Provence is famous for glitzy Cannes and cosmopolitan Saint-Tropez, but make no mistake: the region’s headline act is its blissful countryside. This lavender-infused countryside has beguiled visitors for centuries. Everyone from the Romans to Vincent van Gogh have left their mark, although these days you’re more likely to cross paths with legions of cyclists than legionnaires. Immerse yourself in French rural life while staying at one of these beautifully renovated, bucolic farmhouses.
This 550-hectare estate offers proof that cowboys don’t just live in the movies. Here you’ll find a living, breathing pair of them, father and son Frederic and Jacques Bon – two ranchers who keep a careful watch over their herd of Camargue bulls. The 17th-century manor that was once their home is now a charming guesthouse with 13 rooms, including a two-bedroom family suite. Best of all, you can enjoy a guided tour of the grounds on horseback.
Pick the right time to soak in the outdoor Finnish bath and you’ll find it comes with the bonus of a stunning sunset. This is no happy accident, as every luxury at this 18th-century farmhouse is meticulously considered. The dining room, with its golden lily pad lampshades and woollen seat covers, is an eye-catching display of rustic design. Book La Rôche Blanche for a true back-to-nature experience.
Nothing says Provence quite like the sight and scent of swaying lavender fields. At this farm in Cereste, you’ll find over two-thirds of its 3.5 hectares coated in violet. The size of this renovated farmhouse means that there is enough room for three gîtes along with the owners’ main residence. You’ll also get access to two pools, including an organic basin that is naturally filtered. It’s self-catering only here, but the nearby village includes a supermarket, butcher, baker and a smattering of eateries.
Set amongst olive and Cypress trees, this four-star hotel offers you the chance to both indulge and rejuvenate. The outdoor clay tennis court and pétanque pit allows you to work off the buffet breakfast, served on the wide open terrace or in the privacy of your own room. The 26 rooms range from comfort to luxury. If opting for the latter, request one of the two that come with a balcony.
Superbly located at the heart of Provence’s golden triangle, you’ll enjoy easy access to Avignon, Orange and Mont Ventoux from this hotel in Sarrians. The latter destination makes this B&B a popular spot for amateur cyclists on a Tour de France pilgrimage. There’s an outdoor pool for a relaxing post-ride dip, while larger groups might be tempted to rent the detached two-floor gîte.
This three-room guesthouse can be found three miles west of Saint-Tropez in the hilltop village of Gassin. Here, immerse yourself in the region without the beach-flocking crowds – you’ll no doubt appreciate the cicada-soundtracked serenity. For those looking for more than a relaxing read by the pool, the hotel puts on regular events. These range from sommelier-led wine tasting, to cooking workshops featuring ingredients grown on site.
The outdoor heated pool and accompanying bar make a day with a good book and cocktail a very real temptation here – especially when you take into account the views over the Lubéron Valley. Alternatively, hit the spa which includes a hot tub, Turkish bath and massage services. In the kitchen, chef Cyril Mendes values his breakfast menu as highly as his lunch and dinner equivalents, with freshly baked Viennese pastries alongside local jams and honey ensuring a sweet start to the day.
Just as Vincent van Gogh was inspired by the city of Arles, this family-run B&B takes its inspiration from the Dutch painter. Each of its five mood-lit rooms is named after one of Van Gogh’s paintings created during his 14 months spent in the region. Keen to learn more? An art museum dedicated to the famous former resident is just a 10-minute drive away. Make the most of the enormous breakfasts before you leave.
The line of towering plane trees offer a shaded guard of honour on arrival at this 19th-century mansion. Set at the foot of the Chaine des Alpilles mountain range, the leafy grounds provide relief during the midsummer heat. It’s easy to see why weddings are popular here. Legend has it that the land once belonged to a 13th-century knight, but there’s no shining armour required these days – three generations of women from the Bon family successfully oversee proceedings at this five-star manor.
The seven o’clock leg of lamb, served with creamy gratin dauphinois potatoes, is the specialty from chef Alain Poitou, among a selection of mouth-watering three-course menus for lunch and dinner. The beautiful commune of Gordes – featured in Peter Mayle’s bestselling A Year in Provence – is a five-minute drive or 40-minute amble away. Alternatively, speak to the hotel concierge, who can source electric bicycles for a fun way to explore the scenery.