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Domaine des Etangs: Quintessential French chateau charm

Eleventh-century storybook castle meets French countryside escape at the romantic Domaine des Etangs.

Originally constructed in the 11th century, Domaine des Etangs has hosted chivalrous knights, noblemen and women and even revolutionaries during its long history. Today, the beautifully restored château offers a rare resort experience, where the charisma and intrigue of the past meet the style and comfort of the present.

In a little-visited corner of the undulating Charente countryside, two hours from Bordeaux, between Limoges and Angoulême, Domaine des Etangs is a fairytale of a hotel, right down to the turrets, towers, and mills enveloped by more than 1,000 hectares of grassy meadows and sparkling lakes.

Bought in the 1980s by Didier Primat, heir to the Schlumberger oil fortune, this immaculate chateau was transformed over a period of seven years into a luxury hotel by his daughter, Garance Primat, first welcoming guests in 2015. The meticulous restoration was carried out with the estate’s vast heritage in mind, using only local rock to retain the charm of its historical architecture.

Rooms are named after a planet or a constellation, and guests can choose between six métairies scattered across the pastures, as well as seven rooms and suites in the chateau and four in the adjacent longère (a traditional French farmhouse). The métairie, otherwise known as farmhouses, have their own kitchens, sitting rooms and complimentary electric cars.

The wood-panelled Monade serves breakfast each day, a quintessentially French feast of breads, pastries, local cheese and charcuterie. Housed in the longère, the Michelin-starred Dyades restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Sunday, dishing up seasonal produce and vegetables from the garden. Enjoy a cognac-based sundowner at the cocktail bar in Dyades – Bourgoin, Hennessy, Martell and Remy Martin are headquartered in the double-distilled brandy’s namesake town just a one-hour drive away – or make a day of it by visiting the sprawling vineyards of Bordeaux, just a two-hour journey.

Natural beauty and hands-on heritage

The hotel’s long list of complimentary extras includes wine tastings, bicycles for exploring the surrounding countryside, boats and gumboots for lazy afternoons spent fishing on one of the hotel’s seven lakes, cooking or baking workshops to teach you traditional recipes, and history tours of the estate. There’s also wildlife spotting with keeper Jean-Francois – permanent residents on the property include a herd of Limousin cattle, herons, nutrias and deer.

There is also an art gallery, two libraries with shelves stocked by esteemed Mayfair booksellers Heywood Hills, a floating tennis court, two heated pools – one outside, the other indoors by the Roman baths – and a 200-square-metre children’s playground comprising wooden playhouses, trampolines, ziplines, slides and a magical children’s attic.

The on-site wellbeing centre, Moulin des Etangs, is situated in an old walnut oil mill and takes advantage of its unique setting: heritage equipment is used to produce nut oil and garden plants are employed in treatments.

A visit to the nearby town of Limoges is a must: walk the Gothic halls of the Cathédrale St-Etienne de Limoges, which took six centuries to complete and see the 200-million-year-old Rochechouart crater before heading to the Royal Limoges porcelain factory or the city’s wonderful art museum, Musée des Beaux Arts.

This article originally appeared in volume 36 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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Where to find Domaine des Etangs

The resort, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is a two-hour drive from Bordeaux, France.

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