As travel planners, we’ve explored extensively around the world. But whilst jet-setting off to some far-flung corner of the globe will forever give us a buzz, sometimes, it can be easy to overlook what’s on our doorstep (or at least a little closer to home).
Nestled deep in heart of the Loire Valley, about half an hour from the beautiful town of Le Mans, lies the beautiful Château de la Ruche. After rounding the long driveway we were greeted by the majestic Château, recently restored to its former glory by its new British owners, Tim & Rebecca (some of the eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted them on the latest series of Channel 4’s ‘Escape to the Château – DIY’). The Château is not of the imposing, turreted kind; instead its beauty is of the understated variety. Warm and welcoming, without compromising on style or luxuries, it is the perfect spot for a few days of complete R&R, or a luxurious overnight stopover en-route on your travels.
Each room in the Château had been painstakingly restored and styled to perfection; think glistening glass chandeliers, huge marble fireplaces and meticulously-chosen furniture. We stayed in the Garden Room, with its statement floral wallpaper and luxurious dark blue velvet-covered bed. The bathroom, complete with huge roll-top bath and double-shower, offered amazing views over the front lawns, and was complete with the fluffiest of bath towels and robes. Equally beautiful are the Meadow Suite and Honey Suite, with each of these offering the option to add in additional beds for children, making them perfect for families. Each room has their own distinctive personality, and all offer amazing views over the front or back lawns. Waking up, listening to birdsong and opening the shutters to let in the most beautiful sunlight each morning was really rather special!
Food & Drink
On arrival, we enjoyed a warming mulled wine in front of the roaring fire of the main salon, and instantly felt at home. We opted to eat in each night (a home-cooked four-course meal can be added on for €30pppn), enjoying deliciously hearty local dishes, including, of course, a delicious cheese course (when in France…). A good selection of wines was available too, to wash it down with!
Breakfasts were equally delicious – warm pastries fresh from the bakery, homemade jams, and the most wonderful granola, with an option to add on a cooked dish if you wished (the optional hot dish changed each day). The perfect way to start the day!
Things to Do
The Château is just a 20 minute drive from the historic town of Le Mans, with its winding, cobbled streets, beautiful cathedral and cute coffee shops. Check out the market to stock up on some local treats!
With the Château being located in the Loire Valley, it’s also the perfect place to do a spot of wine tasting, with a wide array of top-rated vineyards
If, like us, you’ve over-indulged on pain au chocolat and cheese, closer to home there are plenty of lovely walks. The gardens back onto its own magical woodland, which is filled with snowdrops in winter and bluebells in spring. Keep walking, and you can cross the local fields to explore the village and beyond. One of the (many!) things we loved about the Château was the small touches, like welly boots for guest use – perfect if you forget your own!
The wonderful (yet possibly slightly dangerous) thing though about Château de la Ruche is that it is also really quite easy to really do nothing at all. Curl up under a blanket in front of the fire with a good book and a warming mulled wine, play games, or sit outside in the sunshine with a glass or two of the local rosé. With no noise but for the sound of birdsong, you will instantly be soothed by the peace and tranquillity – the perfect place to get away from it all and relax!
Well, aside from the amazing décor, indulgent food, delicious local wines, and breathtakingly beautiful scenery, what makes this place particularly special is the people. Owners Rebecca and Tim have worked tirelessly to create the most special place, going above and beyond to look after their guests and make them feel instantly at home. With a little help from family and friends, they’ve taken painstaking care in restoring this home to its former glory, and guests will be wowed by thoughtful little touches throughout their stay (I won’t spoil the surprises here!). This is what makes it a truly special place to stay, and one you won’t want to ever leave!
When to Go
The Loire Valley sees similar weather to the UK, with colder, wet winters and pleasant summers. There is no ‘best’ time to visit the Château though. It looks magical in winter overlooking the snowy fields, springtime sees the wildflower meadows spring to life, summer allows for plenty of al fresco rosédrinking, and autumn is perfect for crunchy-leaved walks in the woodlands.
How to get there
Drive: Château de la Ruche is an easy four hour drive from Calais.
Train: trains run from Paris to Le Mans and take one hour (the Château is around 20 minutes drive then from Le Mans).
Fly: The nearest airport, Tours Loire Valley, is an hour from the Château and has direct flights from London Stansted. Nantes airport is two hours away, as is Paris, both offering a wider range of flights.
Rooms are from €200, including a hearty breakfast. A delicious home-cooked four course meal can be added on for €30pp. When booking, mention Follow in My Footprintsto get yourself a free bottle of local bubbly!
Images: Rebecca Goddard Photography & own