An hour’s drive but a world away from St Tropez and Cannes, Domaine des Grottes is surrounded by the vineyards and woods of its own 100-hectare estate. The 18th-century coaching inn, with its grand, 19th-century extension, is an ultra-luxurious hideaway with just five huge suites spread over three floors. An elevated position affords distant views towards San Raphaël and the Med, while absolute, far-from-the-madding-crowd privacy ensures any stay here is Provencal perfection.
A massive, back-to-bare-walls renovation in 2011 saw Domaine des Grottes transformed from a rundown family home into a magnificent holiday hideaway. The interior layout was updated, original features were restored and rough stone walls, aged beams and other primal materials left exposed to honour their antiquity. Vestiges of the house’s past remain: the glass-roofed dining room, for example, is where grapes were once crushed underfoot to make wine, while graffiti carved into the breakfast room’s walls are mementos of occupying World War Two soldiers.
One of the property’s vast bedrooms
The house comprises five oversized guest suites and a choice of spaces for gathering, plus plenty of landings, nooks and other quiet corners in which to relax. A highlight among these is the library; with its comfy armchairs and various books, antiques and objets d’art; it’s perfect should guests need some time out, or a break from the heat of the day.
Domaine des Grottes is situated in a peaceful corner of rural Provence. To the north lie the limestone gorges of Verdon Natural Regional Park; the Côte d’Azur and its many attractions is off to the south and east. The immediate vicinity is dominated by forest and peaceful countryside dotted with pretty villages and medieval towns. The nearest — La Motte, Le Muy and Les Arcs — are handy for day trips by car or bike, as is Chateau Font du Broc, arguably the best among many local wineries.
The outdoor pool
What to expect
Gazing from south-facing windows across olive groves to the Massif de Maures, guests can be forgiven for kidding themselves that they’re landed gentry. The house combines every modern convenience with a grand, historic setting. Metre-thick walls keep everything cool in summer yet cosily warm in winter, and the décor strikes a tasteful balance between elegant and eclectic. Quality fabrics and designer furnishings mix with family heirlooms, salvage-yard finds and even one or two IKEA items to create a comfortable, lived-in look with the welcoming feel of a family home.
Always close at hand if needed but otherwise unobtrusive, the Domaine’s owner Thalia lives on site in an apartment on the building’s lower ground floor, very separate to the house with its own side entrance. You may see her four, friendly dogs as you amble the grounds, though she will happily keep them out of sight if required.
Catering is provided by Institut Gastronomie Riviera, a local company owned by two ex-chefs from the legendary Four Seasons George V in Paris. Staff preside expertly over both indoor and outdoor kitchens, and can also stage cookery classes should guests feel any urge to pitch in. If not, the only input required is deciding whether to dine inside, beneath a poolside pavilion or in the shade of an ancient lime. Based nearby, a housekeeper also comes throughout the week to ensure rooms and living areas are kept spick and span.
One of the spacious en suite bathrooms
The interiors may be brimming with character, but the grounds take centre stage. Behind the house, lawns flanked by olive, fig and pencil-straight cypress trees give onto a generously sized swimming pool — the main attraction on languorous summer days. For additional distractions, there are tennis and pétanque courts, woodland nature trails and gentle strolls round the vineyard (whose organically grown grapes are destined to become Whispering Angel rosé).
Each of the five guest suites is individually styled, but common to all are generous dimensions and four-poster beds, with walk-in rain showers and byzantine tiles in the bathrooms. The four upstairs rooms also have stand-alone tubs angled towards south-facing windows. At 80sq m, even the smallest suite is huge; the biggest is the 120sq m Bamboo Suite, set in what was once the hay loft.
Who it’s good for
Domaine des Grottes is perfect for family gatherings, coupled-up friends or destination weddings. Four-poster beds do not lend themselves to flexible configurations, but rollaway beds for kids can be added at no extra charge.
Absolutely. A covered, indoor/outdoor event space accommodates 150 guests, and on-site staff handle all the logistics from flowers and wedding planners to menus and marquees. The lawns, olive groves or a towering cedar tree beneath the south-facing façade all make picture-perfect locations for ceremonies (for extra drama, the couple can make their appearance here via a double, stone staircase). Numerous hotels, B&Bs and gîtes in the local area ensure sufficient space for wedding guests.
Another of the inviting bedrooms
Nice (whose airport is served year-round by British Airways and easyJet) is an hour by car, or 70 minutes by train. The nearest station, Les Arcs, is a 15-minute drive from the house.
Cost and how to book
Seven nights at Domaine des Grottes costs from €47,000 (£42,000) for 10 people, including all meals.