NORMANDY, with its stunning coastline and gentle countryside, is perfect for an autumn break. So, we have looked at places to enjoy a few days of luxury hospitality in one of its historic chateaux.
You will be able to relax, sample the high life, indulge in some of France’s finest cuisine and visit the many lively and colourful foodie markets and festivals.
Local resident Sally Ann Voak picks her top 10 of the loveliest and most unusual chateaux of Normandy. They all welcome guests and we provide contact details.
Chateau de Chantore - Best for glamour
This fantastic 18th century château set in a vast, romantic park has only just started to welcome visitors. Get in early and stay in the luscious, newly-renovated suites; one is named after the nearby Mont Saint-Michel. It is easy to reach from the A84 but, once installed, glass of champagne in hand, you could be miles from anywhere. Try crossing to the Mont on horseback, visit the Christian Dior Museum at nearby Granville or just enjoy the haute cuisine in the chandelier-hung dining room. The sumptuous decor, antiques and slightly decadent atmosphere make it ideal for an amorous weekend. From €165 per night for a double to €310 for a suite.
Contact: 09 60 52 82 73 or check out www.chateaudechantore.com
Chateau la Chenevière - Top for drama
Sleep in a room where the Gestapo or Eisenhower worked: during the Second World War the chateau was occupied by the Germans then, after the D-Day landings, the Americans moved in. It is near Port-en-Bessin (transfers available from Bayeux station) and has 29 elegant rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, and 30 acres of grounds to play in. Chef Didier Robin has just been awarded a fifth Michelin Star. He grows his own vegetables and has homemade honey on the breakfast menu. Smashing bar, good conference facilities.
Contact: 02 31 51 25 25 or email email@example.com. From €220 per night (standard room, low season,) to €500 (suite in high season).
Chateau de Bénéauville - Dreamy for Lovers
Turrets and formal French gardens turn this small, pretty chateau into a miniature fairytale castle. Add open fireplaces, exquisite carvings in the dining room and cosy bedrooms with classic toile de jouey curtains - for a fine romance! Located between Deauville and Caen airports, 4km from the sea, just 10 minutes from the port of Ouistreham. Activities: horse-riding, golf, historical presentations (including the Second World War; it is near the D-Day beaches), nature rambles. B&B only, but within easy distance of excellent restaurants. Good choice for a sexy stopover!
Contact: 02 31 72 56 49 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chateau de Fleury-La-Forêt - The Perfect Hideaway
Need a break from the city? This unspoilt little town is quiet and calm. Its exquisite timbered houses (including composer Ravel’s home) and medieval market place are tucked away in deep forest but you are within a few miles of good golf courses and the city of Rouen, Normandy’s business centre. The 17th century chateau has four B&B rooms and breakfast is eaten in a vast kitchen hung with copper pans. You’ll find several gourmet restaurants in the town and the chateau has a beautiful park and museum. There are visitors during the season but you feel as though you own the place! (They will organise private parties, wedding receptions etc. in the castle hall). €85 per night for a double, €125 for a two-bed suite, sleeping four. Weekend package €1,380.
Contact: 02 32 49 63 91 email@example.com
Hotel Le Clos, Verneuil-sur-Avre - For Passionate Francophiles
This chateau/hotel is just inside the walls of the ancient fortress town of Verneuil, founded by William the Conqueror. It is set in a pretty garden and beautifully decorated. Explore the town, practice your French, sunbathe on the terrace, and then eat in the dining room with its exquisite trompe l’oeil wall panels. Verneuil has festivals galore (poetry, gastronomy, music, you name it) or just borrow a bike at the chateau and explore the nearby Parc Naturel Régional du Perche, classified as one of the most beautiful in France. The chateau is about 45km from Giverny and Chartres. Standard two bed room, €180 low season, €200 high season. (All with TV, air-con and Wifi)
Contact: 02 32 32 21 81 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chateau de La Mouchère - Country Experience
Originally a monastery, the chateau (at Saint-Cyr-la-Rosière, in Orne, 60km from Le Mans) became the centre of the local agricultural activity and still has a thriving kitchen garden, terraced orchards and greenhouses. It is a sturdy, stone building with meadows sloping down to a river, a well-stocked library and magical gardens. It is an excellent base for a tour of the region, riding, fishing, Le Mans racing. Art deco and arts and crafts influence the decor in the bedrooms. Great for walkers and enjoying local cheeses, cider, Calvados. Learn about foodie specialities from owners, Roger and Marie-Monique Huss, then load the car! Rooms €120 for a double to €180 for a suite.
Contact: O2 33 83 02 99 email:email@example.com
Chateau de Miromesnil - Culture, Space, Coast
Set in the middle of a secluded park, this 6th century stunner was the birthplace of French novelist Guy de Maupassant. It is just a few kilometres from the Normandy coast (Dieppe, Etretat, Veules-Les Roses.) The chateau, huge formal kitchen garden and chapel are open to a few visitors and the owners, Nathalie and Jean-Christoffe Romatet offer four chambres d’hôte in the castle plus a gite, all with ensuite bathrooms, and views of the park. The chateau has a family atmosphere: you often see Nathalie tending her veggies! Nearby attractions include: fishing, riding, golf, helicopter tours, or just pack a couple of Maupassant’s classics and enjoy the peace. From €115 per night for the Chambre de la Tour, to €280 for the Suite Terrasse, (two doubles). Group receptions and special events catered for.
Contact: 02 35 85 02 80 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chateau de la Puisaye - Home comforts and lamb!
French language skills pretty basic? Check in at a comfy 18th century chateau, near Verneuil-sur-Avre, owned by English-born Diana Costes Brook and her husband Bruno. They acquired it in October 2002 then renovated the whole place using authentic furnishings and wallpapers, cool colours, pretty china. They rear sheep, chickens, keep dogs and horses and there are bikes for visitors, plus croquet, sauna and massage. Accommodation: 12 visitors in the chateau and eight in the original hunting pavilion. Nearby: three golf courses and, for bird lovers, an ornithological park. Diana’s food is classic Normandy: try her lamb with rosemary and redcurrant sauce followed by poached pears with Calvados and honey ice cream! A good choice for family and group holidays as you can book the whole chateau! Double rooms from €98, suite with kitchen and sitting room, €120/€140.
Contact: 06 85 07 61 24 email: email@example.com
Chateau d’Audrieu - Child-friendly, big and beautiful!
An 18th century historical monument in the heart of Calvados, between Caen and Bayeux (close to the D-Day beaches) it has four stars, 24 rooms, four suites, 20-acre park, gardens and heated pool, plus a kiddies’ playground. The impressive gates and driveway lead to a classical-style chateau with rose garden, fountain and a wooded park at the back. It became a hotel in 1976 and current owners Gérard and Irène Livry-Level have created an authentic French decor with original antiques and paintings. Kids will love the log cabin, swings and pool and grownups will enjoy chef Olivier Barbarin’s delicious food and the spacious, comfortable rooms. From €355 per night for a double, up to €650 for a suite.
Contact: 02 31 80 24 73 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Les Chateaux de la Lucerne D’Outremer - Best double act!
For a holiday with a difference, stay at one of these two 18th chateaux, 30km inland from Mont Saint-Michel, between Granville and Avranches. Originally built for the twin sons of one of Napoleon’s cavalry generals, they stand side-by-side in the middle of an idyllic park planted with vivid rhododendrons, lush lawns and decorated with wooden sculptures. Requisitioned by the Germans during the Second World War, the chateaux have been tastefully restored by glam couple Frédéric and Sylvie Follenfant, with exposed stone, cool colours, and top-nosh comfort. They have an exclusive selection of lovely B&B rooms and a huge hall for weddings and parties. I love the Josephine room, with its “his and hers” washbasins, deep tub, fresh white linen. From €160 for a double, to €250 for a suite.
Contact: 02 33 69 39 17 www.auchateau.fr
Late September/October Gastronomic Festivals
September 19-20, Fête du Fromage, Neufchâtel-en-Bray, Seine-Maritime
September 26-27, Toute la Mer sur un Plateau, Granville, Manche
October 3-4, Fête de la Crevette, Honfleur, Calvados
October 17-18, Fête du Ventre et de la Gastronomie Normande, Rouen, Seine-Maritime
October 25, Fête du Cidre, Beuvron-en-Auge, Calvados
Full list: www.normandy-tourism.org