undertook the restoration and rejuvenation of Château de Gratot.
Château de Gratot today
Open from 10am to 7pm daily, this fairytale castle is available to explore with a small entrance fee of 4€, allowing you to step back through the centuries. Follow the historical route around the castle called ‘Eight centuries of life’, detailing the story of Château de Gratot and the different steps of its restoration.
The castle is also a cultural hotspot, regularly putting on artistic events such as painting and sculpting classes, as well as a yearly theatre performance. Otherwise, it is a stunning site to walk around, crossing the carp-filled moat all the while keeping an eye out for Gratot’s fairy.
Getting to Château de Gratot
On the Normany coast, you can drive to Château de Gratot from Coutances in 9 minutes via the D44 and D244. There is free parking in front of the church. Otherwise, the Gare de Coutances station links to Caen and Granville and is a 9 minute drive or hour walk from Château de Gratot.
As one of the great historic regions of France, Normandy is bursting with a number of stunning castles with equally compelling histories to match. Here's our pick of 10 of the best.