Plenty to do in the landscaped grounds of the Château de Memanat – a swimming pool, a grotto hidden in the roots of a giant sequoia, swings, climbing frames, trampoline. Young owners Andrew and Natalie are energetic and happy to help, from doing a shop before you arrive to babysitting – they live here with their children, horses, donkey, chickens and a Labrador but peace is plentiful! Your 18th-century stone cottage has a private terrace where you can eat outside under the shady parasol; steps lead up to the pool and grounds. Inside on the ground floor there’s a cosy living room with a wood-burner (plenty of logs), and a kitchen with a pack of local produce left for you: coffee, tea, milk, fruit. Upstairs, the big sunny bedroom has a prettily dressed double, and a day bed that can be made into a twin for children. Close by is Lake Vassivière with beaches and water sports; pleasure boats go on island-hopping trips and there are cycle routes, bars, restaurants and a great modern art gallery on its own little island. You’re about 20 minutes from the tapestry capital Aubusson, a lively town with street theatre, concerts and book fair.