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  • Self-drive touring holiday of Dordogne, Loire and Normandy

    Chateau des Vigiers

    Chateau de Marcay

    Chateau de Marcay

    Chateau de Marcay

    Chateau de Noirieux

    Chateau de Noirieux

    Chateau de Noirieux

    Auberge de la Source

    Auberge de la Source

    Auberge de la Source

    Auberge de la Source

    Self-drive touring holiday of Dordogne, Loire and Normandy

    8 nights and 9 days
    Following a route that spans most of the country’s length, this touring holiday provides a broad insight into some of France’s most famous regions. From the Dordogne to the Loire and right up to Normandy, this touring holiday offers an opportunity to grasp the beauty and historical appeal that is prevalent throughout these regions.

    Click here to download a pdf with information about some of our suggested French touring holidays.

    This is a comfortable, leisurely, and immensely satisfying touring holiday that combines three regions of great popularity and limitless attractions: Normandy, with its historical ties and pretty countryside, the Loire Valley, the hunting and pleasure ground of the kings of France, and the Dordogne, cradle of civilisation and a land of deep valleys, castles, and golden stone villages. Following your arrival in Calais through the Eurotunnel your first hotel, the Château des Vigiers in Monestier, is an idyllic pastoral getaway with extensive leisure facilities in the delightful and unspoilt Périgord countryside. This delightful property is set amidst its own vineyards on the prestigious Route des Vins between Bordeaux and Bergerac. After a few days exploring this popular area by car, drive directly north to the Loire, perhaps stopping en route in Angoulême, capital of the Poitou Charente. Your second hotel, the Château de Marçay, is the perfect setting from which to visit mediaeval Chinon, some of the region’s finest vineyards and a wealth of grand châteaux which dominate the landscape. From here, drive through the beautiful countryside of the Parc Naturel Régional Loire Anjou Touraine en route towards historic Angers and the Château de Noirieux, one of our favourite hotels, overlooking the River Loire. Leaving the Loire, continue north into Normandy and to your final hotel, the Auberge de la Source, set just outside the picturesque port town of Honfleur, inspiration for many an Impressionist painter. From here, you’re just a stone’s throw from the chic seaside resort of Deauville and charming Trouville-sur-Mer. Return from Calais to Folkestone on your final day.

    Prices for this self-drive touring holiday from £1250 per person.

    What's included:
    - Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château des Vigiers in Monestier
    - One night’s bed and breakfast at the Château de Marçay in Marçay
    - Two nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château de Noirieux in Angers
    - Two nights’ bed and breakfast at the Auberge de la Source in Honfleur
    - Eurotunnel return from Folkestone to Calais

    Self-drive touring holiday of Dordogne, Loire, and Normandy

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    Drive from Calais to Monestier, where you will stay for three nights

    On the famous Route des Vins, between the larger towns of Bergerac and Bordeaux, lies the peaceful rural village of Monestier. Surrounded by the fairytale castles of the Dordogne and lush green countryside, this first stop on this touring holiday is the perfect balance between civilisation and nature. Travel into Bordeaux for a taste of Dordogne culture. Admire the typical French architecture of the Basilica of St Michael and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, or perhaps stop longer to see a show. Visit the Musée d’Aquitane and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux to see what historical and local treasures they hold, and stay late into the evening to see the port city light up from the harbour. To the east, head towards Bergerac to visit the Château de Bridoire, with its pointed roofs and quirky architecture, or head into the heart of the town to the Église Notre-Dame. The Musée du Vin et de la Battelerie is the perfect place to sample the range of wines available in the area: names such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Mabec. Less than a two hour drive up the Gironde Estuary, you will find a cluster of well-reputed vineyards, such as Margaux and St. Estephe, or remain closer to Monestier to visit the larger, internationally renowned estate of Saint-Émilion, a hub around which countless other vineyards and châteaux have clustered. Perhaps use this as a starting point to work your way out into the neighbouring countryside and discover these magnificent châteaux and taste the wine they produce. On one of your three evenings in Monestier, eat dinner in the ambience of the Château du Haut Pezaud, recognised to be a local treasure. For something a little different, drive to Sarlat-la-Canéda and embark on a tour of the Paleolithic art of the Dordogne, through the National Prehistory museum, and into the famous Lascaux Cave II. In the evenings retire to a château of your very own at Château des Vigiers and bask in the comforts of such grand and regal hospitality.

    Drive from Monestier to Marçay, and stay one night

    After arriving at your next château, the Château de Marçay in the Loire Valley, consider spending a relaxed afternoon in the nearby town of Chinon, on the banks of the river Vienne. The centre-piece of fascination in this town is the Chinon Fortresse Royale, built atop a huge rocky hill at the edge of the town. The 10th century fortress has been repeatedly tied into the legend of King Arthur, but the high-tech interactive historical tour within now adds a more modern twist. As a town proud of its culture and heritage, Chinon offers a great number of art and history tours around the town itself. Alternatively, tour the local wine cellars, to get a sense of the flavour of the town. Wine-tasting is also available in many of the nearby châteaux, such as Château de Montgeoffrey, or, we highly recommend having a lunch or dinner comprised of food grown entirely in the grounds of Château de Rivau. The Château de Marçay, where you will be staying, is situated in 15 hectares of perfectly maintained grounds, perfect for a late evening post-dinner stroll.

    Drive to Angers, and stay for two nights

    Your hotel for the next two nights is the Château de Noirieux in Angers. With its high ceilings and elegant furnishings, this is another memorable stop on the tour. If over the next two days you would like to explore more of the Loire Valley châteaux, the Château de Brissac is close by. Home to the 13th Duke of Brissac, the Château houses a vast collection of old French paintings. Taking a tour would lead you through these galleries and on into the private theatre commissioned by the duchess in the 19th century and dedicated solely to opera. The tour’s climax, however, might be the highlight, with a trip into the château’s wine cellars and an opportunity to taste the wine produced on the estate. The Châteaux d’Angers, in the centre of town, is surrounded by excellently landscaped gardens and beautiful views over the town. For something a little different, cruise trips are available down the 300km of navigable river channels that make up the River Loire and its tributaries, with Loire de Lumière boats. In the summer evenings, events such as on-board dinner concerts, cocktail cruises, and wildlife tours offer a new perspective on the Loire landscape and its cuisine. A more traditional alternative lies with the Angers river shuttle, which can escort you to nearby riverside towns, as well as tour the local waters. As the culture of the area is so fuelled by its relationship with water, other sports, such as water-skiing, are necessarily available. For a unique experience, scuba dive into a slate quarry at Trélazé. Or, leave the water behind with balloon rides, or micro-light rides at Marcé.

    Move on to Honfleur and stay for two nights

    The Auberge de la Source, your hotel for your two nights in Honfleur, is a manor house in the old French farmhouse style, with stone walls, oak beams, parquet flooring, and pretty gardens. It makes the perfect idyllic country retreat. The Normandy town of Honfleur overlooking the Seine Estuary, made famous by the D-Day landings, is characterised by its tall, colourful townhouses that line the harbour. Outside of Honfleur, however, you may wish to visit the beautiful white Cliffs of Étretat. These formidable land formations offer many walking paths across the grassy clifftops and infinite stunning views over the turquoise sea. Trouville-sur-Mer is something of an arty capital. A favourite with Marguerite Duras, Marcel Proust, Claude Monet, and Gustave Flaubert, authorly traditions are still carried on today with the annual gatherings of French authors. Regular art exhibitions are held at the Villa Montebello, the former residence of Napoleon. The quirkiness of its architecture rivals that of Honfleur. The best place to pick up some Trouville specialities, such as cider and camembert, is the market at Place du Marché on a Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday. Across the water (perhaps travel across by boat) is Deauville, another fashionable town. As a favourite with Napoleon and Coco Chanel, these two neighbouring towns make a highly intriguing pair. The feel of Deauville is a mix of the beautifully traditional, with strong historical architecture, and up-to-the-minute modernity with the boutique stores around the Place Morny. Take in the French sunshine with a walk along the Promenade de Planches, and then indulge in the locally sourced seafood at a restaurant in Deauville or Honfleur to finish up your final day in France.

    Return to Calais

    Spend one final morning taking in the delights of the varied Normandy landscape, and the seaviews in a nearby town. Return to Calais for the Eurotunnel to Folkestone.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:
    Calais to Monestier: 8 hours 30 minutes
    Monestier to Marçay: 4 hours
    Marçay to Angers: 1 hour 10 minutes
    Angers to Honfleur: 2 hours 50 minutes
    Honfleur to Calais: 2 hours 35 minutes

    Dordogne, Loire, and Normandy v2

    Hotel Information

    Below is some information regarding each of the hotels featured in this touring itinerary. Alternative hotels are available in some destinations - please contact us for full details.

    Château des Vigiers
    The Château des Vigiers in Monestier was built in the late 16th Century by Jean Vigier, the Royal Judge of Ste Foy La Grande, although there is evidence to suggest that a much earlier fortified construction was on the site prior to the château being built; one of the towers of the existing structure is thought to date back to the 12th Century. The Château des Vigiers has been sympathetically restored to create an elegant hotel with three different types of accommodation: from the beautiful classic and deluxe rooms in the main château building, to suites and standard doubles in the adjacent ‘Dependances’ buildings, with a further modern Relais situated near the first tee at the golf course, housing large airy, modern rooms overlooking the golf course. The gourmet restaurant Les Fresques, awarded one Michelin star in 2014, is open for dinner in the evening (apart from Wednesdays and Sundays) and serves excellent regional dishes accompanied by an extensive wine list, including those produced on the estate. The Brasserie ‘Le Chai’ is open for lunch and dinner every day and offers light snacks as well as more substantial dishes in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. The golf courses have been designed by Donald Steel, one of the most renowned ‘natural’ golf course architects and offer 27 holes in total, meaning that players can effectively play 3 different configurations of an 18-hole course. If golf is not your ‘thing’ then there is a beauty centre at the Château des Vigiers offering treatments, two outdoor heated swimming pools, gym and sauna. Alternatively, the region has a huge amount to offer in terms of cultural highlights and places to visit from the numerous châteaux of the Dordogne to prehistoric caves, ornate gardens and ancient churches.
    Find out more here.

    Château de Marçay
    The Château de Marçay near Chinon is a superb four-star château hotel, built in the white-blond stone typical of many of the châteaux of Touraine. The hotel is absolutely enchanting both in terms of its breath-taking secluded and natural location and the quality of accommodation it offers. The Château de Marçay originally dates from the 12th Century, although the main building is in fact 15th Century. During a painstaking renovation programme, it became a hotel in 1971. The Château de Marçay enjoys a splendidly tranquil and rural setting in its own grassy parkland, with views onto the cornfields, sunflower fields and vineyards around it, while in the distance you can see the rooftops of a local village. There are extensive lawns and terraces to the rear of the hotel where drinks are served in fine weather and there is also an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court. The interior of the Château de Marçay is spacious, serene and charmingly furnished. There are two very comfortable lounges where open fires roar in the winter under a blond stone chimney, a TV lounge, a bar and of course the restaurant. The elegant Michelin-starred restaurant is divided into two rooms, one decorated in hues of pink and the other in shades of blue. Rich fabrics complement the white stone walls and the dark timbers of the ceiling. The 30 bedrooms at the Château de Marçay vary enormously in size and location: some very spacious ones are in the main chateau itself and some are located in a wing of the chateau on two floors (these are more recent but offer a marvellous combination of stone, beams, terracotta floors and extremely comfortable furnishings). All rooms have private bath or shower and wc, telephone and television, and there is a lift to three floors in the main building of the Château de Marçay.
    Find out more here.

    Château de Noirieux
    The Château de Noirieux is a superbly restored chateau and manor house. The buildings of this four-star Relais and Châteaux member consist of a manor house dating from the 15th Century, now converted into spacious and very comfortable bedrooms and the château itself, dating from the 17th Century, refurbished in the 1920s and again in the last couple of years, housing the public areas and several bedrooms. You approach the Château de Noirieux along a drive and then through an avenue of horse chestnut and walnut trees. The attention to detail in the decoration is noticeable throughout; in the cosy lounge with its open fire place, the bar and the elegant restaurant. There is also a terrace outside the restaurant where meals are served in fine weather. The Michelin-starred restaurant continues to gain a well deserved reputation, the chef being Gerard Côme. There is an open air swimming pool, a Jacuzzi in the pool house, cycles, a tennis court and table tennis. There is a ground-floor bedroom with wheelchair access in the manor house. All bedrooms are extremely comfortable and have private bathroom, telephone, television with satellite channels and mini-bar (there is no lift). The Château de Noirieux is highly recommended for luxurious short breaks or long, relaxing stays.
    Find out more here.

    Auberge de la Source
    The four-star Auberge de la Source is a most attractive and delightful half-timbered and red-brick farmhouse of exceptional character, set in bucolic pastoral landscapes on the edge of a forest just a stone’s throw from the picture-postcard town of Honfleur. Nestled in charming, tranquil gardens shaded by apple trees and filled with flowers and ponds stocked full of trout and sturgeon, the hotel is comprised of the main auberge and two separate annexes, La Longère and Le Pavillon, where the 15 rooms are located. Abundant in charm and rustic character, many of the rooms at Auberge de la Source boast authentic original features, such as stone walls, oak beams and parquet flooring and overlook either the gardens or ponds. Incredibly stylish and immaculately presented throughout, choose between intimate and atmospheric Campagne rooms or slightly larger Charme rooms which offer an even greater level of rustic refinement. Auberge de la Source also offers a suite and mezzanine rooms perfect for those traveling with children. Set in the main building, the restaurant offers a welcoming and inviting ambience for dinner, particularly in the winter when a warming fire burns in the hearth. In the spring and summer months, dinner on the terrace under the apple trees is a particularly magical experience. The menu features traditional Normandy cuisine and fresh country produce and dinner will undoubtedly be a highlight of your stay here. Other features of Auberge de la Source include a massage room and bicycles available to hire.
    Find out more here.

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  • France

    Find out more about France

    France FAST FACTS


    Main airports are in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon, with scheduled and low cost airlines flying into the country from all over the UK.
    Euro (£1 = Euro 1.24)
    Roughly 600 miles wide and 700 miles long
    66 million
    Average temperature
    Varies dramatically, from about 8 degrees in winter in Brittany to 26 degrees in summer in Corsica, with snow on the Alps and Pyrenees year-round


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