'Rising like an island from the vineyards'

Aa the late August sun heads towards a vinous horizon, wood smoke, borne on gentle winds, brings a tangy promise of barbecued meat and fish. And yet, the grey streets of Westminster on a March day in 1992 keep me here inside this holiday villa tormented by the cadences rising up from the laughing, splashing pool.

Even I can see that writing a book about David Cameron while trying to hold down a full-time job has consequences for one's family. Put simply, how could I keep up the word count while giving the family a restful, interesting break? The answer was Domaine de Beaumont near the Languedoc coast.

The property

The hilltop domain, encircled by tall trees, rises like an island from the vineyards that provide the owners with their second cash crop. From the main buildings and grounds the owners have created nine attractive two- and three-bedroom villas and supplied guests with two swimming pools, a tennis court and a restaurant.

But the real draw for the mainly British, middle-class clientele is half-hidden in the trees: a hut that is the home to the summer children's club which cares for two- to 10 year-olds. Here, then, was to be the answer to the question "Who's going to look after the children when I need a rest and you are writing your blasted book?".

And this was, indeed, the most successful part of the holiday. It was run by kind, efficient carers who had little trouble in setting boundaries for both children and adults: no, you can't leave your little darlings with them for the whole holiday. Boy, did they earn their euros. Did I feel bad farming my children out on their holiday? Not when I saw their pleasure in days of structured play in the sun and my wife surfacing from months of sleep deprivation.

Food and drink

Meals at the on-site restaurant costs from £12 for a three-course set menu.


One villa has been modified for guests with disabilities.

The bill

A week's rental of a property for up to five costs from £625 through CV Travel (0870 606 0802; cvtravel.co.uk). A 15 per cent discount is available during June.

The address

Domaine de Beaumont, 34300 Agde, France.