James and Eileen’s 17th-century house, once used for making clay tiles for the estate, stands in pretty farming country. With easy style, they have converted two handsome workers’ cottages into wee holiday homes for couples looking for a bucolic stay in one of France’s best-kept secrets: La Mayenne. Two up-two down is the idea, rustic-chic comfort is the style; each bed is royal in size and linens, the staircases and fittings are brand new (lovely modern shower rooms). You can see the local château across the fields of cows – and visit it too. Your thoughtful hosts provide an excellent welcome pack and the first basket of logs for your wood burning stove. Relaxed and good-humoured, they want you to have the best possible holiday and can provide all the information you need. There are forest and riverside walks, rides and long hikes for the energetic, remains from Gallo-Roman times through the Middle Ages to the present day for history buffs, well-kept towns like Mayenne and Laval for lovers of architecture, and myriad castles, abbeys and museums for all to discover.