Finding somewhere child-friendly to stay can often mean compromising on luxury. Not so at Country Kids, a stunning five-star holiday tucked away on a private farm. “Green exercise” for kids and R&R for tired parents in magical surroundings – Bring. It. On.
The countryside in the south of France is an ideal place to visit for a family summer holiday, with breathtaking countryside, almost guaranteed sunshine and a location just 90 minutes away from London by plane (when travelling with a baby or toddler, it’s best to choose a short-haul, low-stress journey).
Now factor in a stunning 16th century farmhouse based in the picturesque Languedoc-Roussillon region; carefully considered kids entertainment and a cap on seven families on any given week for privacy, and you have the most idyllic break imaginable. Put simply, at Country Kids your little angels get a serious dose of ‘green exercise’ while parents get high on the simple life.
Seriously, this place has it all for city families desperately in need of reconnecting with nature. City life has its perks, but there’s nothing like frolicking in the rolling French countryside to lift your spirits – particularly when filled with fluffy animals (and superb childcare).
Where you stay
The farm and its grounds are stunning. The flowers are incredible. There are dense rose bushes everywhere, entwined with trellises and arches, or scaling walls and spilling over borders. The pale-pink and white blooms harmonise with the creamy pallor of the farmhouse’s limestone walls and stand out in contrast to the deep green grass, the sunburnt glow of the terracotta-tiled roof and the dark, jagged silhouette of the mountain trees surrounding the property. Clucking chickens roam freely.
Laure and her husband Sylvain began to entertain the idea of buying a guest house in the south of France when they worked in the hotel industry in Paris. Eventually, in 2015, they found the right place, restored the buildings and landscaped and replanted its gardens.
The farmhouse is a reflection of their taste. The interiors are mainly traditional but also eclectic, displaying a host of cushions and squishy sofas, candles, vases, antique mirrors, chandeliers and thickly textured rugs. They live by the rule of homemaking that, while looks are important, it’s got to be comfortable and cosy. ‘You should feel at home while you’re here,’ says Laure – and that’s exactly how we felt.
There are seven apartments of varying shapes and sizes, each oozing French farmhouse style – think stone flooring, vaulted ceilings and a country kitchen. Each also has its own character and quirks and superb views across the gardens. The gigantic concrete bath is heaven for tired parents and playful kids.
The kitchen has everything you need – including a washing machine – and in addition to the basket of goodies in each apartment, next to the bar there is a farm shop with a pantry and a freezer full of homemade meals like fish pie for nights in. The farm shop is also stocked with children toothbrushes, nappies, wipes and all the basics you need for the week but the bathrooms are filled with natural toiletries too.
For the kids
At Country Kids there’s a packed programme of morning events for the younger guests, from feeding goats and sheep, to horse, tractor and trailer rides with Farmer Sylvain. Children can meet the farm’s newest arrivals, including a baby donkey and goats, take part in watering the pigs, stroke rabbits, feed chickens and hunt for freshly laid eggs.
There is a long list of scientific studies indicating a free-range childhood produces significant improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning ability, creativity as well as psychological and emotional wellbeing. Unfortunately, due to technology, children have started suffering from the phenomenon ‘nature deficit disorder’ over the last couple of decades. They are missing out on climbing trees, building dens, hunting for bugs and searching for forest fairies.
‘Green exercise’ can produce rapid improvements in mental wellbeing and self-esteem, with the greatest benefits experienced by the young. This is the beauty of Country Kids – I saw Eliza thrive day by day. She is nearly three and ready to explore, and while this destination engaged her young brain it also maintained my peace of mind as the safety of its youngest guests tops the agenda. A holiday for good.
Designed specifically for tired parents in need of R&R, this week-long break saw me doing yoga each morning, taking tennis lessons and lapping up massages. I went for runs and lounged by the pools, all while Eliza played with her new friends. The kids are given lunch and supper and returned to their rejuvenated parents in the evening. You could use the childcare as much or as little as you needed. Parents can have date night in the local village while the kids are put to bed.
I could talk lovingly about my food on this stay all day long. I am vegan and gluten-free – a challenge for some chefs but not the one at Country Kids. I ate three healthy, nutritious meals a day: artichoke hearts, avocado, beetroot, chickpeas, lentil pie, poached apricot…
The vegan menu is a majestic mix of herbs and vegetables. Even at the BBQ party on the final day the delightful manager Richard cooked up the best tofu I have ever eaten and served it with griddled vegetables.
In general, the food is varied and full of flavour. They served everything from a local selection of cheeses and cold meats to homemade pizza, oysters and red wine beef stews – meat eaters will not be disappointed.
Explore the nearby lake for wild swimming. France offers up a whole host of options all over the country, from fresh rivers to mountain lakes, and dramatic waterfalls to turquoise pools, but the Lac du Salagou, a 10-minute drive from the farm, is epic. A beautiful nature spot that is easy to swim in, complete with a family restaurant and water sports. Definitely worth a day trip.
The weather is part of its charm – and remains charming as long as you’re in a position to take the edge off the heat with a steady supply of chilled rosé. Thankfully, the farm has a wine cellar full of delicious varieties and there’s also a wine–tasting evening mid–week.
By the end of the break, I flew home with glowing skin and a (slightly more) toned body, with the feeling like we had all made some new life-long friendships.
Country Kids is open until the end of August 2019, reopening in March for the 2020 season. 7 Nights for a family of 4 start from: €3,950 Self Catering package (Easter to May half term and two last weeks of September) and €7,350 Absolutely Everything Included package (May Half Term to September including full board).