Stay: Take three Château hotels
Château de Noizay, Loire Valley
There’s history in these walls, stained-glass windows, tapestries and ornate woodwork. They witnessed, in 1560, a Huguenot plot to abduct the young King François II during the French Wars of Religion. The hotel stands stately among the vineyards and châteaux of the Loire. Outside are gardens, tennis court and swimming pool. Doubles from €170.
Château de la Treyne, Lacave, Lot
This 16th-century castle towers over the Dordogne river and has 120 acres of forest fringing its formal French garden. Dining takes advantage of this, with meals overlooking the river and breakfasts in the shade of ancient cedars. There are walking and running trails through the forest, and canoeing and fishing on the river.
Doubles from €300.
Château de Codignat, Lezouz, Puy-de-Dôme
This fortress has a magical mix of dungeons, royal chambers and towers, the latter built to protect the resident Lords of Ravel (one tower dates from the 12th century). It sits on 15 acres of parkland in the Auvergne, which is dotted with Romanesque churches, volcanoes, rivers and lakes. Outdoor pool and Michelin-starred restaurant. Doubles from €225.