|Chateau de Sassetot
by Sarah Shuckburgh
With excellent food, romantic rooms and 30 acres of
parkland, the 18th century Chateau de Sassetot makes a
stylish base for exploring the Alabaster coast between Le
Havre and Dieppe.
The chateau has an impressive classical facade, and
picturesque but crumbling stables and outbuildings. Rooks
wheel above ancient beeches, and bells ring from the nearby
The chateau was privately owned until 1970, but then lay
empty for 15 years, and unfortunately few original
furnishings survive. The bedrooms vary: ask for a "chambre
charme" with a four-poster bed and a bath. Avoid
second-floor rooms which are poky and much-partitioned. The
honeymoon suite has a huge circular jacuzzi in its own
Chef Gregoire Braux prepares superb food, and serves it in
several small salons, so the air of intimacy is preserved
even when the hotel is full.
Much is made of the chateau's brief brush with celebrity:
the vivacious Empress Elisabeth of Austria stayed here for a
few weeks in the summer of 1875, with her 8-year-old
daughter and a retinue of 70 attendants. Portraits of 'Sissi'
and her husband, Emperor Franz Josef, hang everywhere, and
postcards of them are on sale in the hall.
The park has an old ice-house, an orangery, a vegetable
garden and chicken runs. Nobles have lived here since 1204,
and two tulip trees are reputedly over 500 years old.
The sea is only a mile away, and a footpath leads through
woods to the chalk cliffs and pebbly beach of les Petites
Dalles, and on to the (smaller, despite its name) sandy
beach of les Grandes Dalles. Another path leads back from
here, and the enjoyable circular walk takes about one and a
half hours. The chateau has a tennis court and will also
supply mountain bikes.
Seven miles down the coast is Fecamp, with the monastery
where Benedictine liqueur has been distilled since the 16th
century. Etretat, 2 miles on, has extraordinary wind-eroded
cliffs, including one which Maupassant christened the
'elephant'. Honfleur and Deauville, Rouen and Dieppe are all
easy day trips from Sassetot.
First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd