Five beautiful hotels that are distinct and luxurious, offering a little something different away from the bustling crowds.
1. Hotel Agnes Sorel, Loire Valley
Set on the banks of the Vienna River, below the impressive 10th century Royal Fortress Castle, Hotel Agnes Sorel has newly renovated and stylish rooms in two buildings - one overlooking the river and the other set around a charming patio. They describe their rooms as 'luminous', and they're not far off - what's more, they're excellent value too.
2. L'Oustal del Barry, Midi-Pyrénées
In a remote spot above the Aveyron gorges, the well-preserved bastide village of Najac (population 250) was founded in the 13th century below a hilltop fortress, now a ruin. In the village square is L'Oustal del Barry, a rustic restaurant-with-rooms offering much-admired cooking, a dining terrace, and simple but comfortable rooms, some with views over the garden.
3. La Commanderie, Pas-de-Calais
In a rural setting just outside a small village, La Commanderie has a garden bordering on the pretty little Créquoise River. The two rooms, furnished in French country style, face the garden and river. One has a conservatory and kitchen and the other, a suite with two bedrooms, bathroom and a games room, is ideal for a family. Delicious breakfasts with homemade jams are served in a room with a log fire.
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4. Hostellerie Bressane, Burgundy
Smart and stylish, Hostellerie Bressane offers tranquillity, good value and excellent dining: regional specialities are served in the light, modern, semi-conservatory dining room or in the garden under a 200-year-old plane tree. The quietest bedrooms are in a bungalow around a pleasant flowery garden with a pond; others are in the old main building.
5. Hostellerie La Roseraie, Dordogne
By the River Vézère in the medieval village of Montignac, Hostellerie La Roseraie is a very stylish hotel set in a handsome 19th-century building surrounded by ivy-covered walls, mature trees, a goldfish pond and lots of roses. There's also a swimming pool. Some of the rooms face the river; the best have four-poster beds. Drinks and snacks are served on the terrace, or under parasols on a lawn.