Summer holidays on the south coast of France can be hard to find: low availability, high prices and crowded beaches. Instead, head inland to discover gorgeous villages, serene landscapes and stylish hideaways with wonderful owners. The best part? If you still fancy the beach, you don’t have to drive that far.
1 Château Les Carrasses
Location: Hidden in the countryside near Beziers, Languedoc region Price: Suites and villas from £133
Staying at Château Les Carrasses is the closest we’re ever going to get to being royalty. Set among 10 hectares of vineyards and meadows, this 19th-century castle boasts views across the Pyrenees mountains from the pool. Choose to lay your head in either a palatial suite or a cosy self-catering cottage, but only after sipping locally-produced wine in the seductive glass orangerie. A must for any French romantic getaway.
Our advice: Borrow bikes and cycle along the Unesco-listed Canal du Midi, which passes outside the chateau.
2 Village Castigno – Wine Hotel & Resort
Location: Sprawled throughout the village of Assignan, Languedoc region Price: Rooms from £104
We’ve never been anywhere quite like Village Castigno. Boutique rooms, decorated with trinkets from the Far East, are dotted through the entire village (which stands atop a hill) and boldly painted in purples, reds and pinks. Three restaurants, one with a Michelin star, play with season fare – from French fine dining to playful Thai plates. Visit the wine cave to see how the vino on your table was produced.
Our advice: Once you arrive, you have very little reason to leave. Fill your time between meals lazing by the pool, strolling through the vineyards and playing petanque.
3 La Maison Papillons
Location: Perched at the edge of the Ardèche Natural Park, Provence Price: Rooms start at £89
Warmth and love radiate throughout La Maison Papillons. Each room has been individually styled and handcrafted by owners Caroline and Olivier. Our favourite is the romantic duplex, with its wood-burning fire, exposed stone walls and beamed wooden ceilings. We loved eating breakfast – including croissants delivered in person by the village’s baker – on the terrace, overlooking the Cevennes mountains.
Our advice: For us, the Ardeche is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, and the Gorge de l’Ardèche is breathtakingly beautiful. Pack a picnic and head to one of the gorge’s river beaches.
4 Le Mas des Oules
Location: Tucked at the edge of a quiet hamlet in northern Provence, an hour from Avignon Price: Houses and apartments from £100
These lavender-filled gardens. complete with boules pitch, surround a terracotta-hued mas and overlook Provence’s rolling hills. It couldn’t have been more blissful. We felt our stress slip off us sitting on our terrace marvelling at the number of stars in the sky. Self-catering hideouts, each contemporarily chic and decorated in soft greys, are hidden with the old farmhouse.
Our advice:Visit the Saturday market in picture-perfect Uzés; it’s the largest in Provence. Load up with Provençal delicacies and drive to the Pont du Gard, the perfect lunch location.
5 Le Mas de Peint
Location: Nestled in the wilderness of the Camargue Price: Rooms from £201
We started the day in spectacular fashion: trotting on horseback through the salt fields on Le Mas de Peint’s white horses. We observed birds skim over wildflowers as black bulls grazed. Here local French tradition is celebrated, and for good reason. The farmhouse is simply but elegantly decorated with terracotta-tiled floors and wooden beamed ceilings, and all food is sourced from a 50km radius.
Our advice: You’re a stone’s throw from one of Europe’s most beautiful beaches, Plage de Beauduc. It can’t be accessed by car, which means you can always find a quiet spot even in summer.
6 Jardins Secrets
Location: A 2-minute stroll from Nimes’ historic centre Price: Rooms from £250
For those in search of pure opulence, look no further. Jardin Secrets is an oasis retreat from which you’ll struggle to remove yourself while you escape the tourists. Grand pianos, oil paintings and fireplaces line the halls, while within bedrooms you find silks and claw foot tubs. Linger over breakfast, served in the former chapel, before treating yourself to a private afternoon in the spa, complete with Roman-style plunge pool.
Our advice: Nimes boasts an amazing mix of perfectly preserved Roman sites (some of the best in Europe), exciting experimental restaurants, buzzing bars and expansive parks full of lush greenery.
7 Domaine de Manville
Location: Tucked between the pines in the Alpilles Regional Park, Provence Price: Rooms from £188
We found complete escapism at Domaine de Manville, a former farmhouse-come-spoiling retreat that feels like undiscovered France. Afternoons were spent strolling through the acres of private woodland, lazing in the spa and sipping drinks in the region’s best cocktail bar. The piece de resistance? Provence isn’t known for its Japanese connection, but the themed tasting menu at Domaine de Manville blew our minds.
Our advice:Les Carrières de Lumières, a short dash up the hill, is an immersive art exhibition space that is as unique as it is mesmeric. We spent 2 hours inside the former mines, gazing at the Van Goghs projected on the walls.