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 a ‘pop-up’ bistro, 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 three, 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.
Chez Coco (sleeps 6 + baby in a cot) has an official 4-star rating from the French tourist board and is a stylish blend of original character and modern comfort. The living/dining area and kitchen is open plan, with a beautiful exposed stone feature wall and a 3.5 metre high by 4 metre wide window, dressed in Bombay muslin to diffuse plenty of light into the room while maintaining privacy. The living area features two sofas, a wood burning stove, HD TV with Freesat channels, DVD player and an iPod dock and French doors open to the private terrace and garden with outdoor dining table, shade sail and barbecue. The kitchen is well equipped and includes an oven and hob, microwave, coffee machine, fridge freezer, dishwasher and washing machine. The master bedroom at Chez Coco, with an exposed stone feature wall, has a king size bed and a Juliet balcony with views to the south over open countryside. This bedroom also has an ensuite shower room with washbasin and WC. The second bedroom has a double bed, a set of children's bunks and a cot, plus an ensuite shower room with a washbasin and WC.
Bookings of 7 nights or more made within 21 days of travelling discounted by 10%
We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday at The Courtyard. From the well equipped accommodation to the amazing food, Stephanie and her family are brilliant hosts. The table d'hote was a great luxury, particularly on a holiday with a toddler. Stephanie went out of the way to ensure our holiday was tailored to our needs and was very attentive. I would definitely recommend staying here and hope we can again.Review dated 29/12/2019
Just fantastic! Great food, great hosts, tonnes of toys and baby kit and a brilliant location. It was impossible NOT to relax... even with toddlers in tow! Highly recommended!Review dated 19/12/2019
A fabulously special place! Steph and family have created a haven for children and adults alike. Their wonderful hospitality shines through and are kind and warm hosts and determined to make everyone's stay special. Steph's food is not to be missed, with Charlie's pizzas a stand out of the week.Review dated 14/07/2019
We had such a lovely week here with our 2 year old. Steph, Charlie and Finn are welcoming and easygoing hosts. Steph's cooking is fantastic and it has been lovely sharing meals with other families. Cycling, tennis, lazy lunches, swimming and sunshine. Dressing up box, Lego, arts and crafts, toys, pool games-all your toddler could ask for without leaving the courtyard. A gorgeous place to stay.Review dated 22/06/2018
Steph goes above and beyond to make the stay enjoyable for the whole family and the home cooked food is truly excellent!Review dated 03/06/2018
Brilliant hosts and perfect setting for relaxation for all the family.Review dated 25/05/2018
"I love this place and I think we need come back ..very soon" said our 5 year old son and we couldn't agree more. The Courtyard at Saints Catherine is a very special place indeed. From the moment we arrived we were all made to feel welcome and at home by our lovely hosts Charlie, Steph and son Finn.
The success of our holiday was no accident as there is so much thought and effort put into everything at The Courtyard; Charlie has lovingly restored The Courtyard's stone buildings and transformed them into beautiful gites complete with private gardens while Steph's attention to detail, organisation and delicious food meant we could all relax and enjoy ourselves.
We stayed in Chez Coco (self catered) which was spacious, filled with light, very charming comfy beds and well equipped with everything a family could need including a plentiful supply of fresh coffee. We ordered Steph's arrival package which included a fresh roast chicken, roasties, 3 huge salads, cheeseboard, wine and the best cheesecake I have ever tasted. This kept us fed for a couple of days. There were shops and a huge supermarket 5 mins drive away so very easy to get supplies.
The pool was heated and huge with plenty of shaded loungers around it. The children also loved the play area with trampoline, sandpit, swings, slides, bat and balls and even a teepee. Each gite had lots of toys and books so the children never ran out of things to do. One of the highlights for all of the children was the morning dog walk after the chicken eggs had been collected and the tortoise had been fed. A highlight for us grown ups was definitely Steph's evening meals in the gorgeous courtyard setting, served table d'hote style. The food rivals that of any high end restaurant and the setting was glorious - twinkling fairy lights and the setting sun. This experience was was made even better by the fact that while we were eating the children were happy being entertained by Finn and Dan.
The area itself is only a 90 mins drive from La Rochelle airport and there are plenty of great activities and places to visit nearby; Cognac, canoeing, boating, river swimming (complete with it's own little beach, perfect for little ones to paddle and swim in), a chateau with a treasure hunt and even a wonderful afternoon making delicious chocolates. Steph was brilliant at giving lots of helpful info and tips on things to do. We still have a list of other places to visit when we go back.
What a great holiday!Review dated 28/08/2017
We choose Chez Coco for our first family holiday and I am so glad that we did. The May family are delightful and Steph is an amazing host. We felt very welcome and looked after.
Our gite was clean and well presented. The bed was very comfy. Together with the standard baby kit, Steph had thoughtfully provided us with age appropriate toys and books, a brand new sun tent and a blanket to use both on and offsite.
We took advantage of Steph's cooking on 4 of the 7 nights. The welcome dinner was delicious, the portions were huge. We felt very lucky to arrive and sit down to a glass of wine and a home cooked meal. We also had a Greek meal, French meal and Thai meal. They were all very yummy. Steph went out of her way to accommodate our dietary requirements, which we really appreciated.
I can't recommend the Courtyard enough. I'm sure it won't be our only visit!
Review dated 27/06/2017
We spent our first family holiday at the Courtyard and are so pleased that we did. The Courtyard is beautiful and Steph and her family made us feel so welcome and looked after. We stayed in Chez Coco, which was a comfortable two bed gite kitted out with everything that we needed. Steph did a great job of anticipating our every need and had thoughtfully provided books and toys, which were age appropriate for our daughter.
The pool area was well maintained and the new sun shades are perfect for keeping little people out of the sun. Steph also provided us with a sun tent and large picnic blanket to use which we really appreciated.
We chose to take full advantage of Steph's yummy cooking and enjoyed a welcome dinner (there was so much food!), Thai meal, French meal and Greek meal. All were delicious and very reasonably priced. Steph made a real effort to tailor things to the needs of the guests. I don't eat cows' milk so she made me alternatives where necessary and even put some goats milk in the fridge for our arrival.
I can't recommend the Courtyard enough and am sure we will return!
Review dated 11/06/2017
Steph is a warm and attentive hostess with the culinary mostess! Being parents of a toddler means endless nights in but we treated ourselves to Steph's cooking 3 nights in a week and every mouthful was incredible; it really was a highlight... alongside English TV (no missing out on Bake Off or Night Garden!) and tonnes of toys for our son. Much recommended!Review dated 09/10/2016
We had a wonderful time here staying in Chez Coco. The Courtyard staying setting is really nice. The gite was very well equipped for kids with lots of toys, plastic cutlery and baby mat etc. Very French in design it has wooden floors and lots of period features and opens out at the back to a private garden area with a BBQ. The hospitality from Steph and Charlie is what sets this place apart, they can't do enough for you and understand the daily stress of kids and so try to alleviate some of that whilst you are there. The welcome cooked dinner we had booked was fantastic and meant we didn't need to worry about a supermarket on arrival (which is 10 mins drive from Gite as it turned out). We also did a couple of the dinners that Steph puts on, the kids eat at 6pm and are then whisked off to the main house to do crafts etc whilst the adults eat at 7pm which meant we got some adult conversation and a relaxing glass of wine, it's a great addition to this place. The pool and playground are very safe and kept our 2 year old occupied. The Courtyard sits in a beautiful setting, it is quite remote so you will need to drive everywhere and if you search the places out there are things to do to keep the kids occupied, the aquarium at La Rochelle was very good. Overall a great 2 week holiday.Review dated 30/09/2016
Idyllic location surrounded by vines and sunflower fields. The gite was spacious and well presented with luxurious touches. Plenty of toys and activities for the little ones. The pool was clean and warm with lots of loungers. Great base with easy access to the beaches, Saintes and Cognac to the west and Angouleme to the east. Steph, Charlie and Finn were great hosts, very welcoming and genuinely friendly. Would thoroughly recommend Steph's cooking which was a lovely way to spend an evening or two.Review dated 19/09/2016
This place is a dream! Starting with the setting; it truly is idyllic, the image of beautiful France you conjure up when you dream of rolling hills, vineyards and poppies everywhere. The gites and grounds are like something out of an interior magazine, authentic, charming and luxuriously shabby chic. The pool is warm and the playground a huge hit with our 18month old. Steph and her family are so lovely. They strike the right balance of leaving you to it, but being incredibly hospitable and helpful. Everything from pre arrival shopping, baby necessities and baby meals (3 x per week) are taken care of. And the cooking.. Wow Steph can cook! We ate top end restaurant standard meals with a sleeping toddler and the peace of mind of the monitor working to the courtyard.. Very relaxing. We don't normally go back to places twice, but we could be persuaded back here!Review dated 26/06/2016
We stayed at the Courtyard as an extended family for 10 nights after recommendation from some good friends of ours. What can I say, a fantastic experience with amazing hosts! We already knew they had a lot of baby related equipment (stair gates etc), but they also have a lot of DVDs, toys and books to keep the little ones entertained. Put simply, you could quite easily fly with clothes and toiletries and ease the journey! We will travel with a lot less next time!
The setting is peaceful, supermarkets within 15 mins drive and there's plenty to do. We did pony riding, chocolate making (a must), a farm visit and plate decorating, plus visited the many beautiful towns and villages in the area. Further afield, there's a zoo (well worth a visit), parks and the seaside should you wish.
Back at the courtyard, if you do nothing else all holiday, sample Steph's incredible cooking at every opportunity and enjoy the socialness of an outdoor french dining experience.
We really didn't want to go home, and we're already booked in for next year!Review dated 19/06/2016
We had a lovely stay at Chez Coco with Steph and Charlie. Our three daughters had a fantastic time exploring the very child friendly space and enjoyed making friends with the other children. The atmosphere is relaxed and very friendly and Steph and Charlie went to a lot of effort to make sure all of us enjoyed our holiday, from a trip to a nearby Cognac cave for the adults to a pottery class for the children. The accommodation is fairly simple but authentic and nice and had everything we needed, the space worked really well for us as a family. Lovely pool and nice outdoor space, I would certainly recommend!Review dated 12/10/2023
After reading the reviews it was great to see this place lived up to the comments from previous guests. I'll try to add to them but really this place is a must visit - we will be back I'm sure! The gite was perfect for us, family of 3 with a 9mth old. Clean and tidy and most importantly very comfortable. Bedsheets etc all lovely quality and we all slept there well. Some BBC channels so we could even watch Wimbledon! All baby equipment requested was provided, and more, and was great quality. The wee one loved the cot. The kiddies play area was great for energy sapping the baby, and the pool (perfectly heated) is clean and relaxing. A lot of reviews talk about the food - rightly so, Steph the host clearly has a love for cooking and we took advantage of that 4/5 times! Varied menus and she clearly takes into account requests - go for the white chocolate cheesecake and thank me afterwards. Take expandable waistline clothes. Steph and her family are all very welcoming and great company and they gave me the impression that whatever we wanted day or night they would do their best for us. Exactly what you want to hear when you arrive. All in all, I'd recommend this to anyone, travelling with kids is not always easy but when this is waiting for you it's totally worth it. Location is good, hire car or own car is a must for exploring, I'd advise visiting Cognac (30 mins) and Ille de Re (2hrs but easy drive). I'm only just getting over my post holiday blues.... Review dated 21/08/2017
This family-friendly gite sleeps 6 plus a baby in 2 bedrooms comprising one with a king size bed and a family room with a double bed, a cot and a set of bunks for children.
Limoges, Bordeaux, La Rochelle all under 90 minutes.
Limoges, Bordeaux, La Rochelle all under 90 minutes
Lovely shared, heated (27 degrees 1 May - 30 Sept annually), gated pool with incline steps. Travel cot to use as a play pen.
This baby-friendly gite 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.
This child-friendly gite offers loads of books, DVD, boxes of lego, playmobil and a dressing up box.
Pre arrival shopping and bread and crossaints delivery available.
This child-friendly cottage has use of a trampoline, swing, slide, climbing frame, swing ball, football goal and basket ball.
Table dhote service offered three times a week.
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.
This romantic gite boasts a wood burning stove in the lounge.