6 French country retreats for families

By Nadine Mellor

The heartlands of Provence and Languedoc are known for glorious rolling countryside, delicious food, great wines and historic towns. So far so grown-up. Yet holidays in the rural South of France also work brilliantly for families, especially when they find a home away from home, such as these six enchanting hideaways.


1. Villas St Pierre de Serjac, Languedoc

These exquisite (and brand new) villas (some with private pools) set on a working winery are perfect for one-stop-shop family holidays. Explore the extensive grounds, there’s a large heated communal pool, a summer kids club, bikes to borrow, tennis court, boules and ping pong. Reception can suggest wonderful days out from kayaking to horse-riding. Although the villas have swish kitchens (there are markets and supermarkets nearby), you can order picnics, BBQ packs and choose the breakfast buffet instead of self-catering. There’s also a lunchtime menu as well as kids evening meals and regular paella nights in the summer. Book a babysitter for dinner a deux in the restaurant. Magnifique!


2. Chateau d’Uzer, Ardeche, Provence

The Ardeche is famed for its spectacular gorges, untamed forests and caverns of prehistoric cave paintings, great for adventurous families who enjoy kayaking, wild swimming and hiking. Base yourselves at this fairytale chateau with its freshwater pool, hire their electric bikes and cycle through picturesque villages, stopping for a picnic lunch. There are rambling gardens scented with jasmine and rose, opulent suites and a gypsy caravan, even a cinema room for rainy days. You can prepare light meals in the guest kitchen or partake of convivial table d’hote dinners as you prefer.


3. Languedoc Hideaways, Aude, Languedoc

Just 30 minutes south of Carcassonne you’ll find Languedoc Hideaways, a trio of rustic-chic gites in renovated barns, set on a south-west facing hillside overlooking a vineyard valley. Explore Cathar castles and authentic market towns by day, come home to hammocks, a trampoline, a tree house and sparkling (fenced) swimming pool. Order in pizza or cassoulet, or self-cater. There’s a sociable Barn Bar with honesty bar, pool table and table tennis. There are chickens to feed too.


4. Le Mas des Oules, near Uzes, Provence

This is quintessential Provencal country. Drive along plane tree-lined roads, through fields of lavender, vineyards and olive groves, and fetch up at this former farm now reinvigorated as seven great value elegant self-catering apartments and houses, with 2 or 3 bedrooms apiece. Le Mas des Oules has a sunny (fenced) pool, the welcoming owners have children of their own, and there’s space and privacy for all. You’re only 15 minutes from the Pont du Gard, and under an hour from Nimes, Arles and Avignon; there’s a local market nearly every day. Return to play boules and table tennis, and to dine on your shaded terrace.


5. Country Kids, Brenas, Languedoc

Pre-school and primary school aged children will be in seventh heaven at Country Kids. Not only is there everything they could wish for from soft play to a petting farm to tractor rides to treehouse, trampoline and tennis coaching, but there’s an onsite creche all year while the Big Kids Programme is on offer during the school holidays. There are three pools (adult, family and toddler). Heaps of baby kit is available to borrow so you can travel light. The intimate house party vibe extends to two nights of babysitting and a kids Friday morning PJ party allowing parents a lie-in, communal lunches, an on-site shop, an indoor-outdoor bar, and massages. Parent and child pampering perfection!


6. Alegria, Aups, Provence

On the outskirts of a pretty village, in an unspoilt off-the-beaten-track corner of Provence, is self-catering retreat, Alegria. Five spacious contemporary suites (four of which can house children) are set beside the (alarmed) swimming pool, and you’re surrounded by peaceful olive groves. There’s a treehouse, board games and petanque on site, and watersports are to be had at the nearby Lac de Sainte-Croix, while the Gorge du Verdon is super for hiking and cycling for older kids.

* Photos courtesy of i-escape.com.

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