France remains a perennial favourite among families – close at hand and easy and relatively cheap to reach, with amazing food, scenery and beaches. Another big plus is its huge choice of self-catering properties, from luxurious villas to rustic gîtes, which are especially suitable for those with younger kids, allowing you to save on restaurant bills and take advantage of all those wonderful French markets.
Here are some of our favourites around the country:
A superb option in the Herault close to Montpellier, this delightful place takes entertaining children very seriously but also knows that parents need little treats too – the accommodation is five-star and the list of facilities and activities is impressive, including a crèche, a petting farm, two nights’ babysitting, catered meals, massages and yoga.
Another superb self-catering option in the region, near the beach in Roussillon, these villas and apartments sleeping 4 to 8 are perfect for luxurious but active family holidays, with two days of off-site activities and 2 nights' babysitting included in the price, plus a kids' club, play park and pool.
This lovely converted fruit farm with its 4.5 hectares to explore in the gorgeous Pyrénées Orientales is a simple, beautiful place, close enough to the coast yet miles away from everywhere else – a place to keep the kids happy (there are donkeys and a swimming pool) while you lie back and admire the mountains.
Le Relais Occitan
This charming converted winery complete with an oak-barrel library and surrounded by vineyards close to Carcassonne in the Aude offers a number of family-sized apartments, all traditionally furnished and sharing the use of a pool. You can explore local canals and vineyards by bike or drive around the fascinating medieval castles and towns in this beautiful part of the country. The Med is just a short hop away if you fancy some sea and sand.
South of France
Une Campagne en Provence
This stunning castle with Knight Templar links is set in 70 hectares of breathtaking countryside full of rivers and streams. Fairly luxurious, it has an emphasis on food and fine wines, and amenities include a pool, a sauna and a Turkish bath. Guests in its apartments (or its B&B rooms) can ride and take cookery courses, and there’s a ‘media room’ – great for teenagers who want to hide in cinematic isolation. It’s also a very green choice – you get to plant a tree at the end of your stay.
Salivet and La Sousto
This fabulous place to unwind with friends, situated between Avignon and Lyon in a beautiful mountain location in the Drôme, offers awesome scenery, quiet, unpretentious comfort and an enormous pool. There’s also swimming in the river and gentle hiking nearby. It’s the kind of place that restores your soul, stomach and sanity.
These rough-and-ready but environmentally sound gites on a farm are perfect for kids besotted by rural life – and parents looking for a restful retreat. There are animals, including dairy goats, to pet and plenty of places for the kids to explore, and the beautiful surrounding countryside includes swimming spots and caves.
These cosy, rustic gîtes include a toddlers' pool and a large enclosed garden with a sandpit and plenty of toys, just an hour's drive from the Atlantic beaches and from the airport at La Rochelle. Other draws are a mini-crèche for children up to age 2 and a babysitting service.
These three carbon-neutral holiday homes in the Deux-Sèvres are set in two hectares of gardens overlooking a 15th-century castle and fields of sunflowers. Equidistant from Poitiers, Angoulême and La Rochelle, they’re well placed for reaching a whole range of Atlantic beaches, historic sites and cultural and fun attractions, including the Futuroscope theme-park. The swimming pool is salt-water; the owners compost, collect rain-water and use sustainable wood in the winter wood-burners. That said, you still get a luxury cottage with satellite TV and a well-equipped games room.
This 16th-century cider farm has five half-timbered cottages and some B&B rooms nestled into a small wood, with views over the manors and villages of the pretty Calvados region. There are foxes, badgers, owls and other woodland creatures for you to spy on in the woods and some lovely local produce to try (including in the on-site restaurant if you tire of cooking).
This lovingly converted chapel is so well equipped you won’t want to go out for the day. An hour’s drive from the port of Calais is the Pas-de-Calais region, in a peaceful spot just down the road from Agincourt but close to the popular, family-friendly beaches of Le Touquet, it’s ideal for those who don’t want to go too far. Come to enjoy hanging out with friends (it sleeps 14 in doubles/twins but has single beds and futons, too), trying your hand at cooking in the fabulous kitchen or to rediscover your love of le ping pong.
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