You’ll be utterly charmed by this beautiful 15th century chateau in the Department of Deux-Sèvres; sleeping 15 guests in 5 bedrooms, the front is bourgeois style with traditional wooden shutters; the turreted back remains pretty much as it was 600 years ago when Chateau La Chutelière was built as a fortress during the Hundred Years War. Lose yourself in the 23 acres of grounds; wander through the woodlands, along the canal or the riverbank, cross the bridge over the lavoir; soak up the tranquillity of the poplar grove, explore the orchard and fruit gardens. It’s divine.

Chateau La Chutelière has a very private setting along a wooded lane close to the tiny village of La Ferrière; you can walk there to buy bread, or a short drive away you’ll find a mini-market in Chalandray. The nearest town is Parthenay, an ancient fortified town 15km away on the banks of the River Thouet; explore the castle and the ramparts, see the half-timbered houses in the medieval quarter. Poitiers is within easy reach, full of historic charm and quirky shops; don’t miss the church of Notre Dame la Grande with its ornate façade. Take the family to Futuroscope Science Park, go and have fun at Chateau de la Gataudière Adventure Park or Puy du Fou Historical Theme Park near Cholet. Animal lovers will enjoy Monkey Valley at Romagne, the Falconry and Wildlife Park at Chauvigny, or Palmyre Zoo at Royan.

History buffs will find plenty of castles to visit – Angers, Roche Courbon and Rochefoucauld, and Royal Abbey at Fontevraud. There’s a fascinating underground church at Aubeterre-sur-Dronne (one of the most beautiful villages in France) and a Roman Amphitheatre at Saintes. For something very different, catch a show at Le Cadre Noir French National Riding School at Saumur. About an hour away is the Atlantic coast with some fantastic beaches and the bustling ancient port of La Rochelle; visit the Aquarium, the Natural History Museum, or the Lighthouse of the Whales on Ile de Ré. Spend a lazy day in France’s ‘Green Venice’, the reclaimed marshland of the Marais-Poitevin, near Niort; take a picnic, drift along the waterways on a punt, and explore the towpaths by bike or horse drawn carriage.

No shortage of things to see and do, but we perfectly understand if you don’t want to go anywhere, if all you want to do is stay tucked away in your own little world at Chateau La Chutelière, watching squirrels scamper on the lawns, spotting kingfishers on the river. It’s so peaceful and dreamy, and there’s something very special about going to sleep to the sound of owls hooting and waking up to a chorus of birdsong…