Review: Domaine des Etangs, Auberge Resorts Collection

Nestled in the rolling French countryside, the brand's second European hotel is a stunner

Location: Nestled like a jewel in the rolling French countryside, Domaine des Etangs, Auberge Resorts Collection is natural escapism at its finest. This 13th-century château is set just outside the charming town of Massignac in the Charente region of southwest France, where bucolic scenes play out like a fairytale: think daisy-strewn meadows, birds flitting across glossy lakes, wheat-coloured cows roaming through fields. The property is a 40-minute drive from Limoges airport and three hours by train from Paris Montparnasse.

First impressions: There’s no other way to describe it: Domaine des Etangs feels special as soon as you arrive. There’s the château itself – clad in immaculate honeyed stone and framed by lavender, rosemary and verdant climbers – and all 2,500 acres of land that surrounds it, occupied by rich forests, peaceful lakes, manicured gardens and wild grassland. Inside, interiors strike a fine line between grand and homely, feeling in equal parts opulent and comforting, with plush sofas and Hermès chairs dotted among striking pieces of modern art.

The facts: Previously owned by the late industrialist billionaire Didier Primat, Domaine des Etangs served as the family’s private holiday estate from the 1980s before being transformed into an independently run luxury hotel in 2015. In April, Auberge Resorts Collection was selected by Didier’s daughter, Garance, to manage the property. The move marked Auberge’s second hotel in Europe, and a key step toward its focused expansion on the Continent. Auberge has changed little, and what guests see today is the result of a thoughtful restoration some decades ago.

Accommodation is scattered across the estate, with six farmhouse cottages spread out in blissful seclusion. Four multi-storey suites can be found in the 18th-century ‘long house’, and seven rooms and suites are in the main château. It’s here guests will find the majority of public spaces, including The Attic, which has been transformed into a playroom, and the basement floor, which houses a thermal baths pool house.

There’s also three lounges, including a children’s room furnished with mini bergère chairs and an Armagnac Lounge for late-night tipples and cigars. Nature reigns supreme at the Domaine and there’s outdoor pursuits aplenty, plus a tennis court, heated outdoor pool and children’s play area with a zipline and sunken trampolines.

When it’s time to refuel, Dyades harnesses produce from the estate’s organic farm – inhabited by 600 Limousin cows – as well as an on-site vegetable garden and organic orchard to spectacular effect. Breakfast is served in the château’s dining room, while cocktails can be enjoyed across the lounges and library.

Ideal for: Busy families, city slickers, burnt-out professionals – anyone in need of an escape will relish the Domaine’s clean air and wide-open space. A stay here is good for the soul.

Explore: With more than six miles of walking and biking trails, as well as farm tours, row boats, catch-and-release fishing and horse riding, the estate’s grounds alone would keep clients occupied for weeks. Tap into on-site experts, such as groundskeeper Jean-Francois, who can host insightful foraging and forest walks. Beyond the hotel, guests can visit the weekly market in Massignac, shop for porcelain in Limoges or tour the storied cellars of Cognac.

Wow: The property’s ancient roots have been carefully preserved and brought back to life, from statement oak beams in the sumptuous tower suites to the spa, which has been built around a former mill. The old dairy barn has also been transformed into a contemporary art gallery. Indeed, the whole property is reflective of the owner’s love of art, with eye-catching pieces found across the estate – another nod to the unique identity of this extraordinary rural gem.

Book it: A stay at Domaine des Etangs, Auberge Resorts Collection leads in at €315 on a room-only basis. Aubergeresorts.com

Erica Rich

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