Chateau de la Duchesse

Marthon, Bordeaux & Charente, France Book from Eur2,200

French Trad meets contemporary design at this über-chic Charentais château rental (sleeps 20-26) - ideal for house parties and celebrations
When a successful interior designer and a top buyer for one of London’s major fashion stores (Topshop) turned their eyes towards a 16th-century château, you’d have expected the decorative sparks to fly. They did, and the rebirthing of this splendid mansion has set a new benchmark in the château rental league of south west France.

Preserving the best of the château’s original features - a turreted exterior, ornate fireplaces, high French windows, parquet floors and a fabulous oak staircase - they decorated the 9 huge bedrooms and the glorious reception rooms with an eclectic mix of 60s and 70s design classics, Italian glass, jazzy art, and sculptures from the world over. Chrome, glass, suede and stone have been strikingly juxtaposed to create a series of spaces which are as exuberant as they are vast. There are 3 salons, a dining hall, a cinema, a billiards room, a heated outdoor pool, and a huge kitchen where you can self-cater or be catered for. And the cherry on this festive château cake? The welcome is as warm as the décor is cool.

Highs

  • You’re right on the Dordogne border, yet this part of the Charente remains virtually undiscovered
  • Funky, imaginative and whimsical décor that sits beautifully within its classical French context
  • Plenty of entertainment come rain or shine - extensive grounds, a cinema, ping-pong and billiards, games, a Baby Grand piano - perfect for keeping the children happy
  • Owners Nicky and Mark successfully balance caring for you and being mindful of your privacy, and can arrange anything from celebratory meals to beauty treatments
  • You're only a 5-minute stroll from Marthon, a small village with a couple of restaurants, bars and shops

Lows

  • Such style and facilities don't come cheap - but for a special occasion or get-together it's worth splashing out
  • Only 2 twin rooms, though there's also a dorm-style quadruple and extra beds can be provided
  • There's a 7-night minimum stay (Saturday-Saturday only) in July and August

Best time to go

The château stays open all year round and the region’s mild climate means you can take a punt on the weather in any season (and there's plenty to do, whatever the temperature). An added bonus is that you stand a chance of getting a booking even in the peak summer months; this part of the Charente is a sleepy backwater compared to the neighbouring Dordogne.

Our top tips

The average stay is 3-4 nights which seems about right. It would be blissfully indulgent to stay a week but you might need to kowtow to your bank manager on your return.

Great for...

Family
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Château Rental
  • 9
  • Self-catering (+ chef on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Snooker Table
  • Board games
  • Ping-pong
Room:

Rooms

Nicky and Mark thought big when it came to conceptualising the interiors, and the 9 bedrooms (6 kingsize doubles with ensuite bathrooms, 2 twin rooms, and 1 quadruple) are just as jazzy and snazzy as the rest of the château. Original stone walls have been exposed, and floors are covered in thick-pile carpet or the original eye-catching parquet. Chandeliers, perspex lamp shades and bright cushions rev up the sense of fun and theatricality, and you’ll find plenty of decorative treats - perhaps Balinese statues, cowhide rugs, or mirrored mosaics in the bathroom. All bedrooms are centrally heated and have flat-screen TVs, DVD players, hairdryers, bathrobes and tea- and coffee-making gear; some even have wine chillers to keep the champagne at the perfect temperature.

Of the double rooms, we particularly liked Room 4, which is gargantuan in size: you could easily fit 2 Parisian studios into its 70 sq.m of floor space. It’s pepped up by a swirly 60s-style headboard and recycled steel furniture made by a local artist. The super-swish bathroom doubles up on sinks and tubs: no need to even think about who’s going to have the first bath. Also a favourite was Room 3, another huge space on the first floor. It has garden-facing French windows, a marble fireplace and a double-tubbed bathroom. Next door to it is Room 2, which has a balcony, colourful modern art and 2 chesterfield-style armchairs.

Room 1 at the top of the building is the largest, though its raftered roof makes it the snuggest in feel. A brick chimney breast provides a sculptural division between the kingsize bedroom and the sitting area, and its white mosaic-tiled bathroom sits in one of the château’s turrets, with a corner bath and a walk-in shower.

The only twin rooms are Rooms 5 and 8. The former has a sitting area and a huge bathroom with curvaceous twin tubs; the latter shares a marble shower room (and can interconnect) with Room 9, a funky black and white quadruple that’s ideal for children.

The château isn’t short on communal space, either: downstairs you’ll find no fewer than 3 lounges (the lofty Stone Salon with its corner bar, the funky 70s-style White Salon, and the elegant Piano Salon, all with wood burners or log fires). There’s also a cosy book-lined library, a cinema room with a 9ft screen, and a billiards room with a full-size pool table.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbeque
  • Bathrobes
  • Billiards room
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Cinema room
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dishwasher
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob stove
  • Internet access
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Swimming pool
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

You can choose whether to self-cater or be catered for. If you want to cook for yourself, you get use of a vast commercial-style kitchen with hobs, stoves, pots, pans, toasters, kettles, microwaves and all manner of crockery, cutlery and utensils. There are grocery shops, butchers and bakers in nearby Marthon, and Nicky and Mark can arrange for the fridge and cupboards to be stocked ready for your arrival - just send them a shopping list in advance.

If you don’t fancy cooking, they can hire a private chef to whip up anything from one-off celebratory dinners to a full week’s worth of meals. They’ll help you plan bespoke menus in advance, but breakfast is generally a buffet of croissants, pains au chocolat, fresh juices, local cheeses and cold cuts, while lunch and dinner are more lavish multi-course affairs.

Meals are taken in the château's réfectoire (dining hall), a lofty space with high ceilings, exposed stone walls, a long table seating 26, and ornate candelabras. There are further tables outside on the terrace, along with a BBQ.

If you want to eat out there are 2 restaurants within easy strolling distance: choose between a simple pizzeria or the characterful Le Glycine, where you can get an honest menu du jour at a very reasonable price. Just 10 minutes’ drive from the château, in the pretty market square of Villebois, is La Valette, which serves local fare and has a terrace for alfresco dining in the warmer months.

Angoulême, of course, has a much wider choice of eateries. If you fancy rubbing shoulders with the local intelligentsia book in for lunch at the buzzy Chez Paul. Serious foodies should check out Le Terminus, which has Michelin status and attracts diners from as far afield as Paris.

Features include:

  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob stove
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Shopping service
  • Toaster
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Rediscover the pleasure of doing precious little: chill by the pool, laze in the garden, amble through the park, or play billiards and ping-pong

  • Tinkle on the Baby Grand in the Piano Salon

  • Get competitive: there's a professional go-karting track 10 minutes away, or you can shoot a round of golf at Montbron’s 18-hole course; Nicky or Mark will book you a slot

  • Canoe or kayak on the Bandiat river, or take a horse trek through the countryside; Nicky and Mark can arrange

  • Browse through the huge collection of DVDs then hunker down in the château’s surround-sound cinema room or in the intimacy of your suite

  • Wander the ancient centre of Angoulême, taking a stop at the stunning cathedral, then pick up the makings of a gourmet picnic from one of its many traiteurs

  • Hire bikes for the day, the gently rolling countryside and quiet lanes make for great cycling - just remember to request them a few days in advance

  • Grab the château’s rackets and balls and play a set on the village tennis courts

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Go-karting
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Well being

Kids

Kids are welcome. The garden, grounds and pool offer endless possibilities for hyperactive littl’uns, and the high-tec cinema room is great for film fans. We'd say it's best for older kids (8+) and especially good for teens, but the château often plays host to kids of all ages.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

There are 9 guest rooms and suites in total, including 2 twin rooms and 1 quadruple dorm-style room that's ideal for kids. Most rooms can take at least 1 extra bed or a baby cot, and most have ensuite bathrooms with tubs.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots
  • Highchairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

You can self-cater or arrange for a private chef to cook meals for you. A shopping service is available - just send a list in advance and specify any child-friendly ingredients required.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Board games
  • Children's DVDs and a surround-sound cinema
  • Baby Grand piano
  • Fenced pool (with a stepped shallow end)
  • Ping-pong
  • 5 acres of landscaped gardens
  • Pool table with child-size cues
  • Football pitch

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Kayaking
  • Go-karting
  • Bike hire in Montbron
  • Tennis courts in the village

Distances:

  • Airport: 30 minutes (Angoulême) or 1-2 hours (Limoges, Poitiers, Bordeaux, Bergerac)
  • Doctor: 5 minutes (Marthon)
  • Hospital: 30 minutes (Angoulême)
Kid Friendly:

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