Château des Vigiers, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is in south west France about an hour east of Bordeaux and within half an hour from Bergerac Airport.
Jean Vigier, one of the King’s judges in nearby Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, acquired the estate – which currently amounts to 450 acres – and started building the chateau in 1597, incorporating the remnants of a 12th-century fort. Jean Vigier favoured an architectural style which reflected the Classical revival, and his chateau was nicknamed ‘Petit Versailles’.
His daughter finished the work in 1621, and the château remained in the Vigiers family until the French Revolution. After this came a succession of different owners up to Elizabeth and Lars Petersson in 1989, who came across it when on holiday. Mr Petersson set about turning the château into a 4-star hotel, and the centrepiece of a resort.
Château des Vigiers opened in 1993, a year after the resort’s original 18-hole golf course did. This course was designed by Donald Steel, who added a further nine holes which opened in 2008. Now there are three nine-hole courses, two of which – Lac and Vallée – finish with spectacular holes beside the lake in front of the chateau. There is also a six-hole academy course, a covered driving range and short-game practice area. There is a pro shop and a resident professional who gives lessons.
One of the attractions of the well-kept courses is that they are uncluttered. Half of the golf club’s 370 members are foreign residents and whereas back in 1993 90% of hotel guests were golfers, now are only half of the guests are. This is a result of the châteaux broadening its appeal, a process which has included the opening of the Maria Galland Beauty Centre in 2003.
Accommodation at Château des Vigiers amounts to 87 rooms ranged across three buildings. The chateau itself has 25 elegant rooms with period furniture. Those facing the golf courses are particularly light.
More spacious are the rooms in the Relais, which has been built in the style of a tobacco-drying barn.This is where I stayed, and which has been designed for golfing guests, and is by the first tee of the Vignes nine-hole course. The room was one of the best I have stayed in, light, airy, spacious, with an unpretentious understated charm, and an exceptionally comfortable bed. Residents of the Relais take breakfast in a dining room in the building. The Relais also has a gymnasium and swimming pool.
Next to the chateaux are Les Dependences, built in 1995 in typical Perigordian style with local sandstone, oak beams and terracotta tiling. Here are 22 one-bedroom apartments, including eleven junior suites, with sitting room and cooking facilities on the ground floors, and the sleeping area on a mezzanine floor.
There are two dining options at Chateau des Vigiers. In a wing of the château is the Fresques restaurant with its Renaissance-style frescos and views over the lake. Alternatively, there is the less formal brasserie, Le Chai, which is the former wine-making building and where meals can be taken either inside or outside on the terrace.
We ate in Le Chai, where the service was attentive and the food good and locally sourced. The strawberries I had were the best I have tasted. The Château des Vigiers makes its own wines, 100,000 bottles a year coming from its 42 acres of vineyards.
If you really fall in love, the Chateau also has properties for sale on the estate. To find out more telephone +33 (0)553 61 5000 or download the brochure from their website.
Rooms from 180 euros a night. Château des Vigiers, Le Vigier, 24240 Monestier, Dordogne, France. Tel: +33 05.53.61.50.33; www.vigiers.fr.