Per weekfrom 495.00 to 1495.00 EUR
Idyllically set amongst sunflowers and rolling meadows, this former priory is now an idyllic family-friendly retreat comprising three luxurious gites and a stylish B&B, along with a large heated pool and Table d'hotes, plus a whole host of child-friendly play gear and nursery equipment. This is most definitely, self-catering for softies!
The priory buildings of Ste Catherine de la Champ were built by monks in the 1700s and were all but ruined when the friendly May family fell in love with the place in 2006 and decided this would be the start of a new life in France. Undaunted by the scale of the restoration and renovation project, the Mays set about creating a home for themselves and a place where other families could share their dream in the Charente countryside.
The family of three, plus their soppy dogs and Jet the cat, finally moved here from the UK in 2010 and have made it their mission to go way above and beyond the average gite holiday and especially catering for parents with preschoolers.
They’ve sensitively converted the priory into three luxuriously appointed gites and have been justly rewarded with 4-star ratings by the Chambre de Tourisme. Not content with simply adding quality fixtures and fittings for grown-ups, the Mays also provide top notch child-friendly kit too. To take the pain out of packing, there’s a long list of nursery gear (see Fast Facts tab) and boxes of toys all tailored to children’s ages, including Lego, Playmobil, garage, train set, shop, dressing up outfits, loads of books and DVD’s. Plus, the TV’s have UK channels including all-important Cbeebies and Wi FI is available inside and out.
Each of the three gites boasts the privacy of their own garden and dining patio but families can also safely spill into the secure shared grounds of The Courtyard, where children have lots to keep them happy including a trampoline, swings plus baby swing, sand pit, slide and climbing frame, swing ball, basket ball and football goal posts. During the summer, children can also sign up for Bebe Poney from 3, mug painting workshops with arty Michaela who will take away the masterpieces to be baked and glazed as a perfect memento. Even babies can do a foot print plate to take back for Granny.
The swimming pool at The Courtyard is completely fenced and gated, to give parents peace of mind while children roam, free range, around the garden and there are plenty of sun loungers for a sneaky snooze in the sun. The pool is 1.5 metres deep right the way across, with corner steps for easier access and it’s heated to a comfortable 27°c from May to September.
Perhaps the thing that really sets The Courtyard apart from other gites is Steph’s Table d'hote which serves 3-course menus usually 3 times a week. Steph has a real passion for cooking and takes full advantage of the superb Charentais produce to create a range of menus, not just of French dishes but also Italian, Greek, Indian, Thai, Caribbean and Middle Eastern. The Mays have a licence to serve alcohol and the covered, al fresco dining terrace is the perfect setting to enjoy a delicious and relaxing restaurant-style meal, in the twinkle of fairy lights, with gentle mood music beneath star-studded skies. Bread and morning croissant delivery are also available, so although the gites have well equipped fitted kitchens for self catering, mealtimes at The Courtyard can be a highlight of the holiday rather than a hassle.
Maison Cachee (sleeps 2 adults, 2 children + baby in a cot) is a lovely transformation of the original buttery and kitchens of the priory into a cosy gite with lots and character. In a traditional farmhouse style, the kitchen doubles as the family room, with a comfy sofa in front of a wood burner, a dining table and modern appliances including a half gas/half induction hob, fridge freezer, dishwasher and washing machine. The master bedroom at Maison Cachee has a king size wrought iron bed and a proper cot and leads into a children’s room with two single beds. The bedrooms share a shower room with a large, walk-in corner shower, washbasin and WC.
The Courtyard at Ste Catherine is surrounded by Cognac vineyards and fields of sunflowers in the Charente countryside of South West France. Formerly a priory, the gites have a peaceful rural setting but everything families need on a daily basis is just minutes away in the ancient, pretty market Town of Rouillac, which also has weekly markets and one of the oldest and largest farmers markets in France on the 27th of each month.
The nearby town of Jarnac (20 mins) is on the banks of the Charente River which makes a natural playground for picnics, paddling and canoeing or taking a boat trip on a canopied ‘chabot’. Families can also spend the day on the lake shore St Yrieix which has a beach, children’s park and the Nautilus swimming centre with indoor and outdoor pools, water slides, wave pools and aqua bikes.
Cognac, the famous Cognac capital of the world, is just 15 miles away, with plenty of shops, museums, galleries and great restaurants, including the recommended super child friendly La Scala overlooking the river. Children will also spend many happy hours at Base Plein Air on the river, which features 8 hectares of playing fields, an open air cafe and a play park for all ages with climbing frames, rope slides, crazy roundabouts and swings. During the summer months, a town of bouncy castles and soft play zones appear and the outdoor pool is open as well as trampolines and crazy golf. No visit to Cognac would be complete without a tour and tasting of one of the famous brandy vineyards and the owners of The Courtyard can arrange a discount at the Courvoisier estate.
Angouleme (20 mins) is the capital of the region and a fun place for families to explore as the capital of the comic strip. Cartoon characters are depicted on giant wall paintings around the town and over 8000 original drawings are in the Musée de la Bande Dessinée. To eat out with the kids, the owners recommend Le Pistou next to the covered market, Les Halles.
For a day at the seaside, one of the owners’ favourite spots is Fouras (1hr 15) with lovely beaches, kids club activities, boat trips, a fort and great restaurants to sample the renowned west coast seafood.
Nearest medical services: The owner has the French Croix Rouge PS1 first aid qualification; Paediatric A&E at Angouleme (20mins)
Getting here: The airports of Bordeaux, Limoges and La Rochelle are all under 90 minutes’ drives. Calais is 7 hours and Caen 4.5 hours
Check-in time: 16:00
Check-out time: 10:00
Reservation Deposit: 30%
Balance: 42 days prior to arrival
Check-in time: 16:00
Check-out time: 10:00
Reservation Deposit: 30%
Balance: 42 days prior to arrival
Unlet dates within 14 days are discounted by €100.00
We are Charlie, Steph and Finn (9) May. Our family also comrpises two very gentle soppy dogs called Lilah and Suzie and Jet the cat.
Mums and Dads love it here because they can really relax with their children safe and occupied. The concierge service takes the stress out of thinking of and booking "things to do" and the "pop up restaurant" means they can have a night out without going anywhere. The gites are really well equipped (so you don't need to bring the kitchen sink) and the cleaning service takes the stress out of leaving day.
The kids love...the dogs, the art table, the boxes of toys, the huge lego box, the riding, the goat farm, the boat trip, the books, the pool, the play area, the sand pit, the spaghetti bolognese, the ice creams with sprinkles, the other kids.....the freedom.
Sleeps 4 + infant in 1 x king size bed, 1 x twin bedroom plus infant in a wooden cot.
Limoges, Bordeaux, La Rochelle all under 90 minutes.
Limoges, Bordeaux, La Rochelle all under 90 minutes
Lovely shared, heated, gated pool with incline steps. Travel cot to use as a play pen.
Each cottage has a proper wooden cot with mattress protector, cotton sheet and bumpers provided. Each cottage has a high chair, socket cover, stairgates, plastic crockery, cups and steriliser.
Loads of books, DVD, boxes of lego, playmobil and a dressing up box.
Bread and croassint deliveries can be arranged and pre arrival shopping can also be organised.
Trampoline, swing, slide, climbing frame, swing ball, football goal and basket ball.
Table d'hote service offered usually three times a week with bread and crossaint delivery available.
Stairgates are provided.
Each cottage has a private terrace and there are large gated grounds with plenty of space to run around.
Complimentary Wi-fi is available.
Dogs are accepted.
Golf course 20 minutes drive away.
Tennis courts can be found under 5 minutes drive away.
Wood burning stove in the lounge.
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What a wonderful family holiday. Stephanie, Charlie and Finn could not have done anything more to make our holiday better. From the welcome meal waiting for us, to recommending days out and making bookings, to Finn translating during horse riding lessons for our daughter, to the amazing meals with wonderful company - it was all perfect.
The Courtyard manages to combine the convenience of having your own Gite with a feeling of a pop up restaurant a few nights each week. We felt like we had the best of both worlds with some lovely family evenings in the beautiful garden of Maison Cachee but also some "evening out" where the children were spoilt with tasty home prepared food before being entertained whilst we tucked into the delights Stephanie had been conjuring up that day.
The gites all have individual touches making them full of character including lots of toys to keep little ones occupied.
There was plenty to explore in the surr ...
We had a truly wonderful week at the Courtyard. With 2 small children to look after it was brilliant to stay somewhere so well equipped to handle them. It made the whole experience so much easier and more enjoyable. Our hosts Steph and Charlie were incredible. On arriving (despite being a little early) we had a glass of rose placed in our hands and a colouring book placed in our daughter's. They were so helpful and despite a couple of days of average weather there was loads for the little ones to do to keep them occupied. Our daughters loved the arts and crafts and the pool and play areas were fantastic. Also we were blown away by Steph's food - it is high end restaurant quality - utterly delicious, beautifully presented and delivered to your door. In summary we can't recommend this place highly enough - we look forward to returning!
Steph was a wonderful host at The Courtyard at St Catherines. She was super friendly and provide a shortlist of wonderful places to visit, aimed at kids, which we really enjoyed (the goat farm & river swimming were our highlights). Our children (5 & 2) particularly loved feeding the chickens onsite & collecting their eggs as well as walking and playing with Steph's 2 v well trained dogs. We also loved the lego and farm yard toys that were laid out to play with. The gite we stayed in (Cachee) was beautifully cosy and very clean. The pool and playground were gorgeous and well maintained. We would definitely recommend Steph and The Courtyard and would come back for another holiday. A small note for parents with v small kids - there is no door to the children's bedroom, so they can hear you in the kitchen/lounge.
Excellent accommodation and facilities hosted by a caring and warm family