B&B and Beyond: Château Le Thil, France

One of the region’s grape-growing families has given new life to an 18th-century manor house

When even the airport has its own vineyard, you know you’re in wine country. And for a truly fertile visit to the Bordeaux region, you can’t do much better than Château Le Thil, an 18th-century manor-cum-haute B&B that’s a 20-minute drive from the city and the latest addition to an impressive, grape-centric family operation. Run by Alice and Jérôme Tourbier, it’s a mile down the road from Château Smith Haut Lafitte, the renowned grand cru estate owned by Alice’s parents Daniel and Florence Cathiard. There, Alice and Jérôme run the luxury hotel and spa Les Sources de Caudalie. But the much smaller Le Thil, which they snapped up last year, offers a more intimate, retreat-style guest experience among the vines.

The bed

Alice has described her style as “buco-chic” – or, to translate, “bucolic chic” – which nicely sums up the rustic refinement of Le Thil’s interior. It has the high ceilings and stately dimensions you’d expect from a château, but also benefits from an eclectic decor which makes it feel entirely homely. The bedrooms are notable for fine wooden antiques and gorgeous patterned feature wallpapers. Meanwhile, the well-appointed en suite bathrooms have free-standing claw-foot baths, his and hers sinks, rain showers and a selection of products from her sister Mathilde’s renowned Caudalie beauty line. With eight standard rooms and one suite to choose from, however, each has its own quirky details.

Whichever you get, the views are spectacular: situated at the front of the house, each room looks onto the château’s rolling lawns, lake and woodland. If there’s a criticism, it’s that the king-size beds are, in fact, two twin beds shoved together, meaning you may want to be careful to avoid sleeping near the middle.

The breakfast

You can sit at separate tables in the wood-panelled ground-floor dining room and serve yourself from an extensive buffet spread, including granola and yoghurt, croissants and pains au chocolat, tomatoes, cheese and charcuterie. The star performers, though, is undoubtedly the tray of cannelés de Bordeaux: miniature, crème-brûlée cakes with a custardy interior and a caramelised exterior, they’re alarmingly moreish.

The hosts

After Alice’s parents bought Château Le Thil last summer, the Tourbiers did a complete refit of the house within just nine months. That speaks volumes of their expertise as hoteliers. As well as running Le Thil and Les Sources De Caudalie, they also have another boutique hotel/spa complex just outside Paris, Les Etangs de Corot. They are, says Alice, currently looking at a further site in Alsace.

The weekend

You can get to the neighbouring Smith Haut Lafitte estate easily by foot, via the oak-lined Allée Royale. There you can borrow a bicycle and explore the vineyards and surrounding countryside, then take a tasting tour of the winery (00 33 5 57 83 11 22; smith-haut-lafitte.com; €9.50). Rising up the ranks for both its whites and reds, it is a fascinating mixture of the hi-tech (a Bond lair-ish secret underground cellar with an automated trapdoor) and the traditional (its own cooperage or barrel workshop).

For a different kind of wine experience, there is the Vinotherapie spa (00 33 5 57 83 83 83; sources-caudalie.com) at Les Sources De Caudalie – one of eight around the world set up by Alice’s sister Mathilde. She has pioneered development of skincare products utilising antioxidant-rich grape extracts; a crushed cabernet body scrub costs €85 (£72).

Finally, it is certainly worth making time to explore Bordeaux’s historic centre. Since former prime minister Alain Juppé first became mayor in the mid-Nineties, he has restored the once run-down city to its former glory.

The stunning gothic cathedral (00 33 5 56 52 68 10; cathedrale-bordeaux.fr) and the cavernous Museum of Contemporary Art (00 33 5 56 00 81 50; capc-bordeaux.fr) are highlights.

The pit stop

You really should go to – and stumble back from – Les Sources De Caudalie’s Michelin-starred restaurant, La Grand Vigne. With starters and main courses around the €40 (£34) mark, and desserts at €16 (£13), it’s certainly not cheap, but chef Nicolas Masse’s intricate, delicate cooking is impressive. For a more casual meal, the hotel’s bistro-style restaurant, La Table Du Lavoir, is situated in a beautiful conservatory space. Three courses cost €38 (£32).

The essentials

Château Le Thil at Les Sources De Caudalie, 35B Chemin le Thil, Léognan, Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France (sources-caudalie.com). B&B doubles start at €240 (£203).

I travelled with easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com), which flies from Gatwick from £36.99 one way.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes