Hike the Grande Randonnée that passes through, marvel at the market of Carcassonne. This is Château La Villatade, a delicious spot in the Haut Minervois, a history-laden corner of France. Living on site are Sophie, Richard, and Max (the charming hound), always ready with meals and warm hospitality, but entirely discreet. The winery, a complex of buildings surrounded by tall trees and gardens of olive, oleander, ash and pear, dates from the 17th century; best of all, at its heart: a beautiful, medieval, fresh-water ‘bassin’, a stunning place to swim. On arrival, you enter the large inner courtyard, gravelled and topped with a table or two. Off here lie the gites, all on one level, simply and sympathetically restored. Each comes with its own fully equipped kitchen, dining terrace, and fresh, tranquil rooms; Lavande, with fluttering white curtains and pale lilac walls, is particularly restful. There are flocks of bee-eaters, humming cicadas, shooting stars, velvety wines, and for when you fancy breakfast or supper, a big dining room table, and a shaded terrace with a dreamy view.