The breathtaking Great Hall of the Count (room 19) has slender black marble pillars, shimmering chequered wall decoration, a coffered ceiling dating from the fifteenth century, and four windows over the lake topped by a beautiful four-leafed clover design.
The expansive Hall of Arms (room 12), complete with fireplace and windows over the lake, is covered with escutcheons of the Bernese bailiffs.
Once you entered the castle, you will plunges straight down into the vaulted and atmospheric dungeons (rooms 4–7) where the Dukes of Savoy imprisoned François Bonivard – he was manacled to the fifth pillar along, which still bears a ring and a length of chain. Bonivard wrote that the dungeon was excavated to below the water-line, and Byron also wrote about the damp, but the room is in fact above the water and is quite an airy place. The Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth, visiting in 1820, perhaps missed the point when she brightly chipped in: “If I were to take lodgings in a dungeon I should prefer this to any I have ever seen because it is high and dry with beautiful groined arches and no bad smells.” She also noted that Byron’s name was cut into the third pillar of the dungeon, as it still is, and that the guide remembered his visit four years previously. A grille in the external wall gives onto the lake, facilitating a rapid exit by rowing boat should things have ever got nasty up above.
Access motorway A9, exit Villeneuve or Montreux
The castle is situated along the Lake road between Montreux (4 km) and Villeneuve (2 km)
Free Parking along the road in front of the castle
Main rail connection is Montreux (4 km from the castle). Regional trains go to Veytaux-Chillon (300 meters from the castle)
Regular departures during the high season from: Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux and Villeneuve
The quay "Chillon" is a 100 meters from the castle
By public bus
Line No 1 from Vevey, Montreux or Villeneuve
Bus stop " Chillon " in front of the castle, bus service every 10 to 20 minutes
From Montreux (4 km, 45 minutes) or Villeneuve (2 km, 20 minutes) a romantic walk on a footpath along the lake
This English poet was the main precursor to the wave of Romanticism in the nineteenth century. Byron loved the Geneva Riviera and set several of his stories in this region, such as The Prisoner of Chillon, which was inspired by a visit to the castle of the same name. Many British writers and poets followed in his footsteps and traveled to Switzerland and the Alps.
Byron arrived in Switzerland in 1816 at the age of 28. After his mother's death, he suffered many trials and tribulations and sought peace of mind on the shores of Lake Geneva. He first lived in Clarens, and then moved to the Villa Diodati in Upper Geneva. Byron hired the services of a boatman, who took him for daily boat rides on the lake. The setting was a source of inspiration for the poet, who is said to have risen to his eccentric reputation and sauntered about armed with two pistols. He liked to go out in the boat during stormy weather and almost drowned on one occasion.
One day his boatman told him the legend of the prisoner of Chillon castle. Moved by the story of François Bonivard, he visited his jail cell, where you can still see Byron's name carved into a pillar. He found the inspiration for his famous poem The Prisoner of Chillon.
Lord Byron faithfully kept company with his English poet friends, who also lived in the neighborhood. He had a passionate love for Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley's half sister. One stormy night, after a challenge made by Byron to Shelley and his wife Mary, she got the idea to write Frankenstein, which became a great success. Lord Byron admired the blue of Lake Geneva for a few more months in the company of his poet friends. He wrote Childe Harold III before heading on to Italy.
Fondest memory: Excerpt from The Prisonner of Chillon:
Lake Leman lies by Chillon’s walls:
A thousand feet in depth below
Its massy waters meet and flow...
There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon’s dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns massy and grey,
Dim with a dull imprison’d ray,
A sunbeam which hath lost its way…