If you have read this blog before, you will know that there’s no place quite like our little corner of southwest France for a riding holiday. We have everything here. The glorious weather. The stunning scenery. The mile-after-mile of traffic-free trails. And, of course, the wonderful surroundings of ChĂ˘teau de LaumiĂ¨re.
But maybe you are looking for a more intensive riding experience. Not just a morning’s ride followed by a relaxing afternoon by the pool, but the chance to spend the entire day working with and handling the horses.
For one week at the end of May we’re offering an all-inclusive intensive riding workshop holiday. Here, as well as taking part in those long and leisurely daily hacks about which we have waxed lyrical before, you can enjoy a one-on-one training programme that is specially tailored to your needs.
Maybe you have had a fall, or a scare, that has hit your confidence in the saddle. No problem – you’re not alone. Tanya, who also plans all our hacks, is a highly qualified riding instructor with many years’ experience. She knows how to deal with matters such as this and can work through any confidence issues you may have calmly and sympathetically.
Alternatively, you may feel that you lack experience handling horses. Groundwork is a fundamental skill â join-up, lunging, long-lining and work on the ground can bring enormous benefits to your confidence and riding. Our immersion course can help.
Or perhaps you want to work on your dressage or jumping skills. Whatever area you feel you need a little help or refresher with, we can help. That’s what our intensive all-inclusive Workshop Week, which runs from Saturday May 28 to Saturday June 4 is all about. Helping you improve your skills and confidence so that you can enjoy your riding even more.
We have enjoyed another super summer at ChĂ˘teau de LaumiĂ¨re. But now, as crisp autumn in our little corner of French paradise adds a beautiful blaze of burnished gold to the trees, weâre busy settling down for the winter after a busy holiday season.
The chateauâs friends and guests – for that is how we think of you all – have all now headed home, leaving lasting, fond memories.
It has been our immeasurable pleasure to welcome so many of you back to ChĂ˘teau de LaumiĂ¨re for another holiday – not to mention all the new friends who stayed with us for the first time. We hope you all had a wonderful time here, and we look forward to welcoming you again soon.
In fact, previous guests who book their 2016 holiday with us before the end of October can stay here at this yearâs prices plus five percent discount.
We can pretty much promise that the weather will be kind next year. It is very easy to be lucky with the elements here, and summer 2015 was no exception.
The sun shone bright and warm for most of the time and the sky was that lovely cornflower blue that looks as if it has been touched-up in photographs. It was, on the whole, another perfect summer for exhilarating morning rides through the quiet Lot countryside, followed by lazy, restful afternoons by the pool. Itâs safe to say that the weather did its bit in making so many holidays so special.
The scenery, too, continued to exceed expectations. It is genuinely beautiful here in the gentle, rolling hills of our corner of Lot, where enchanting villages give way unfussily to unspoilt tree-filled countryside. But, of course, youâd know all about that if you have stayed here.
There is, of course still plenty to do at the chĂ˘teau, even though it is no longer holiday season.
Our riding school is open all year, even when the chĂ˘teau is closed, and the horses – who give our guests and friends so much pleasure throughout the summer – need plenty of care and attention.
Meanwhile, Tanya has been out exploring more of the stunning countryside surrounding the chĂ˘teau, in search of more routes for you to discover. She has uncovered a couple of routes for next year that she believes will be very special – although she has sworn us to secrecy for now. All we can say is that sheâll let us reveal a few details later. Hopefully, sooner, if we can persuade her.
If we canât talk her round, youâll have to discover them for yourselves next year. Just donât forget about that special offer if you book before the end of October!
Put the words âcyclingâ and âFranceâ together in a sentence – and the mindâs eye almost inevitably focuses on the Tour de France.
With good reason. The worldâs best-known long-distance multi-stage cycle race is, according to organisers, the third biggest sporting event in the world behind the Olympic Games and football’s World Cup. Whether thatâs true or not – the Rugby World Cup makes a similar claim, after all – doesnât really matter. In France, Le Tour is a big deal.
And this year, it is coming to our little corner of southwest France.
Stage 13 finishes at Rodez, the ancient capital of the Gaulish Ruteni tribe, and is not far from ChĂ˘teau de LaumiĂ¨re on Friday, July 17. Stage 14 gets under way in the beautiful city the following day.
That weekend, the area will be packed with cycling fans basking in the unique glory of one of the worldâs greatest sporting events.
Like horseriding guests, cyclists can escape from hustle and bustle of the 21st century into a tranquil tapestry of peaceful car-free trails, known as âvoie vertsâ and meander through shady woods where warming sunlight plays through the gentle green canopy under a cornflower-blue sky.
Meanwhile, sports cyclists – who may be want something a little more taxing than a gentle ride out along quiet country lanes – will be delighted to learn that we have our fair share of testing stretches and hills as steep as you want them around here. If it’s good enough for Le Tour…
And, if you do take to two wheels on the roads of France, you’ll be delighted to know that cyclists are well looked-after here. Bike-riding guests at the ChĂ˘teau have often commented on the fact that cars and lorries here will give you plenty of space – unlike the UK, where you’re always battling inconsiderate drivers for a tiny bit of space on the road.
Fans of off-road biking are well catered-for, too. All the wild terrain you could possibly wish for is within easy reach.
And itâs easy to hire everything you need. There is an excellent cycle shop in Limogne-en-Quercy, about 4.5km from ChĂ˘teau de LaumiĂ¨re, which rents out new and well-serviced road bikes, touring bikes and mountain bikes. We believe his rates are very reasonable.
Even better, the owner will deliver and collect your bikes from the ChĂ˘teau, so that all you have to do is turn up with your cycling shorts and helmet. Click here for the shopâs website.
Summer is drifting lazily into autumn; most of the yearâs tourists have gently ebbed away for the season, leaving little behind but fond memories as they return our picturesque corner of France to the locals.
Which, we think, is a shame. Lot is rarely more beautiful than on a soft and warm early autumn day, when the turning leaves add a blaze of burnished gold to the crests of the gently rolling hills.
Anyone who has read our blog will know that we have waxed lyrical about our wonderful and beautiful part of the world before. And youâll also know that we believe the best and most relaxing way to soak up all the scenery is from the saddle.
But thereâs still plenty to do even when youâre not on horseback; even now, when the long, hot summer of festivals and events has wound almost all the way down.
Thereâs still the natural and man-made beauty of our part of the world to enjoy – and it can stay pleasantly warm and sunny here long into October.
Well we would say that. Weâre a little biased. Weâre lucky enough to live here. We love it and we want to tell the world all about it, but donât just take our word for it.
Earlier this year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published the results of a global study into quality of life. And the Midi-Pyrenees, the region to which Lot belongs, was found to be the best place in France to live.
Our part of the world also boasts more astonishing historical places to visit than it is possible to shake several sticks at, let alone one.
Cordes-sur-Ciel – the beautiful medieval town thatâs less than 30 minutes from ChĂ˘teau de LaumiĂ¨re by car – has recently been named the best town in France by viewers of the countryâs national TV channel France 2.
The history books and Wikipedia will tell you that Cordes-sur-Ciel sits atop a hill in the northeast corner of our neighbouring Midi-Pyreneesâ department, the Tarn. They will say that it is a well-preserved fortified town that was built in 1222 by the Count of Toulouse, who, though not a Cathar, tolerated what other Catholics considered a heresy.
They wonât tell you will need to have an ice pack to hand to soothe your chin after it hits the floor when you first cast eyes on the place. As you walk along cobbled streets that have been there for nearly 800 years, gazing at buildings that have stood for almost as long, looking out over a landscape that has been there for aeons, youâll realise, as the pain in your chin recedes, that youâre somewhere truly special.
Then, a little further along, sitting in a plain of beautiful French countryside and protected from view until it’s ready to take your breath away, is the episcopal city of Albi, one of several UNESCO World Heritage sites close to ChĂ˘teau de LaumiĂ¨re.
This is where we live. And, honestly, itâs hard to think of better time to be here than early autumn. So, if you can make the most of the October holidays, join us at ChĂ˘teau de LaumiĂ¨re and enjoy this part of France – away from all the tourists.
France is blessed with having about twice the land mass of the United Kingdom, whilst the population remains approximately the same (65 million people in 2014 as opposed to the UKâs 63 million citizens).
Much of this population is concentrated in the big cities and towns, especially in the north, rather than spread out among vast dormitory towns and super-sized villages like in the UK.
The result is that much of France is still rural and is unspoilt by modern industrial developments. This is especially the case in our part of Southern France and also in many of the central regions. It is no surprise that France is such a popular holiday destination for tourists from Britain, Germany and the Netherlands looking to escape the bustle of city life back home.
So, what is the best way to see rural France and make the most of your holiday? There are several options…
Rural France by Train
France has an excellent train service linking all parts of the country to its central hub in Paris. Many historic French market towns, such as Avignon, Le Mans and Auxerre can be reached in just a few hours from the capital. However, many of the more remote areas are still a fair distance away from the nearest train station.
Rural France by Campervan or Caravan
The Caravan Club has over 140 caravan and camping sites across France offering excellent facilities, as well as innumerable smaller privately run sites. This makes France a great location for holidaymakers looking to tour the country with their own caravan or camper van from the UK, or one hired in France on arrival.
Rural France on Foot
France is crisscrossed by a well-marked and maintained network of 37 national hiking trails running the length and breadth of the country. For a back packer these include some unforgettable long distance trails through diverse and stunning countryside. The trails also offer short excursions for weekend walkers and day trippers.
Rural France by Horseback
In our opinion, France is one of the finest places in the world to take an equestrian holiday. No form of transport offers a more peaceful means of exploring rural France. What is more, the French countryside is so much more accessible to horse riders than rural areas in other parts of Europe. In many areas horse riders have extensive access to farmland, and a network of bridal paths and quiet rural roads mean that riders can amble for hours without ever coming across a vehicle, or even another person.
However you choose to explore rural France, make it your choice for a rural getaway this summer. Once youâve been once, you may find yourself coming back year after year.