For those who hanker after a rural idyll with views over rolling hills, meadows, wildflowers and woodlands, the scent of lavender and the sound of birdsong in the air, accompanied perhaps with a bit of splashing around in the pool, there can be few better group getaways than this. Its easy to see why owners Chris and Mark were so entranced that they bought the place after holidaying here year after year with there own children.
Les Chataigniers first cast its magic over Chris and Mark some 15 years ago and now, after several years of holidays here and many years as residents nearby, they offer an invaluable service to groups holidaying here whether its celebration meal or daily breakfasts and suppers, or tips and advice on places to eat, drink, walk, kayak, horse ride or simply entertain the kids. The beauty of it is that, after the initial welcome, they are on call if you need them or pretty much invisible if you don't.
The fact that English-speaking help and advice is on the doorstep is just one of many advantages for parents staying here. Others include a long and very comprehensive list of baby and toddler equipment that, along with a pre-arrival grocery and baby supplies shopping service that means that even packing for the trip can be stress free and everyone can relax from the moment they arrive. Simply unstrap the kids from the hire car, unload the bags and relax over a glass of the local vin rouge whilst mini guests discover the handy haul of toys, books and DVDs. When suitably relaxed, take a stroll around the 9-acre grounds and discover the chickens to feed, eggs to collect or vegetables and fruit to pick. Along the way, little people will joyfully discover the covered sandpit, swing set and climbing frame, not forgetting the lovely enclosed pool which is reached via the huge 'club house' games room with its table tennis and snooker table and cinema room. Combine all that with long lazy evenings spent barbecuing on the terrace, soaking in the views and catching up, baby monitor on hand, whilst little ones snooze safely upstairs... heavenly!
Les Chataigniers is a 9-acre former farm estate set 50 metres from the nearest road (even that has very little traffic) just outside the tiny hamlet of Campels near Le Salvetat-Peyrales. It is made up of several buildings including the 7-bedroom farmhouse, 2-bedroom cottage and the owner's home, all set around a pretty courtyard, which can be enclosed for safe communal play. Each house has its own private terrace and enjoys communal access to safely enclosed, solar heated pool, sun terrace and the games room with its table tennis, snooker table, sofa area, library corner and children's indoor play area. There are also acres of outdoor space including a play lawn adjacent to the pool with level area for ball games, large wooden play set (swings, rope labours, fort etc.), covered sand pit and shaded seating area; 3-acres of wild meadow and 7-acres of woodland; and the organic vegetable garden and chicken coop. Guests are welcome to help themselves to the produce and feed scraps to or collect eggs from the chickens.
The Farmhouse is entered via a large tiles hallway with plenty of storage space and a small study area, where guests can use the free Wi-Fi. There's a snug lounge with sofa seating for 8 and additional floor cushions, plus inset, glass-fronted, fire place (logs provided), flatscreen TV, DVD, Freeview, IPod dock and a range of books, maps and games. The well-equipped cooks kitchen comes with a range cooker, central isalnd and plenty of crockery, cutlery ad glassware for large groups, large American-style fridge freezer with ice maker, dishwasher, microwave and double sink. Double doors open out onto the outdoor deck with dining terrace.
Further along the hall are two bedrooms: 'Courtyard' has a double bed (140cm wide), whilst 'Siesta' has zip'n'link twinbeds/king-sized double, these bedrooms share a luxurious family bathroom with bath and walk in shower.
Upstairs, there are four further doubles and a single room, that makes an ideal cot room. The first of the doubles is 'Sunset', it is a very large room that can accommodate its zip'n'link twins/king-size double with a cot or additional single. It has an ensuite shower room. Next is 'Walnut', another large double room with beds that can be set up as twin singles or a large double. This room also has an ensuite shower room, this time with new multi-jet shower. 'Birdcage', the third upstairs double, also has adaptable beds that can be set up as twins or a large double plus a newly fitted ensuite shower room. 'Lime Tree' is the final upstairs double and boasts beds that can be set up as twins or a large double, plus a newly refitted limestone tiled ensuite with walk-in shower. The final bedroom is 'Linen' a charming single bedroom with cast iron single bed that would make an ideal cot room or bedroom for a small child.
Outside, the Farmhouse has a large terrace/deck area to two sides, with areas of sun and shade, plus dining furniture which can be flexibly arranged to suit larger or smaller groups. There's a large gas barbecue next to kitchen (bottled gas supplied).
Les Chataigniers is a true rural idyll being 50 metres from the nearest road and even that is a small no through. The nearest town, Salvetat-Peyrales is about 10 minutes drive away and boasts some decent restaurants, whilst Michelin starred establishments in La Sauveterre de Rouergue and Becastel are within 15 miles. The evening markets in the same villages offer amore casual, family friendly dining for non-babysitting nights.
The nearest large town is Villefranche-de-Rouergue (45mins), which boasts a great selection of shops and restaurants as well as one of the best markets in France. Also under an hour away are the very beautiful medieval bastide towns of Cordes-sur-Ceil, Albi, Becastel and Najac, the latter being particularly popular with kayak enthusiasts.
For kids, there are two insect worlds within a short drive, and an animal park with innovative glass lion tunnel. Active families will find the spectacular countryside, clean rivers an pure fresh air of the Aveyron are perfect for lovers of the great outdoors. Owners Chris and mark can advise on locations for horse riding, hiking, mountain biking and kayaking within a short drive, or why not pack a picnic and take a wander into the 7-acres of woodland on the estate?
Wine lovers will discover the increasingly fashionable wines of the area slip down easily, especially on a wine tour sampling the full-bodied reds of Cahors, the scented, peppery Fer Servadou vines of Marcillac, and the wide variety of reds and whites available in Gaillac
Getting There: Les Chataigniers is around 75 mins drive from Junction 56 the A20 or Junction 42 of the A75. Its around 90mins drive from Cahors train station, which is itself 9hors from London via Eurostar and TGV. The nearest airports are Rodez (40mins drive) away whilst Toulouse Blagnac and Brive Dordogne are around 2.5hrs away.