View of Dampierre-en-Yvelines© Jean-Yves Guilloteau
With a history stretching back almost a thousand years, the village of Dampierre-en-Yvelines, located between Versailles and Rambouillet, in the heart of the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse Regional Natural Park, now numbers 1,200 inhabitants, together with the four surrounding hamlets. Its fame is due in large part to its château, owned by the Luynes family. It was built between 1675 and 1683 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart for Charles Honoré d’Albert de Luynes, Duke of Chevreuse and Colbert’s son-in-law, while the park was designed by Le Nôtre. From 1876 to 1954, the hamlet of Maincourt-sur-Yvette also thrived thanks to its sandstone quarries (of which traces remain) and its town hall-cum-church – one of few such examples in France, in which the two adjoin back to back within the same structure. In summer, visitors also flock to enjoy the charms of Dampierre, the surrounding woods and the many lively restaurants.
Entrance to the Regional Nature Park© Pascal Bouchain
Alighting from the RER B regional train at the terminus in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, visitors are often surprised to discover green and rolling countryside, dotted with grazing cows from the nearby Coubertin farm. The Yvette flows through the heart of these grasslands stretching west to Chevreuse, the neighbouring town dominated by the Château de la Madeleine. This 11th-century mediaeval fortress now houses the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse Regional Nature Park Centre, which bears ample witness to its rich and tumultuous history. While the town has carefully preserved its historical and environmental heritage, it is nevertheless a bustling hub of 8,000 inhabitants with a highly-developed business network, including some sixty locally-based shops, several expert craft workers and a range of renowned companies. The town and the many volunteers of its various associations also participate on a daily basis in its cultural and sporting life.