The Dordogne is often called the land of a thousand and one Castles. Its landscape of rolling green hills and lush river valleys will take your breath away. It boasts ten of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France’ and has an underground maze of crystal caves. This area of south-west France has been attracting humans for 450,000 years. You can visit the most famous of them all, the Lascaux, nicknamed the prehistoric Sistine Chapel. Rocamadour has been a pilgrimage route for thousands of years and is in the top five of the most visited attractions in France.
In the town of Lacave, Châteaux de la Treyne is a four-star luxury Hotel. It’s surrounded by walnut groves, vineyards and acres of open fields. In this small corner of south-west France, my fairy tale becomes a reality. If the walls could talk, there’d be tales of Lords, Knights and Maidens in distress. The Château stands on the site of the original 14th Century property, reduced to a pile of ashes during the Wars of Religion. It was rebuilt in 1553; it’s owned and run by the Gombert family who’ve transformed it into a modern-day haven of peace.
Each of the 17 rooms and suites has a unique, French style. Some offer fantastic views of the Dordogne River, others of the formal perfumed garden. I stay in two Rooms, La Tour and one of the suites, Louis XIII, and feel a lot like Rapunzel with all the mod-cons.
A courtesy tray is overflowing with local products from chocolates to seasonal fresh fruit and there’s a handwritten welcome note from the owners.
Bathrooms have multi-jet showers, thick fluffy robes, slippers and orange-scented toiletries by Hermes.
It’s hard not to be seduced by the food coming out of Stéphane Andrieux’ kitchen. He’s held a Michelin star since 2001. It’s a classic formal experience eating in the wood-panelled Grand Louis XIII Salon, less so on the picturesque cliff terrace.
Try the pan-roasted Foie gras with a walnut and sesame crust, green apple jelly and a Granny Smith apple sorbet. There’s a varied selection of local wines to compliment the dishes, including the famous Black Wine from nearby Cahors. You’ll need an empty stomach and deep pockets for this experience, but food lovers will pay many times over for this kind of service. Meals are a marathon and not a sprint, from anywhere between four and six courses, you can spend three hours eating and drinking. Amuse bouche, palate cleansers, the main course, cheese and dessert; it’s not for the faint-hearted. Breakfast, should you have room after dinner, can be taken in your room, or in the Green Salon with views to the French formal garden.
There’s a heated outdoor swimming pool, surrounded by 120 hectares of gardens and woodland. Perfect for chilling out with the soundtrack of nature for company.
The Hotel has beehives hidden away, in the meadow, you’ll taste it during your stay and can buy a jar to take the memory home with you.
Although the Dordogne is inland, where it lacks in the sea department, it makes up for in freshwater swimming and fly-fishing. If relaxation isn’t your thing, then the Hotel’s owner Stephanie will organise the itinerary for you.
There’s a 2-night fly-fishing package on offer (€582 to include half-board accommodation based on 2 sharing and a ½-day fly-fishing lesson on the Dordogne). Suitable for all abilities from complete beginner to expert.
If you’re planning on tying the knot, you may want to consider using the Chapel. The Châteaux is able to accommodate your guests, and the booking would be for sole use. They can cater for 40 guests. For cocktail receptions, they can cater a seated dinner for up to 70. If your burgeoning list keeps growing, you can rent a marquee, along with tableware and silverware, then they’ll take on up to 150 guests.
The family also own and run Château du Bastit which overlooks a nearby hamlet. It’s a private residence which sleeps ten adults and four children. It has all the exclusivity of a private home with the benefits of à la carte hotel services.
Chateau de la Treyne offers double rooms priced from €300 (Room only, based on 2 sharing. Breakfast is €28; add €124 to upgrade to half-board. Price is subject to availability and valid for 2017 (open from March 25 to November 12 and Christmas and New Year). All prices correct, July 2017.