I had a call from Miles Copeland (familiar name I thought) introducing his castle in the Perigord region of France to me. It sounded fab and when he sent some images through of his castle, I became even more intrigued. It seemed to have an abundance of accommodation and facilities and had been his personal holiday home in Europe for the last 25 years used by family and friends (some pretty high profile ones too – Cher, Ellie Goulding, Jon Bon Jovi) – hence his passion for the place! Time to pack a bag a see it for myself.
There are 3 airports within 2 hours of the castle (Bordeaux, Limoges, Bergerac) – I picked Bordeaux as I could fly from Bristol (£40 return!!) and Miles kindly offered to pick me up as he travels into Bordeaux occasionally for supplies. As we were driving back to the Castle I was fascinated to hear some of the stories about bringing Sting and The Police to a global market – more hand to mouth than you may imagine!
Location wise you are deep in the countryside but the local towns/villages like Brantome surprise you with Michelin starred restaurants and Perigord specialities of foie gras and truffles. The main town of Perigord is only 35 mins away and provides an easy days distraction.
As you approach the castle you catch glimpses of it on a wooded hill, but when you pull up to the original gateway you realise you are about to go back in time. We were met by Ian who lives on site and manages everything from housekeeping to maintenance – an asset to have around and a wealth of knowledge about the surrounding area.
It takes a while to understand the lay out with the Outer Bailey (where the serfs would have lived and provided services to the castle eg blacksmith etc) and the Inner Bailey (through another impressive gateway this time surrounded by a dry moat), where the nobility would hang out. Today, however, you rent the Inner Bailey as a starting point (for up to 15 people) and then add the various towers and the Outer Bailey accommodation as required.
I took a couple of days to explore the castle and grounds. I did get lost a few times as there are many living areas for formal and informal occasions – the outdoor courtyards provide stunning settings for dinner alfresco and the Troubadour dining room is straight out of the Middle Ages replete with suits of armour. The pool and tennis court are both easily accessible and the snooker/games room is a real ‘man cave’ with beer fridges and TV/sound systems. The Dovecot is a stunning space and I imagine an ideal party venue – candlelit and full of atmosphere. There are over 200 acres of grounds around the castle and one afternoon we took the quads bikes out to explore. They also keep a friendly hog in the paddock looked after by Ian.
My thoughts were drawn to how much fun this castle could be for a group of friends and family and I came away with a good feeling that we had found another Big House property to add to the portfolio, somewhere that offered something different. There will obviously be some compromises to staying in a castle; the plumbing and heating work fine but castles are draughty and don’t expect air-conditioning. Most of the fittings are genuine antiques and great attention has been given to sourcing decorative items and paraphernalia, but if gothic is not your thing then a castle may not be your best bet! However the feel of the spaces and pace of life was very appealing and left me with a sense of wanting to return with a group a friends!