“A Holy Trinity of ancient stones, contemporary design and sylvan tranquillity at the heart of the Perigord (villa, sleeps 6-10)”
Stepping inside, the tempo ups a beat. Drawing on the combined sensibilities of the Commarque family, who have welcomed guests to their hilltop chateau for many years, the building has been reinvented to create an inspirational 5-bedroom hideaway. 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 create a mood that it is at the same time 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.
- The setting is as peacefully pastoral as you could hope to find
- A fabulous high-ceilinged sitting room provides a diaphanous focus for life at the mill house
- This is no ordinary gite, it's a home created with oodles of warmth and character
- All you need for self-catering in style; a fab kitchen, attractive dining area and the produce of the Perigord
- You're at the heart of one the most beautiful regions of France
- There's no central heating system
- A car is a necessity given the relative isolation
- There's a minimum stay of a week during July-August
Best time to go
The Watermill can comfortably sleep up to 10, with 3 double rooms in the main house and a further 2 doubles in an annexe just 30 metres away. Rooms tend to stay toasty warm in the colder months, and this physical warmth is complemented by ancient beams, subtle lighting and deeply comfortable beds with padded headboards and Egyptian cotton linen. Bathrooms are equipped with heated towel rails, piles of freshly laundered towels, a hairdryer and soap, but be aware that you’re not provided with shampoo or gel.
Room 1 is on the ground floor of the main house with a big double bed which marries two twins. This vast room, with a separate dressing room, has the same all-white walls and grey screed as the sitting room and kitchen. A bright kilim and cut flowers provide a welcome splash of colour, whilst roughly hewn plinths serve as sculptural bedside tables. Leading off, there's a large bathroom with 2 surface-top sinks as well as a separate bath and shower. The same attractive grey screed tadlakt replaces tiles on all surface tops as well as on the bathroom’s floor. It all works really well.
Room 2 is another cavernous double with the same kingsize double bed created by joining twin singles. This room is similar in size and layout to room 1 but benefits from a couple of angular easy chairs clad in white cotton. There’s no dressing room but its bathroom is enormous with space in one corner for a hanging rack for clothes. You’re also treated to twin sinks and separate bath and shower, and being that bit higher you get even better views out across the surrounding fields of lucerne to the wooded slopes of the valley.
Smaller in size, Room 3 is normally designated for kids. It has the same twin/double bed arrangement and low eaves impart a really snug feel. The bathroom is also of reduced dimensions but has been cleverly slotted beneath the eaves to maximise on available space.
If you are hiring the place with a small group of friends or family, the annexe rooms, numbers 4 and 5, might not come into the equation. But these are really comfortable too, sharing similar base elements to those of the main house. Room 4, on the ground floor, has a handsome pebbled rather than screed floor, the same big twin/double bed and an all-screed bathroom. Just above it Room 5, snug beneath the beams, has a double bed and the same bathroom arrangement.
- Cots Available
- Full kitchen
- Washing machine
One of the most important elements of a self-catering stay is - bien entendu - the kitchen. And I reckon you’d be hard pushed to find a better equipped example than this. A long run of working surface, as well as a freestanding island, is covered in the same eye-catching chalky-grey screed that has been used in the bathrooms, whilst at ground level this has been replaced by a cool pebbled floor. Window openings to both sides of the house mean that the room gets plenty of light at any time of day and the feel is so gemütlich that you may find that you gravitate here in favour of the adjacent sitting room.
Well-equipped for the keen cook, you get a huge 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. Just off to one side is a small laundry room with both washing machine and dryer.
You’ll find a few goodies awaiting you, perhaps bread and wine, seasonal fruits and some basics (oil, salt, cleaning equipment). 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. You can choose to have breakfast every day or an occasional evening meal; whatever takes you fancy.
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.
- Full kitchen
- In house cook
- Swim in the 17-metre pool or in the river that cuts through the wooded estate
- 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
- 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
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Cooking classes
- Historical sites
- Hot air ballooning
- Plantlife / flora
- Shopping / markets
Children would love it here and they are warmly welcomed. However, parents should bear in mind that there’s a pool and that an unfenced stream crosses the property. Cots and high chairs are available, given prior notice, and rooms 3 and 4 could both be ideal for kids, depending on their age.
Family friendly accommodation:
Babysitting available by arrangement
Baby cots available on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking