Escape to the French Countryside
Chateau of Domaine des Etangs set in 2500 acres for a true taste of la belle France
Imagine a herd of velvet brown Limousin cattle grazing in the distance whilst above the pigeons are flying home to roost. Travel down a long drive lined by ancient oaks and in the parting of the trees the mellow stoned and perfectly proportioned Domaine des Etangs peeps into view with its four round towers. The chateau is set amongst lakes and pastures in the French countryside just a few hours south of Paris between Charente and Limousin.
Nestled on 2500 acres of sprawling meadows and farmland is the eleventh century castle known for its seven lakes or ‘étangs’. A Small Luxury Hotel with a Michelin star restaurant and a spa that’s second to none, it’s a place filled the finest in French country living.
A family-run affair with just seven guestrooms, the castle, despite every space being immaculate, feels as though it’s your own home. The family holiday home of late French oil magnate Didier Primat, his daughter Garance Primat finished the eco-minded renovation her father had started and turned the castle into a sanctuary for visitors in need of rest and relaxation.
Dotted about the place are dragonflies, the Domaine des Etangs emblem, in all forms from large hand-crafted artefacts to dainty little napkin-holders. A series of hyperrealist, photography of futuristic animals by French artist Vincent Fournier hang around the grand marble neo-gothic staircase between the shared spaces and guestrooms named after the planets.
In the living room, Victorian family portraits where the members wear red noses, hang on the walls with artworks by the masters like Picasso from Ms Primat’s personal collection. And sleek handcrafted bespoke furniture by Parisian designer Isabel Stanislas, sprinkle across all rooms, inviting guests to lounge about by the fireplace, read and gaze out to the gardens and a tiny chapel sitting by one of the lakes.
The pièce de resistance is the library with heaving bookshelves lining the walls all the way up to the ceiling from which hangs a mini solar system of planets. The room also comes with cosy window seats covered in a jumble of velvety cushions.
There’s an indoor pool hiding downstairs in the basement with a wall of sliding doors that open onto the gardens and the main lake where a large outdoor pool and tennis courts are situated with a view out to a picturesque stone watermill. Uniquely the tennis court is floating on a pond.
There's also a fabulous spa, which comes with its very own rituals and products, tailor-made for the domain.
Dyades, awarded a Michelin star last year, is located in a stone outhouse with a terrace surrounded by wild gardens buzzing with bees and butterflies. The garden is strewn with deck chairs where one can sit in the evening and stay warm by the fire pits.
Helmed by chef Fabien Beaufour and his team, the restaurant serves delicate vegetables from the organic kitchen garden (where over 140 plants and vegetables are grown) and fruit from the woods and orchards.
Dine out on the restaurant terrace, or ask for a picnic of sandwiches laid on home-baked bread and have them in a secluded spot out in the meadows – each guest has their own golf cart for whizzing around the domain – or ask for a set-up in the kitchen garden, or a dinner grilled over a fire out under a centuries-old tree in the woods. It’s also possible to rent one of the rustic country cottages that are peppered across the grounds. With several bedrooms and fully-equipped kitchens, the cottages are the perfect option for families looking to get away to the middle of nowhere. The possibilities here are endless.
This idyllic setting brings to life the paintings of the great impressionists a perfect destination to connect to nature albeit in the most refined of ways.