This vast fortress dates from the time of Henry II of England, who died within its 400-yard long walls in 1189; another historic event occurred in 1429, when Joan of Arc recognized the disguised dauphin (later Charles VII) here. Long years of neglect, however, eventually left the fortress little more than a ruin, completely open to the elements. The good news is that sweeping restoration work has returned its majestic rooftop, ramparts, and towers to their former glory. A visitor center now welcomes guests a few steps from the glass elevator that provides direct access from the center of Chinon's Old Town. You can tour the Logis Royal (Royal Chambers), a section of which has been transformed into an interactive museum dedicated to Joan of Arc. For a bird's-eye look at the landscape, climb the Tour Coudray (Coudray Tower), where in 1307 leading members of the crusading Knights Templar were imprisoned before being taken to Paris, tried, and burned at the stake. The Tour
de l'Horloge (Clock Tower), whose bell has sounded the hours since 1399, has a view over the ensemble of buildings; while the ramparts offer sensational ones over Chinon, the Vienne Valley, and (toward the back of the castle) the famous Le Clos de l'Echo vineyard. A salon de thé is open on the terrace from May through September.