Maison ila

Aude Languedoc-Roussillon, France Book from Book from £113 per night

Welcoming and nurturing wellness retreat in the hills south of Carcassonne with fragrant gardens and organic food
From the outside, Maison ila has quintessentially southern French good looks; a triple-storied maison de maître with green shuttered windows looking out onto the sleepy but beautiful village square of Sonnac-sur-l'Hers in sunny Languedoc. But step inside this Occitan bolthole to discover a chic and intimate wellbeing retreat with just five individually decorated bedrooms. All overlook the village square and have lovely details including herbal tisanes, super-comfy beds dressed in Egyptian cotton, organic products, including anti-viral herbal handwashes, Himalayan bath salts and fragrant oils.

Your hosts Denise and John (who took over in 2020) have imbued all with a wonderfully nurturing vibe - their skin and aromatherapy spa brand, ila, showcases natural and organic products. The house's original features - an elegant banistered staircase, panelling and marble fireplaces - have been overlaid with Indian artisan furniture, romantic chandeliers, and tranquil hues. All senses are satiated here: jewel colours are found in cushions and throws, the leafy garden smells of jasmine and herbs, the (mostly vegetarian) food is local, seasonal and bursts with real flavour. You're encouraged to treat Maison ila (formerly known as Le Trésor) as you would your own home. Grab a glass of rouge from the honesty bar, slip on some music and relax into one of the deep armchairs: this is a boutique B&B where R&R is guaranteed.

Information provided by Maison ila on 24/07/2020.

Cleaning and hygiene
A Protection Sanitising collection for use on arrival. All staff wearing visors or masks. Rooms meticulously cleaned as usual, and sanitised prior to arrival as an extra procedure.

Food and drink
Extra tables added in the dining area and more separate spaces created in the garden to maximise space between guests. Menus available in rooms to preorder all meals to minimise close contact between guests and staff.

Other
Guests contacted prior to arrival with full details of the arrival process.

Highs

  • The beautiful yoga, sound healing and meditation space which instils restorative calm to all
  • The range of treatments and therapies on offer
  • Excellent dinners on request, using locally sourced produce; breakfast is included
  • Sonnac is well off the tourist trail, yet an easy drive from some of Languedoc's prettiest villages and only an hour from Carcassonne
  • La Petite Maison, next door, is a self-catering cottage ideal for families with young kids or as an exclusive retreat space (sleeps 2-4)

Lows

  • You need to give at least 24 hours notice for dinner; local restaurants are a drive away
  • Little to see or do in this workaday little village - and no shops (which is half the attraction); the surrounding hills are beautiful, with views of distant Pyrenees
  • Expect to hear passing traffic as well as the comings and goings of the other guests
  • We have yet to visit since the new owners have taken charge, and can't wait to try the Bien Etre therapies and treatments when we get there

Best time to go

To see the wildflowers at their best, May and June is the time to be here. The autumn months are also memorable when first the vines and then the fruit trees change colour. And if you're here to ski, any time between December through to the end of April should guarantee you a decent amount of snow, though bear in mind that between November and March only whole-hotel or cottage bookings are accepted.

Our top tips

Pack your yoga gear, walking boots, plenty of good reading material or watercolours and a drawing block, this is your time to recalibrate, unwind and be nurtured.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Romantic
Spa
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 5 rooms, 1 cottage for 2-4
  • Breakfast (+ dinner on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • 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
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
  • Laundry Service
Room:

Rooms

The five rooms are ranged along the building's first floor. All are high-ceilinged with an airy, expansive fee: a perfect canvas for statement mirrors, eye-catching chandeliers, headboards and Farrow & Ball walls. There are antique trunks and old armchairs plundered from the local brocantes. Planked floors, cornicing and marble fireplaces remind you that this is a genuine maison bourgeoise.

Serene Chambre Un is a massive suite with an emperor-size bed, a free-standing roll-top bathtub and a spare bedroom/dressing room. Chambre Cinq is also stunning - a romantic bolthole with a large freestanding bath, 'Italian' shower, and stylish living area.

In the remaining rooms, showers take the place of baths. We stayed in calm and comfortable Chambre Quatre, the largest, and were charmed by the feature marble fireplace and its bold day bed. Whitewashed Chambre Trois can be made up as a twin or double, and smaller Chambre Deux has a lovely antique bed beside shuttered windows overlooking the square.

All rooms have really comfy mattresses and crisp Egyptian cotton bedding, and in your bath or shower room you're treated to a generous range of Denise's signature ila organic products.

Next door, self-catering 2-bedroom La Petite Maison opens onto a flagstoned sitting room with kitchen corner, comfortable sofas and a wood burner. French doors open onto a private, south-facing terrace and garden with seating. Upstairs, the main bedroom has views to the hills, and an ensuite with twin basins, bathtub and separate shower; the second bedroom has a small ensuite shower.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Hairdryer
  • Honesty bar
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

It's always nice to find somewhere with a genuine commitment to buying local and organic produce. Meals can be served in the high-ceilinged dining room looking out to the Place de l'Eglise, or in the magical garden when weather permits. Get going with an excellent breakfast: delicious local apple juice as well as mille fleurs honey comes from the village whilst your bread, pains aux chocolat and croissants are brought oven-fresh from the local boulangerie. Expect a fresh fruit salad or a smoothie, creamy yoghurt, homemade jams and Nespresso coffee.

Hampers for picnic lunches and in-room breakfastscan be easily arranged, these need pre-booking.

Set 3-course dinners of scrummy (mostly) vegetarian fare are available every evening, you'll need to give at least 24 hours notice. Note that the food served on retreats is always vegetarian, at other times fish can be requested for chambre d'hote guests. The honesty bar has a carefully chosen selection of local organic wines, beers and cremant.

If you prefer a change of scene, you'll need to jump in the car. The nearest place to eat is 3km away in Chalabre, where you can choose between a simple pizzeria or the rather more staid Hôtel de France. If you're happy to drive a little further, Mirepoix has masses of restaurants, including the excellent L'autre Jardin.

If you're staying in Petite Maison, you can self-cater or eat in the guesthouse on request. There are no shops in the village so it's best to stock up on the way here, but you'll receive a welcome hamper with a selection of local produce (for bookings of 1 week+ only). The kitchen is small but has a double hob, oven, kettle and fridge, plus loads of crockery. In the summer, fire up the barbecue; help yourself to fresh herbs from the garden to complement salads.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The healing and nurturing here can be in the form of 3, 5 or 7 day programmes (which include organic meals, daily activities, Wild Training, yoga and meditation sessions) or simply choose one of the many treatments and in-room therapies on offer
  • Follow way-marked footpaths out from the village or head off for a day's hiking or skiing in the Pyrenees
  • Get on your bike: this region is very popular for cycling, with the Tour du France passing right through the village. The hotel can organise bike hire in advance of your stay
  • Spend a day in Carcassonne making sure to get going early in summer if you want to beat the crowds. The medieval walled Cité is a Unesco World Heritage Site, as is the stunning Canal du Midi, which used to link the Mediterranean and Atlantic
  • Shop for a picnic in Mirepoix, then head into Cathar country to visit some of France’s most beautiful bastide towns and ruins of spectacular fortresses
  • Swim in the lakes at Puivert or Montbel; both are ideal for families with younger children. There's also wild river swimming across the lane, swimming towels can be provided
  • There are two 18-hole golf courses within an hour's drive, or the hotel can arrange horse riding, kayaking and fishing expeditions. You can waterski, windsurf and sail at Montbel
  • Wander the backstreets of Camon, one of the region's prettiest villages. It's just a 10-minute drive
  • Follow a spectacular gorge down to the Mediterranean and discover the rare beauty of Collioures ; ideal for a day trip

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Kayaking
  • Rafting
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Windsurfing

Kids

All ages are welcome in the Petite Maison, and the garden and village square are both child-friendly. There are plenty of places to go nearby with young children, and even the Med is under 2 hours drive away.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Petite Maison is ideal for families with 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and plenty of privacy (though longer stays are preferred).

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

  • A travel cot for use in Petite Maison only
  • A high chair

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

Kids Activities on site:

  • DVDs

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Swimming spots in rivers and lakes (2 shallow lakes within 10 minutes' drive)
  • Playgrounds
  • Caves
  • Museums
  • Bamboo park
  • Bison farm

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour (Carcassonne)
  • Shop: 5 minutes' drive
  • Hospital: 20 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

Maison ila is set in the charming town of Sonnac-sur-l'Hers in Aude. It's an hour south of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of southern France.

By Air:
Carcassonne Airport (50km) is the closest, but Toulouse and Béziers are only a 2-hour drive away. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.

From the Airport
A taxi will cost around EUR 90 or you can hire a car (see below).

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

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

More on getting to France and getting around

Airports:

  • Carcassonne 50.0 km CCF

Other:

  • Beach 100.0 km
  • Shops 3.0 km
  • Restaurant 3.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

An absolute gem of a place, beautifully and stylishly decorated, very comfortable and off the beaten track, charming in every way. We absolutely loved our stay.

10/10,

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Rates for Maison ila

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