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Châteaux de la Treyne

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.

Châteaux de la Treyne

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.

Châteaux de la Treyne

Châteaux de la Treyne

Châteaux de la Treyne

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.

Châteaux de la Treyne

Châteaux de la Treyne

A courtesy tray is overflowing with local products from chocolates to seasonal fresh fruit and there’s a handwritten welcome note from the owners.

Châteaux de la Treyne

Châteaux de la Treyne

Bathrooms have multi-jet showers, thick fluffy robes, slippers and orange-scented toiletries by Hermes.

Châteaux de la Treyne

Michelin Star

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.

Châteaux de la Treyne

Châteaux de la Treyne

Châteaux de la TreyneChâteaux de la Treyne

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.

Châteaux de la Treyne

 

Châteaux de la Treyne

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.

Châteaux de la Treyne

River Sports

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.

Châteaux de la Treyne

Châteaux de la Treyne

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.

Weddings

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.

Châteaux de la Treyne

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.

 

Dordogne Valley & The Lot

Holidays in The Dordogne & The Lot

There aren’t enough adjectives to describe this turreted fairytale chateau in south-west France, but I’m going to try my best.  Chateau de la Treyne clings precariously to a cliff, surrounded by a vast forest, Marie Antoinette-esque perfumed rose gardens and a mesmerising expanse of water.  It’s in the middle of nowhere, in Lacave to be precise, so a car is a must. Its location is well placed to explore some of the must-see tourist hotspots this area has to offer. It dates back to the 14th century but has moved with the times.

Dordogne & The Lot

Dordogne & The Lot

Dordogne & The Lot

The Chateau has been an ongoing, and clearly expensive project for the owners who have lovingly restored the property and its rooms.  I stay in a turreted suite which has a view like no other.  I can see the River from all sides.  There’s a huge bed, an even bigger bathroom, multi-jet shower and products from Hermès.  I think there was a television but who needs that when there’s the sound of nature to enjoy.  The Michelin-starred restaurant is formal and dining on the terrace less so and if you get an opportunity to take your meals here, do.

Dordogne & The Lot

The food is impressive, all from the local larder making the most of the seasons. The plates of food are entire works of art, and it seems a shame to dive in and spoil the hard work, but the temptation’s too big.

Dordogne & The Lot

Dordogne & The Lot

As a food-lover this is such a good time to visit, this region’s larder is always overflowing, and in June, there’s an abundance of strawberries, cherries, walnuts and prunes. Always prunes.

Getting There

I jumped a Ryanair flight from Stansted. A bit of a pain to get to from West London but if you book early, you may be able to secure a good price.  The hire car I booked with Sixt, through the airline’s website and it was the cheapest I could find.  The Airport in France is Brive-la-Gaillarde, and it’s a straight run to Lacave via the B roads.

Markets

The local Market is a must, and the next main town to where I’m staying is Souillac. Theirs is on Friday morning, and I’m there early to wander through the stalls of the local growers. From Poussin to peaches, truffles to tomatoes.  It’s the region for duck and like it or loathe it, Foie gras. I’m fascinated by a truffle seller, and in my rusty school French, I buy a black truffle to take home. The vendor sniffs a series and finds the freshest from his basket of earthy-smelling bumpy black orbs for me to buy.

Dordogne & The Lot

UNESCO World Heritage Site

There are at least three reasons to visit Rocamadour. Firstly it’s an important pilgrimage destination and has been for 1000 years. Secondly, it’s entirely Instagramable, and thirdly it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of France’s most famous tourist destinations. It’s quite a strain on the knees; there are an awful lot of steps (216), so you’ll be pleased to hear they’ve carved a lift out of the rock which transports you from top to bottom.

Dordogne & The Lot

Dordogne Valley & The Lot

Cheese

Cheese is another reason you should visit the town. Small, medallion sized discs of Goat cheese hail from this area. You’ll find it on every good cheese trolley; it’s full of flavour with a cream and hazelnut taste which melts in the mouth.  Produced from unpasteurised milk from a process which dates back to the 15th century. Visit the factory and buy it from source.

Dordogne Valley & The Lot

Wine

Wine. Yes. Plenty of it and luckily, Cahors isn’t too far away. Vines there were planted by the Romans, and some date back to around 50BC, so there’s a chance they’ve got a good grip on making decent vino. I can wholly recommend the Malbec.  The straw wine has been part of the local heritage since the Middle Ages and is made from drying both red and white grapes naturally. Also called Honey of the Muse and is often served as an aperitif or with cheese and Foie gras.

Caves

Did I say when I visit, there’s a heatwave? No? Well, when the Mercury hits the forties the best place to be is underground, and luckily the caves are worth a visit here. Locally, it’s Grottes De Lecave, and a guided tour takes you to ten different caves with incredible rock formations, further afield one of the greatest chasms in Europe is Gouffre de Padirac. A small boat takes you through a series of caves formed over millions of years; there’s a pretty impressive 60m high stalactite.

Topiary

Do I love visiting a well-tended garden?  Absolutely and there are quite a few in the region.  Head towards Sarlat to be wowed by Le Jardin d’Eyrignac a breathtaking collection of topiary. The display ranges from animal shapes to the more adventurous use of plants. What’s more incredible is that everything is clipped by hand.

The Great Outdoors

A river runs straight through it, so there’s every kind of watersport on offer from canoeing, fly fishing or river swimming.

Dordogne Valley & The Lot

Dordogne Valley & The Lot

There are also quite a few MAMIL on bikes too (Middle Aged Men In Lycra).  They’re doing their very best to recreate sections of the Tour de France. Incidentally, the region hosts the post-rest day stage to Bergerac in the second week.

For those who like to walk, there are hundreds of hiking paths around the region. Interestingly, three routes meander around the Valley on the way to Santiago de Compostela: The Via Arverna, the Way of Rocamadour and the Way of Puy en Velay.

A final word on the Chateau.  No matter how much you spend on renovation, it simply won’t work without the service. Here, you get it in spades with charm, a smile and you leave with a need to return. In my case, it was as soon as the plane hit the tarmac in Stansted.