The long, tranquil drive through the park - passing the watermill, lake and kitchen garden - gives little clue to the 800 years of turbulent history weathered by the Abbaye de la Bussière. Founded by Cistercian monks in the 12th century, it became a hunting lodge in the 19th century, then a spiritual retreat. Last year it was bought by the Cummings family, the owners of Amberley Castle hotel in Sussex, and since April they've been bringing a bit of the English country-house-hotel atmosphere to the rolling Burgundy countryside.

Clive and Tanith Cummings have just completed the first phase of the hotel's renovation, offering 11 elegant and stylish rooms. It's a far cry from the basic accommodation offered by the French Catholic Church which once ran the place as a retreat. The grand interiors, including numerous dramatic, vaulted, ceilings, 20ft-high stained-glass windows, stone balustrades and a romantic sweeping staircase, have also been sympathetically refurbished.

In a region renowned for its cuisine, the Abbaye's two restaurants already stand out. Chef Olivier Elzer is still only 27, yet conjures up imaginative cuisine with a mature lightness of touch. He can do wonders with dishes ranging from snails and scallops to Charolais beef and pigeon, relying heavily on regional produce. It's all wonderfully mouth-watering without straying into pretension, an attitude that is echoed in the standard and friendliness of the staff. And it's refreshing to find a restaurant that doesn't make a song and dance when the cheeseboard is brought out; the quality local produce speaks for itself.


Abbaye de la Bussière, La Bussière-sur-Ouche, Côte d'Or, Dijon, France (00 33 3 80 49 02 29; sits on the D33 in the tiny village of La Bussière-sur-Ouche. It's only a few minutes' walk from the Canal de Bourgogne, which would make it a convenient lunch stop for those on a barge holiday.

Time from international airport: Paris is about two and a half hours away. The TGV goes directly to Dijon from both Paris and Lille, and the owners are happy to pick up guests from Dijon's train station.


French rococo meets English regency style: pastoral toile de Jouy fabrics cover the windows and chaises longues in soft blues or reds, and the enormous beds are the most comfortable I've slept in for a long time. One of the rooms has a solidly English feel with an ornate four-poster. All have large, imaginatively designed bathrooms that come with huge whirlpool baths, wet-room-style showers, and grey granite basins whose sleekness might have appealed to those austere monks of old.

Freebies: Superior bathroom goodies: Bulgari bath and body products, Floris-branded sewing kit and shoe-care kit. Each room is also well stocked with bottles of Evian and fresh fruit.


Doubles cost from €220 (£157), room only. There is a specially adapted room for disabled guests at €150 (£107) per night. Breakfast is not included, although there are half-board options for two nights from €690 (£493) per couple.

I'm not paying that: If you're looking for another stopover on the wine route between Dijon and Beaune, try Les Paulands (00 33 3 80 26 41 05; in Ladoix-Serrigny, where doubles start at €65 (£46), room only.