French property dreams
Sophie Gardner-roberts is inspired by the success story of this gîte complex in the Périgord Noir
A gîte complex in the Périgord Noir
With such an excellent work/life balance, clement weather and beautiful countryside, France has always attracted people wanting to escape a busy schedule to enjoy a slower, more fulfilling lifestyle. Owning a beautiful property bathed in sunlight most of the year, with a couple of gîtes to rent out, encapsulates the dream life in France for many expats. And this impressive property, with its beautifully converted barn and five charming gîtes built from pretty stone houses typical of the area, really has it all.
Easy living “We’ve owned the property since 2007 having bought it for a change of lifestyle,” say Sue and Jon. “We wanted to be able to live and work in beautiful surroundings and at a relaxed pace of life, something that we wouldn’t have been able to do in the UK given the relative price of similar properties and areas.”
Not only does the property offer a peaceful setting, it has history. Sue and Jon tell me the property used to be one of the richest farms in the area with the oldest building being approximately 350 years old and the newest dating back to 1876.
The main house is a converted barn in which the couple currently live. “Our predecessors renovated most of the buildings but there was still a beautiful stone barn which was one of the big attractions for us. The barn was totally renovated and converted to living accommodation in 2012,” the couple says.
New owners will appreciate the quality of the renovation which has preserved the original character of the building while adding modern fittings such as under-floor heating, double-glazing and a modern kitchen.
The house is very spacious and full of light and character. The massive open-plan kitchen/ lounge/diner is the heart of the home and the exposed stone walls and wooden beams add a definite wow factor. An oak staircase leads to a mezzanine with the master bedroom suite, which has an en-suite bathroom.
The barn has been designed to maximise rental income and Sue and Jon created three further self-catered studios – each with a little kitchen and shower room – which have their own separate entrances. These can be used as holiday rentals too but the whole barn would easily make a large comfortable family home.
The five gîtes all have their individual character, from the larger house with pretty blue shutters, to the cute cottage with a vine-clad pergola. Thanks to oil-fired central heating and wood burners in three of the gîtes, the houses are cosy and comfy all year round, increasing the potential for winter bookings. Guests share the access to the salt-water swimming pool and there’s even an outdoor bar and terrace. In total, including the studios, guest capacity is 28 people.
“We have lots of happy memories of our time living here. It’s hard to pick out a specific one but we’ve loved the time spent chatting to guests, many of whom have visited a number of times and become friends over the years,” the couple says.
Law of attraction Set in the heart of the Périgord Noir in the south of Dordogne, nestled in a valley between the Dordogne and Vézères rivers, the business attracts a steady stream of visitors wanting to explore the region, a potential which Sue and Jon saw from the start.
“We did look at similar properties in northern Dordogne and Charente which were in pretty countryside but with little to attract visitors other than the setting,” the couple remembers. “When we came to the area we quickly realised that it had a fantastic location in terms of being in the centre of a huge concentration of tourist attractions, and therefore perfect for a gîte business.”
The area is indeed hugely appealing. Tourists are kept busy exploring the many Plus Beaux Villages, sampling local gastronomy and wine, and taking in the gentle rivers, the dramatic landscapes and the historical towns. For inhabitants, life year-round is vibrant and
pleasant, with an emphasis on spending plenty of time outdoors.
“On a personal basis we also wanted to live in a community with things happening and somewhere where we could walk to a boulangerie, post office, restaurant and bar – something which is greatly appreciated by our guests too,” Sue and Jon say.
Set within a medieval village boasting a weekly antiques market in the summer, the property is just six kilometres from the towns of St-cyprien (which has a lovely Sunday market) and Les Eyzies with its historical cave paintings. The ever popular town of Sarlat-la-canéda is also nearby. It’s very convenient to access as Bergerac and Brive airports are about an hour’s drive away.
Sue and Jon’s favourite place is a tribute to outdoor living: “Our favourite spot? Summer evenings out by the pool bar, looking out across the orchard and meadow.” If that doesn’t sound like the dream then I’m not sure what does.
Sue and Jon have reached retirement age but want to travel the world, particularly to Australia where their daughter lives. They are putting the complex on the market for €899,850.
For more information: Tel: 0033 (0)5 55 28 46 40 Allez-français
Tourists are kept busy exploring Plus Beaux Villages, sampling local gastronomy and wines, and taking in the dramatic landscapes
22 Take a dip in Dordogne