Holiday homes in France: grape escapes in the Loire Valley

Settle in the beautiful Loire Valley and get a taste of the good life surrounded by vineyards and forests, palaces and hunting estates.

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Loire Valley is a magical place. More than a thousand fairy-tale royal châteaux with twirling turrets and reflective moats, surrounded by vineyards and forests, are architectural jewels along the path of the Loire river in central France.

The Loire Valley’s royal patronage lasted for centuries. As the French court descended on the region to hunt in this most fertile of agricultural areas, medieval castles gave way to ever more elaborate royal palaces.

King Francis I was so inspired by the bold flourishes of Renaissance architecture he saw in Italy in the early 1500s that he invited Leonardo da Vinci to France. Da Vinci came, bringing the Mona Lisa with him, and became a father figure to Francis, ending his days designing parts of Château de Chambord, the most flamboyant estate of all.

Royal retreat: built for King Francis I, the vast Château de Chambord features 426 rooms

“People come to the Loire Valley for its history, the châteaux, its wine and for the stress-free lifestyle,” says Isabelle Sautenet, of Les Bordes in Beaugency, France’s premier golf estate.

Les Bordes is a 20-minute drive from Chambord and its Old Course has been ranked by Golf World magazine as continental Europe’s top course for six years running. Yet it’s one of the most famous golf courses you have probably never heard of because few golfers are lucky enough to play it.

Five-star: Baron Bich's restored hunting lodge at Les Bordes will become a hotel

Created 30 years ago as a private club by Baron Marcel Bich, co-founder of ballpoint pen manufacturer Bic, it is now co-owned by two businessmen, one Spanish and one British, who turn down most requests from golfers eager to tick off Les Bordes from their bucket list of must-play courses.

Now the owners are developing a tiny part of the resort, giving more golfers the opportunity to play Les Bordes. After taking seven years to get planning permission, they are building 600 homes for sale. Building has begun, with plans for a village around a 300-year-old priory, shops, a five-star hotel in Baron Bich’s beautifully restored former hunting lodge and a second golf course.

“This is a safe, protected environment that provides perfect multi-generational holidays,” says Colin Kingsmill of Les Bordes. “Children can go fishing on the lakes, play golf on their own nine-hole course, ride horses, hike and cycle, and just enjoy the freedom of the extraordinary grounds with pheasant and red deer.”

From £524,500: new homes range from flats to houses at Les Bordes. The estate was once owned by Baron Bich, co-founder of Bic pens

Les Bordes forms a “golden triangle” with the neighbouring historic hunting estates of Guerlain and Vuitton.

Property for sale ranges from one- to three-bedroom apartments from £524,500 to substantial three- to five-bedroom houses buried deep in the forest from £1.7 million.

Plots of up to four acres allow buyers to build their own traditional or contemporary château.

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