The Watermill

near Sarlat, Dordogne & Lot, France Book from Book from £177 per night

Ancient stones, contemporary design and sylvan tranquillity in the Perigord: two glorious barn rentals (for 2-4 and 8-12, or by the room)
Hidden away in a wooded valley above the Dordogne, within the estate of a formidable historic Chateau, there can be few such dreamily bucolic settings as this. Arriving by way of the narrowest of lanes to see the low gabled roofs of a former walnut press and a nearby tobacco barn feels like a Proustian rediscovery of Temps Perdu.

Drawing on the combined sensibilities of the Commarque family, who have welcomed guests to their hilltop chateau for many years, the two buildings have been refashioned into rustic, country escapes. There's an inspirational six-bedroom hideaway (The Watermill) and a more simple, off-grid one-bedroom retreat (Tobacco Barn). Each is set 10 minutes' walk from the main chateau, and 10 minutes' walk from one another. Inside, you'll find a clean-cut decorative mix of antiques with chunky rough-hewn wooden furniture, chalky-grey screed floors, bright kilims, masses of cut flowers and views out to the valley that create a mood that is both understated and uplifting. If you're in search of calme et comfort and prefer self-catering to catered-for, this is about as good as it gets.

Highs

  • The setting is as peacefully pastoral as you could hope to find
  • The Watermill's high-ceilinged sitting room provides a diaphanous focus for life at the mill house
  • These are no ordinary gites, they're homes created with oodles of warmth and character
  • All you need for self-catering in style; fab kitchens, attractive dining areas and the produce of the Perigord
  • You're at the heart of one the most beautiful regions of France

Lows

  • There's no pool at the Tobacco Barn, and it has no Wi-Fi, TV, central heating or hot water in the kitchen - this is an off-grid getaway!
  • A car is a necessity given the relative isolation
  • Summer dates get booked up way in advance so enquire early
  • If you're renting out an individual room you'll be sharing the communal areas (kitchen, lounge) with other guests; generally, the accommodations are rented as whole houses and by week
  • There's a minimum stay of a week during July-August

Best time to go

Although the Dordogne fills up from early July through to mid August, if you hunkered down here, it would be as if the world outside had ceased to exist. But you’d see plenty of other folk if you were to head out sightseeing or to eat. Either end of the summer would be an ideal time to come so as to make full use of the pool.

Our top tips

Allow some time to visit some of southwest France’s most beautiful gardens. Mme de Commarque knows many of their owners and can guide you towards these unsung horticultural treasures.

Great for...

Family
Wedding
  • Boutique Villas
  • 2 rentals for 2-12
  • Self-catering (breakfast included)
  • 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
Room:

Rooms

The Watermill can comfortably sleep up to 12, with four double rooms in the main house and a further two doubles in an annexe just 30 metres away. The Tobacco Barn can sleep between two and four.

The Watermill
Rooms are toasty warm in the colder months thanks to underfloor heating, and this physical warmth is complemented by ancient beams, subtle lighting and deeply comfortable beds with padded headboards and Egyptian cotton linen.

Room 1 is on the ground floor of the main house with a big double bed which marries two twins, and a separate dressing room. Leading off, there's a large bathroom with a separate bath and shower. Room 4 is another cavernous double, which is similar in size and layout to Room 1 but there's no dressing room and its bathroom is enormous. Being that bit higher you get even better views out across the surrounding fields of lucerne. Rooms 2 and 3 are smaller, and interconnect to share a bathroom - ideal for kids, or families not wanting to rent the whole villa. They have the same twin/double bed arrangement, and low eaves impart a really snug feel.

If you're hiring the place with a small group of friends or family, the Annexe Rooms, numbers 5 and 6, might not come into the equation. But these are really comfortable too, sharing similar base elements to those of the main house, though they have electric radiators rather than underfloor heating.

Tobacco Barn
This is an off-grid retreat - no WiFi, TV, central heating or pool. We love the way the battered old doors of the barn have been retained, but when slid back, concealed within is a New York loft-style interior, with cathedral-high ceilings and multiple, multi-height windows that allow light to pour in. The double bedroom is at the far end, with a glorious canopy hung over the bed from the beam. An open-plan living, kitchen and dining area spans the other, with huge contemporary artwork on the partition wall, and a pony-skin rug on the floor, and two single sofabeds for extra guests. The bathroom lies between the bedroom and the sitting room, with poured concrete walk-in shower.

Features include:

  • Cots Available
  • Dishwasher
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Pool towels
  • Toiletries
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi

Eating

Both properties have full kitchens that are well-equipped for the keen cook. You get a gas hob, electric oven, double fridge, dishwasher, kettle, toaster and espresso coffee machine. There are stainless steel pots and pans of all shapes and sizes, and a full complement of glasses, cutlery and crockery. In the Watermill there's also a small laundry room with both washing machine and dryer. Note that if you're renting a room rather than the whole villa, you'll be sharing the kitchen with other guests.

Fresh pastries are delivered each morning, and you'll find other breakfast items like eggs, fresh fruit and homemade jams in the fridge. Aside from this, the basics (oil, salt, cleaning equipment) are provided, but you’d probably want to shop prior to arrival and, being at the heart of the Périgord, you couldn’t be better placed to do so. Stock up on all the local delicacies - truffles, ceps, foie gras, confit, chestnuts and local wines - and prepare to feast the week away. If you'd prefer to be spoilt, ask about their private chef service.

When it comes to heading out for your meals you can expect only memorable culinary experiences. For bistro-style dining of the pas cher and colourful variety, Chez Julien at Paunat, 10km away, would be first choice with Le Bistro d’en Face at Trémolat coming in a close second. Also in Trémolat is the Michelin-starred Le Vieux Logis. This place has legendary status in the Dordogne: book here for top Périgordian cuisine and the possibility of dining al fresco when weather permits. And for excellent regional cooking, great value for money, and a setting of rare beauty drive over to the L’Abbaye de Cadouin. You don’t need to don a hair shirt.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Dishwasher
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • In house cook
  • Microwave
  • Oven
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Canoe or kayak down the Dordogne - the owners can arrange this for you
  • The region has a wealth of historical gems to explore, including the Renaissance town of Sarlat, beautiful medieval churches and lots of quaint villages
  • The 12th Century abbey at Cadouin is an evocative spot with occasional music and organ recitals
  • Check out the cave paintings at Lascaux, which are amongst the most ancient in Europe and have been desginated a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Play golf: there’s an 18-hole course just 5km away (Siorac) and two more within easy driving distance
  • Let the Commarque family guide you towards some of the areas best vineyards and wines: private visits can be arranged
  • Follow waymarked hiking routes through the surrounding 5,000 hectares of forest. Alternatively you can explore by bicycle or on horseback, or get a bird's eye view from a hot-air balloon - the owners can arrange all of these

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis

Kids

Children would love it here and they are warmly welcomed. There's ample space for them to run around, and The Watermill has a pool for splashing about in (there is no pool at the Tobacco Barn). Parents should bear in mind that an unfenced stream crosses the property. Cots and high chairs are available, given prior notice.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The Tobacco Barn is well set up for a small family, with two sofabeds in the living room. The Watermill has two rooms that interconnect and share a bathroom: ideal for kids or families not wanting to rent the entire property.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

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

Kid Friendly:

Location

The Watermill and the Tobacco Barn are set in the estate of a historic Chateau 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 to you 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

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
6/10
Food
8/10
Service
8/10
Value
8/10
Overall

We were in the Tobacco Barn for 3 nights in early September. It’s a beautiful space to stay. Flori and Alex were really friendly and helpful. If you want to hide away and escape reality then we would recommend staying here - truly off grid in the midst of the French countryside. If you’re not too keen on bugs then be warned, the barn is surrounded by wildflower meadows and woodland, so the place was full of life - which we loved (other than the wasps which seem to be a perennial French problem in late summer), but some may not. Also make sure to bring plenty of supplies - we made the mistake of arriving with no food on a Sunday meaning everything was shut. Flori was kind enough to drop some eggs and bread however so we could rustle up an omelette. Would highly recommend to anyone staying in the Dordogne who wants some peace and quiet.

8/10,

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