Le Marais – simply a perfect farmhouse in the Dordogne
Looking for a holiday in a farmhouse in the Dordogne? This might just be the post you have been searching for…
With the warm breeze lifting the hair gently around my face, breathing deeply the honey smell of the lime tree sheltering me from the cloudless heat, and listening to nothing but the sound of the crickets… I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed.
A perfect family holiday farmhouse in the Dordogne
We had taken two days to get here, using Brittany Ferries to drive Ford’s brand new Tourneo Custom from home to this small spot of heavenly French countryside right at the bottom of the Dordogne, just 30 minutes from Bergerac. Le Marais had made us smile as we approached its beautifully weathered old walls in the middle of the valley, and we hadn’t really stopped smiling since.
Owned by a British couple who bought it as a ruined shell, Le Marais has enjoyed years of loving restoration. Looking at the photographs hung in the house, it did amuse us that even before the roof was fixed the pool was being dug; that’s some perfect priorities right there. Let’s face it – you’re going to get more work out of anyone on a hot French day if there’s a dip in a lush pool at the end of it!
And what a pool it is. We have a few non-negotiable priorities when we’re booking a property for a family trip – owning three teens and a pre-teen our priorities have definitely changed over the years. Where once we looked for secure gardens, a safe pool and kids equipment, we now need decent wifi, no shared bedrooms and a pool that’s deep enough to keep 6′ man-sized teens happy.
I’m happy to report that actually, Le Marais would have suited us perfectly ten years ago – and fit us like a glove today, too.
Sleeping 11 across the five bedrooms, it’s a large rustic farmhouse that has been comfortably modernised without losing any of the charm and character that oozes from the old building. And it’s still sitting snugly against the old barn which has been utilised as a fabulous additional space – rainy day play with table tennis table and basketball hoop, additional utility area with the washing machine, plus an extra super-handy loo and shower straight from the pool (no soggy dripping floors as everyone dashes through the house).
Downstairs a there’s a large kitchen-diner, with a modern British kitchen layout and a huge farmhouse dining table.
Through to a comfortable living room with large squashy sofas and big woodburner for colder stays, off which there’s a downstairs double bedroom with en suite.
The open-tread stairs lead up to the four bedrooms – the master with en suite (we were very sad to say goodbye to this particular shower!), two twins and a triple with bunks and a single all sharing another family bathroom.
But lovely though the house is (and it really is), if you’re staying during the summer months then outside is where you’ll want to be – and outside is where Le Marais moves from lovely to really absolutely bloody perfect.
Nestled in the very centre of a broad sweeping valley, the views are far-reaching in every direction. Nearest neighbours are barely close enough to see, and you’re surrounded by fields of maize (or occasionally, looking at older pictures, sunflowers). Make as much noise in the garden and pool as you like – there’s no one for you to disturb. And then in the heat of the day just curl up in the shade of the giant lime tree with a good book and be lulled by the crickets; there’s simply nothing else to be heard.
We didn’t do much at all during our stay at Le Marais – not for want of interesting local visits, mind. We were just a family in need of some relaxing quiet time. So we got up late, nipped into the village boulangerie for the day’s bread (there’s also an excellent but tiny general store in Saint-Meard-de-Gurcon for any emergency necessaries) and then simply swam, played, ate and drank the rest of the day away. There’s bags of room for football and rounders if you’re feeling active, and the pool is a constant joy of course, But there’s also loungers to spare, and plenty of sunny or shady spots, depending on your preference.
And on clear nights the big skies are astonishing – it’s a simple happy thing, laying out on the grass watching the stars as the frogs and crickets competed across the valley with the occasional fox and owl.
You can see plenty more images from the trip in the album on our Facebook page here.
Nearby Bergerac (30 minutes) is well worth a visit – market day is Wednesday, but do take a wander around the old town, it’s beautiful. The market at St-Foy-Le-Grand (15 minutes, and where the big Le Clerc is for your weekly shop) has been voted the best in France, though the Saturday we visited the rain was lashing sideways so we opted not to stop!
Saint Mearde has an excellent French restaurant, though we decided it wasn’t right for the younger (fussier) members of our family, so for a night out we chose to revisit our beloved Duras (30 minutes); a walk through the streets holds many lovely family memories for us. We highly recommend Don Camillo’s, the pizzeria which also serves astonishingly good burgers and a short menu of typical French fare.
Le Marais can booked through Owner’s Direct – average cost is £179 a night. We genuinely, honestly cannot recommend either the house or the lovely owners enough – and cannot wait to go back.