Mas de Garrigue

near Calvignac, Dordogne & Lot, France Book from Eur120

Recommended awaiting i-escape review
A touch of luxury and exceptional table d'hôte meals at a medieval hunting lodge in the heart of the Lot
From the fig-laden trees to the sumptuous dinners to the rustic pigeonnière, Mas de Garrigue is a restorative and enchanting place to stay. Vast stone fireplaces, hand-hewn beams, a 15th-century window and elegant antiques mix with warm Irish hospitality, a flourishing potager garden (vegetables, herbs, saffron) and a couple of Noir de Gascon pigs (later to be transformed into saucisse, hams and terrines).

This former fortified farm and hunting lodge, in a tiny hamlet in the Lot region of the Midi Pyrenees, is also blessed with a beautiful setting - lawns, terraces, gentle green views, a big tranquil pool - and no shortage of fascinating places to see before returning to full-on luxury: the prehistoric Pech Merle caves, the hilltop village of St Cirq Lapopie, local markets glistening with fresh produce. Owners Sarah and Steve are the soul of the endearing 4-storey house, so handsomely and lovingly restored. As for the 5 guest rooms, 3 are in the main building, 2 in the barn, and all are large, airy and cool. Supremely comfy French cane beds are topped with gorgeous linen to swallow you up each night, floors are of seagrass, stone or glowing wood, and the ensuite bathrooms are impeccable. We cannot wait to visit.

Highs

  • Lovely, spacious bedrooms, all with great rates and plenty of character
  • Delicious breakfasts, plus wonderful table d'hôte dinners 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday), all using their own produce
  • A beautiful pool area with long views
  • Very peaceful - and Sarah and Steve limit the number of children at any one time to preserve the tranquility
  • Lot is much less touristy than the neighbouring Dordogne but no less charming, with historic towns and great walking

Lows

  • A car is essential, and you’ll need to drive or cycle out for lunches and dinners except when Sarah and Steve are serving dinners
  • Bedrooms don’t have TVs, music docks or air con - this is a place to escape modern technology
  • Meals are normally communal affairs - not to everyone's taste
  • Bear in mind this is Sarah and Steve's home, rather than a fully fledged hotel. Arrival time after 3pm, check out by 10.30 requested.
  • Credit cards aren't accepted (pay by bank transfer or cash), and it's closed November-April unless you book the whole place for exclusive use (by the week only)

Best time to go

The Lot is lovely at any time of year, but June, July and August can be hot, very hot - though you do have the pool and garden to come home to. Spring and autumn are ideal for hikers, and this is certainly the best time to visit - and eat out in - the village of St Cirq Lapopie (so beautiful that it’s overwhelmed by tourists in summer). From November to April, the Mas is only available for weekly whole-house rentals.

Our top tips

Make sure you try the area’s fantastic cuisine. Tuck into classic cassoulet or duck breast, foie gras and Toulouse sausage, and sample Armagnac (less smooth but more aromatic than its cousin Cognac) at a local distillery.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 5
  • Breakfast (+ dinner by arrangement 3 times a week)
  • Children over 10 yrs welcome on an exceptional basis
  • 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
  • Bicycles Available
  • Games room
Room: Marcillhac

Rooms

All bedrooms have pretty divans and armchairs and are, according to those who have stayed, oases of comfort and tranquility.

Floors are stone, seagrass or wood, and beams abound. Beds are super-kingsize or twin in French antique style, with cane headboards and mosquito nets, and mattresses are exceptionally comfortable. Pillows are delicious, and there are hypoallergenic duvets and blankets in honeycomb cotton. Bathrooms have drenching showers (plus baths in the Family Suite, Laramiere and Marcillhac) and L’Occitane soaps and oils.

Saint Sulpice is a cool, airy double on the ground floor, with direct access to the garden and pool. It’s decorated in a palette of whites and grey-blues, with a vintage kilim on an immaculate stone floor. On the second floor, Laramiere is full of light and is many guests’ favourite, with white stone walls and wonderful views of the valley and hills.

Up on the third floor, the Twin Rooms consist of 2 connecting rooms. The first, Beauregard, is a double with gorgeous views of the nearby village of Calvignac, plus spectacular sloping beams. Its bathroom is a lovely surprise: set in a round stone tower, with antique-style basins and a roll-top tub. Montbrun is an elegant twin room with high rafters that can become a triple on request.

A short stroll from the main house, Sailliac and Marcillhac sit in a renovated barn. They're lofty, stone-walled spaces that feel super-private, yet they're only a flip-flop from the pool for easy morning dips.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Hairdryer
  • Honesty bar
  • Mosquito net
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Food and its provenance are taken seriously here, and dinner at 8pm - in the dining room or beneath the high trussed roof of the courtyard - is a wonderful affair. It comprises 4 courses served 2 evenings a week (Mondays and Thursdays), at a communal table set with silver, china, candles and Waterford crystal.

On Sarah's menu might be a scrumptious mushroom tart or a homemade pâté (courtesy of their own porkers), magret de canard à l'orange with vegetables from the potager, white truffles in summer and black in winter, endless salads from the market, local Cabecou du Rocamadour goats’ cheese with honey and walnuts, freshly picked raspberries, strawberries and cherries, and an eye-popping tarte tatin. It’s all washed down with the famous Cahors red (included in the cost), with coffee or fresh mint tea as the finale. And if you don’t eat fish or meat, Sarah will go out of her way to prepare you a veggie feast.

You'll still find room for breakfast the next morning: a spread of local croissants and breads, yoghurt, fresh juice, fresh fruit salad, coffee, tea and homemade preserves.

There are plenty of excellent restaurants within a short drive - your hosts know the best places to eat, so take their advice. Don’t miss Oustal in St Cirq Lapopie - a little gem with delicious food and a magical dining balcony.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Communal dining
  • Dinner by arrangement
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The Mas is a perfect launch pad for historic towns such as Cajarc, Figeac and Limogne, and the châteaux of Cenevières, Brentenoux and Castelnaud. Your hosts can provide maps
  • The Pech Merle caves and their prehistoric paintings are unmissable. They’re only a 30-minute drive, but visitor numbers are limited to 700 per day, so book ahead. The neolithic portrayals of bison, mammoths, elk and horses are the real deal (not copies as at Lascaux!), and the caves themselves are a geological wonder
  • The town of Cahors is also a half-hour drive, with a river setting, many good eateries and a 14th-century bridge, the Pont Valentré (arched, towered and Unesco-listed). If you’re in town on market day (Wednesday or Saturday), step into the cathedral on the market square and check out the domed vaults, cloisters and garden
  • Even closer is St Cirq Lapopie, perched on magnificent limestone cliffs. It’s 'un des plus beaux villages’, although with 400,000 visitors a year its perhaps best out of season or in the evening before having dinner when the tourists have gone home. André Breton, founder of French Surrealism, said “I no longer want to be anywhere else”
  • A few minutes away is the small village of Bouziès, where cruise boats take you down the wide meandering river, with guides pointing out medieval cave dwellings along the way
  • Sarah and Steve can arrange horse riding, canoeing and bike hire, and introduce you to the animals (horse, donkey, pigs and 3 lovely black labs). And there’s the beautiful pool for you to relax by after your day's sightseeing or walks

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children over 10 yrs are welcome on exceptional basis to preserve the tranquility for other guests.

Families Should Know:

The pool is unfenced, unheated and 1.5m deep throughout.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour (Rodez-Aveyron)
  • Shop: 10 minutes (Cajarc)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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