Dotted across la belle France are chateaux you can book for a holiday. Some are homely and friendly, while others can feel as intimidating as their French owners.
But there’s great news if you’d rather avoid the froideur and stumbles with the language. Love the hit television series Escape To The Chateau with Dick and Angel Strawbridge? Well, there is now a wealth of enchanting chateaux available to rent with British owners to welcome you.
As a five-year-old boy, Oliver Price moved briefly with his family to the Lot region, and it created such happy memories that he returned in 2018 to buy a property in the village of Duras. The 40-year-old consultant from London has meticulously restored the musty old rooms and creaking floors of Le Jardin du Chateau so there’s now a stylish modern vibe throughout which makes for an extremely comfortable holiday home.
There is now a wealth of enchanting chateaux available to rent in France with British owners to welcome you. Above is Le Jardin du Chateau in the village of Duras, run by Londoner Oliver Price
According to Oliver, Le Jardin du Chateau attracts mainly British guests – ‘they seem to find it more relaxing that they don’t have to worry about the language barrier,’ he says
Chateau Caillac (pictured left and right) is a beautiful seven-bedroom 19th Century property right beside the River Lot in south-west France. Angela Hall – who cut her teeth on renovating a ten-bedroom property in Chester – has owned it with her husband Steve for 17 years
In the middle of Brittany farmland you’ll find Chateau Lignol (above), a little gem owned by Linda Brown, who is originally from Edinburgh
‘We attract mainly British guests – they seem to find it more relaxing that they don’t have to worry about the language barrier,’ says Oliver. ‘The space is ideal for large families or groups of friends, sleeps 12 in six en suite bedrooms, and they can bring their dog.’
Near the large outdoor pool and terrace with a barbecue area, there’s a huge living and dining space with an open-plan kitchen. The second floor has a second living/dining room and another well-equipped kitchen plus wine fridge.
Oliver adds: ‘For me, holidays in the area have always been about enjoying the amazing seasonal food – buffalo tomato and mozzarella salads at this time of year and hearty casseroles as summer turns to winter. Guests love to eat by the pool on hot days and take in the scent of the herbs, the lavender, jasmine and the orange blossom – it’s just sensational and instantly relaxing.’
After welcoming guests, Oliver points out the path to Duras, where guests can pick up croissants in the boulangerie, fresh produce in the twice-weekly market and fresh, plump Arcachon oysters from the man who sells them from his van every Sunday morning.
Owner Linda says that Chateaux Lignol is like ‘something out of a fairy tale with a Rapunzel tower behind impressive gates’
If you’d prefer to cook for yourself, there is a small supermarket and a couple of excellent bakers. There’s also a handful of places where you can join locals at outside tables while you enjoy a coffee or glass of rosé.
Or head for La Salle a Manger in Monsegur, which started as a deli and wine cellar and has now been knocked through to the adjoining building to incorporate a restaurant. Choose your wine from next door, and then sit in a relaxed atmosphere to sample such delights as burrata, rocket and truffle oil pizza or sliced beef fillet gratin.
There are countless vineyards in the region and, of course, Bordeaux itself, where you can check out the impressive La Cite du Vin museum, a cultural centre dedicated to everything you ever wanted to know about wine.
Chateau Lignol’s decor is eclectic, with gilt mirrors, grand artwork and minimal furniture
Chateau Lignol, which was formerly a hunting lodge, costs from £2,688 a week and sleeps ten
There are panoramic views over the city from the top floor and a very good tasting bar at which your entrance ticket entitles you to tuck in to about a dozen wines.
Oliver recommends the vineyard Chateau les Maubats and Le Comptoir Paysan, a little farm shop en route which offers ‘simple but great flavoured food’. He says: ‘Christophe Cadis, the owner, provides picnic bags with wine glasses and blankets for those who want to pick up some food en route and picnic in the vineyards.’
Should you wish to learn more about French food and wine, you could sign up for one of the masterclass retreats offered by Oliver in co-operation with Nicolle Croft, who set up Berry Bros wine school, and top chefs such as 2021 MasterChef Professionals champion Dan Lee.
Le Jardin du Chateau costs from £3,027 a week, sleeps 12 (orangerieduras.fr/retreats).
Chateaux always do well with British guests, according to Oliver Bell, co-founder of Oliver’s Travels, which has 180 on its books.
‘Families love the privacy that these buildings offer and they also allow imaginations to run wild,’ he says. ‘It’s a magical experience, no matter your age.
‘There’s no better setting than a chateau if you want to surround yourself with nature.’
Five more chateaux that are the best of British…
In the middle of Brittany farmland and at the end of a long track you’ll find Chateau Lignol, a little gem owned by Linda Brown.
Inside, the decor of the 14th Century former hunting lodge reflects Linda’s eclectic style, which is all gilt mirrors, grand artwork and minimal furniture.
Linda, who is from Edinburgh, fell for Lignol in 2002.
Chateau De Thuries (above) lies about an hour’s drive from Toulouse and the atmospheric walled city of Carcassonne
She says: ‘It was exactly what I was looking for in a home – a beautiful large house I could fall in love with, like something out of a fairy tale with a Rapunzel tower behind impressive gates and with woodlands.’
It costs from £2,688 a week and sleeps ten.
About an hour’s drive from either Toulouse or the atmospheric walled city of Carcassonne, Chateau De Thuries is a wonderful option if you want to explore French life – from local vineyards and markets to rivers and lakes.
Chateau De Thuries is run by Steve and Jayne Simmons, who have devoted a lot of time and effort into transforming the property into a stylish retreat
Prices at Chateau De Thuries start from £136 per night based on two sharing
And you can reach the coastal towns of Perpignan and Montpellier in less than two hours.
The chateau was bought by Steve and Jayne Simmons in 2018 who have since devoted a lot of time and effort into transforming the property into a stylish retreat which has five guest suites and sleeps ten. Guests have described their hosts as ‘the personification of kindness.’
Prices are from £136 per night based on two sharing (chateauthuries.com).
Chateau Caillac is a beautiful seven-bedroom 19th Century property right beside the River Lot in an area of south-west France that’s famed for its plum orchards.
It has been owned by Angela Hall with her husband Steve for 17 years, since she cut her teeth on renovating a ten-bedroom property in Chester and was looking for something even more challenging. The result is a chic and traditional chateau, along with a heated swimming pool, which is available for exclusive hire by single groups of guests.
It costs from £5,740 a week and sleeps 18 (chateaucaillac.com).
The chic and traditional Chateau Caillac, which is available for exclusive hire by single groups of guests, costs from £5,740 a week and sleeps 18
Chateau Noble is overseen by the property’s rather eccentric owner, Turlough Martin, from London, who calls himself the ‘Count de Rosbif’
The array of services on offer at Chateau Noble includes a daily maid and a bar that can be stocked with guests’ favourite tipples
The 400-year-old Chateau Noble lies in the Gers, a part of France where life goes on much as it has for generations
There’s a duck pond on the grounds of Chateau Noble where the birds have their own ‘chateau’ – called Duckingham Palace
Chateau Noble costs from £5,259 a week and sleeps 15
You’ll find Chateau Noblein the Gers, a part of France where life goes on much as it has for generations. And it’s all about top-class service at the 400-year-old Noble, overseen by the property’s rather eccentric owner, Turlough Martin, from London. The self-proclaimed ‘Count de Rosbif’ bought the chateau in 2014.
An array of services on offer includes a top chef and daily maid, and a bar that can be stocked with guests’ favourite tipples.
There’s even a duck pond in the grounds where the birds have their own ‘chateau’ – called, of course, Duckingham Palace. It costs from £5,259 a week and sleeps 15.
Set in 15 acres of secluded parkland, Chateau de la Ruche is near Le Mans in the Pays de la Loire region, so it’s handy if you fancy visiting the famous motor circuit.
Chateau de la Ruche, a petit chateau in the Pays de la Loire region, has been carefully restored by Tim and Rebecca Jones, who sold up in the UK and bought the property in 2017
Rooms at Chateau de la Ruche come with everything you need to relax. Prices start from £194 per night based on two sharing
The 18th Century petit chateau has been carefully restored by Tim and Rebecca Jones, who sold up in the UK and bought the property in 2017. Each bedroom is different but all come with everything you need to relax, including proper coffee machines.
And you can look forward to le petit dejeuner of pastries, fresh bread, home-made preserves and home-grown produce. Dinner can be arranged, too.
B&B costs from £194 per night based on two sharing (chateaudelaruche.com).
Jeff Mills was a guest of Oliver’s Travels. Book via Oliver’s Travels (oliverstravels.com) unless stated otherwise. Jeff Mills travelled to Calais by Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Prices from £50 one way per vehicle with up to nine passengers (eurotunnel.com).