Chateau des Pensees

Near Sarlat, Dordogne & Lot, France Book from Book from £214 per night

Exclusive to i-escape! An aristocratic estate with sumptuous, quirkily decorated B&B suites, plus self-contained wings and outhouses for 4-12
Plenty of French aristocrats have opened their family castles as grandiose guesthouses, but this one has wow-factor in spades. The owner is Cyril de Commarque, an installation artist married to Ortensia Visconti, daughter of the director Eriprando Visconti (nephew to cinematic royalty Luchino). The medieval castle has been in the family for more than 700 years, falling into disrepair until this generation decided to renovate it into an artistic, reflective sanctuary (hence its name, the Chateau of Thoughts) where open-minded guests can be inspired by utopian surroundings. These include 500 hectares of oak, walnut and chestnut trees, a garden with 250 species of rose, ancient woodland and the nodding wheat fields of the Dordogne countryside.

Behind the limestone walls and classic blue shutters are extraordinary interiors which brim with wonderful things, from a glass wall filled with Ming vases to beaded south African sculpture. The chateau doesn’t feel like a hotel at all, rather that you’re a guest of the (usually absent) counts of Commarque. Six superbly eclectic suites boast vast beds and original artworks, bold colours and amusing details. They’re a stunning interplay of old and new, both opulent and chic at the same time. The communal rooms downstairs are equally spectacular, with a neon flower and mirrored walls, work-of-art vintage sofas, and a dining room with Murano chandelier whose glass resembles a red feather boa. Dinner can be provided by the resident chef, chambre d’hôte-style.

For families or groups, a smaller and more modest wing (Le Fournial) is available as a rental for six, while two further outhouses for 2-12 can be booked via our separate review.

Highs

  • We loved the time-suspended, splendour-filled atmosphere, which felt as if we’d wandered on to a Fellini set
  • The setting is hidden and totally tranquil, the grounds vast - with the freedom to roam as if you're a friend of the family
  • Fabulous décor in the suites and chateau rooms blends diverse sculpture and contemporary art with the ancient bones of the chateau
  • You're in the heart of the beautiful Dordogne, near historical Sarlat, medieval villages and prehistoric cave art
  • This magnificent C13th chateau is currently only bookable through i-escape

Lows

  • This is not a full-service hotel, and staff contact is patchy: you may need to hunt for someone on arrival, or to fetch you a drink or pool towel; and be aware that the owners live elsewhere
  • Limited phone reception, small pockets of WiFi and no TVs (if you've read this far, this is probably a high for you)
  • We'd say a car is essential for the region. You'll need to drive to reach restaurants (7km)
  • Note that Le Fournial is more elegantly old-fashioned in style, but we found it charming too

Best time to go

Although the Dordogne fills up from early July through to late August, if you stay put here, it will feel as if the outside world has ceased to exist. But you’d see plenty of other people if you were to head out sightseeing or to eat. Either end of the summer would be an ideal time to make full use of the pool but the chateau is open year-round.

Our top tips

Can't be bothered with a day trip? There's a beautiful 13th-century church in Urval, 1km away.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Romantic
  • Boutique Chateau
  • B&B rooms + rentals for 4-12
  • Breakfast + other meals on request
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor 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
  • Bicycles Available
  • Basic ingredients
Room: Antarios

Rooms

The six exuberant suites make up the Corps du Logis Principal wing of the chateau (you can rent them individually or as a whole independent wing). Each is completely different, with a play of contrasts: exposed stone walls softened by velvet and gilt; roughened wood offset by beautiful chinoiserie. Walls are painted in startling bold shades of peacock, alizarin and electric blue, while the magnificent furniture blends family heirlooms, such as baroque lamps from the Visconti family, with objets d'art.

What unifies the chateau suites (all vast and double height) is a sense of eclectic playfulness. Alcyone has breathtaking Klimt-like paintings, one backing the bed and almost reaching the ceiling, and is dotted by white Serletti monkey lamps. Antarios' carved four-poster bed is topped with gold sceptres. Electra has a chair shaped like a pair of porcelain-white feet and mid-century pendant lamps, while Bellatrix, the largest suite, has sea-blue walls and gilded sculptures, one like a tropical plant.

The marble-lined bathrooms are often as spacious as the bedrooms, with freestanding bathtubs. They mostly don’t have doors; even when the lavatory has a cubicle it’s without a door (something to bear in mind when choosing your room-share companion).

Le Fournial is a smaller wing of the house, a rental for six guests overlooking the castle courtyard. This feels like an aristocratic country house, elegantly old-fashioned, full of charm, books and paintings. Think canopied wooden beds, terracotta tiled floors, busts of noblemen and an outdoor dining table shrouded in tumbling jasmine. With three bedrooms (two can be twinned) it's ideal for a family.

You can book the entire chateau for up to 18 guests. The estate is also home to two villa rentals, a good 10-minute walk away from the chateau.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Hairdryer
  • Toiletries

Eating

All accommodation is on a B&B basis, but breakfast was surprisingly minimal during our stay. Our pastries had been bought the day before, there was a limited amount of baguette (also not fresh), and we struggled to work the complex coffee machine (there was no one around to help). There are homemade jams but you may have to seek these out yourself. In warm weather, guests eat at an enormous stone table in front of the chateau.

Other meals are available on request. Menus are decided between you and the cook, who was the lovely Italian Bernadetta during our stay. She can cook whatever fits with your needs, usually French or Italian dishes made with organic ingredients from the kitchen garden, neighbouring farms and local markets: we ate steak, salad, and fried sage leaves, followed by homemade cheesecake and accompanied by local wines. Other restaurants are a drive away (about 7km).

Le Fournial has its own kitchen for self-catering, well equipped with a gas hob, electric oven, dishwasher and espresso coffee machine. There are stainless steel pots and pans, and basic ingredients are provided (salt, oil etc). Stock up on local delicacies at the regional markets - truffles, ceps, foie gras, confit, chestnuts and local wines - and eat alfresco on your private terrace.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Chef on request
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • In house cook
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Shopping service
  • Breakfast + other meals on request
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Unwind by swimming in the lovely pool
  • Be inspired by nature: wander through the gardens, stopping to smell 250 different species of roses, or take a longer hike around the Sarlat Périgord Noir area (the local tourist board has walking guides available)
  • Admire the art work, in various different media around the chateau. There are ghostly tree sculptures and photos of the sea printed on aluminium
  • Explore the cobbled streets of Sarlat (28km), a Renaissance town with beautiful medieval architecture
  • Rent a kayak or hop in a gabarres (traditional boat) and drift down the Dordogne river, past three of France's most beautiful villages - La Roque Gageac, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle and Beynac
  • Walk in the footsteps of Cro-Magnon man; there are 28 sites of spectacular pre-historic cave art in the region. Lascaux's is the most famous, but the owners recommend Font-de-Gaume's - 200 bison and horse charging across shadowy walls
  • Visit Les Jardins de Marqueyssac, a stunning formal garden with an extraordinary swirl of box hedges
  • Spend an afternoon wine tasting. When booking, ask about the best local vineyards and which wines to try
  • It is also possible to arrange horse riding, hot-air ballooning and bike hire

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Families are warmly welcomed and will love the freedom that this enormous estate provides. There's huge amounts of space for kids to run around, a pool for splashing about in, even a stream to dam. All accommodation is on a B&B basis, and if you request other meals, the cook will happily dream up child-friendly menus with you.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The B&B suites each have space for a baby cot; if you're travelling with an older child you'll need to book two rooms. Le Fournial is an independent B&B rental with one kingsize bedroom, two kingsize/twin bedrooms and space for a baby cot or extra bed.

Baby equipment:

Cots and high chairs are available, given prior notice.

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

Kids Activities on site:

Swimming pool

Kids Activities nearby:

The chateau can arrange bike hire for the whole family. Nearby attractions include castles with medieval games, cave art, horse-riding, kayaking along the river and Dordogne beaches.

Families Should Know:

The pool isn't fenced and a stream runs through the property so toddlers will need to be watched closely.

Distances:

  • Airport: 40 minutes (40km Bergerac)
  • Shops: 10 minutes
  • Hospital: 30 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

Chateau de Pensées sits between Sarlat (28km) and Bergerac (40km) in the Dordogne region of southwest France.

By Air:
Fly into Bergerac (40km) or Bordeaux (120km). Toulouse (150km) is also convenient.

From the Airport
We'd say hiring a car is essential, although if you can't drive the hotel can arrange a transfer - please enquire when booking.

By Train:
If you'd prefer to travel overland from the UK, take the Eurostar from London to Paris, then the TGV to Sarlat (28km); there's a minor station at Le Buisson (7km).

By Car:
If you need to hire a car, please see our car rental recommendations.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Bergerac Roumanieres 40.0 km EGC
  • Bordeaux Mérignac 120.0 km BOD

Other:

  • Beach 240.0 km
  • Shops 5.0 km
  • Restaurant 7.0 km

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