Lovin' Languedoc: This Irish-run chateau is one of the best secrets in the South of France
Short breaks in France
An Irish-run chateau in Languedoc is one of the best secrets in the South of France, writes Thomas Breathnach.
Set the mood
It's the bonniest of matins and I awake feeling like a millennial heir to the House of Orléans. I brew a Nespresso, digest the headlines of Canal Plus and explore the specs of the heavenly French manor I'm now calling home.
C'est magnifique all round: there are copious luxury bedrooms, a stunning designer kitchen and enough lounge room seating for a small dynasty at my disposal. Outside, my demesne stretches to a manicured garden and private pool all backdropped by Hallmark vineyard hinterland.
I'm in Chateau St Pierre de Serjac, the creation of Irish hoteliers Karl and Anita O'Hanlon, where l'art de vivre of France's Languedoc region truly comes to life.
A renovated 19th-century chateau, Serjac's masterpieces are its eight, luxury hotel rooms where Empire-style wow-factor marries plush Louis XVI pomp.
The property also boasts a collection of hyper-chic self-catering residences, all fashioned from the estate's original working outbuildings. I stayed in the Maison des Vignes - a former winemaker's lodge with an interior makeover worthy of Architectural Digest.
Luxury doesn't stop at the accommodation, however. From wine tastings with the estate's very own reserves to treatments at the Cinq Mondes spa, Serjac is a property promising a dream French escape.
Serjac's 200-acre estate offers all the complimentary activities you'd expect from such stately surrounds. Guests can partake in a game of pétanque in the twin bouledrome, lounge or take in the sun at the panoramic infinity pool, or channel Novak Djokovic on the clay tennis courts. I saddled up on one of the estate's bikes to explore the surrounding countryside: a veritable Monet's tableau of poppies and wild irises. A tip? Park up for a coffee in the medieval hamlet of Magalas. It's gorgeous.
Just as Emilia-Romagna is the new Tuscany, Languedoc is very much the renaissance region of the South of France. It may be lower on Instagram scenery than Provence, but it does ooze a raw, no-filter charm. Some of the highlights within day-tripping distance of Serjac include oyster-tasting in Bouzigues, lazy picnics along the Canal du Midi and antiquing in the quirky markets of Béziers.
Some of the buildings' facades feel a little stripped of character - more original stonework would add ambiance, I think. The chateau has just opened, however, so like one of its Merlots, the property should mature with time.
Serjac's hotel rooms start from €220 per night, but consider going self-catering to really embrace the bon vivant lifestyle. Two-bedroom residences start from €249 per night, making them an attractive deal for families or friends.
Get me there
Serjac sits on the crossroads of several convenient gateways, including Perpignan, Toulouse and Carcassonne. Montpellier, just an hour from the chateau, is its nearest airport however, and Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) has just launched a twice-weekly service from Dublin.
On the ground, holidayautos.com is a handy compare engine for car rentals, or you can always travel by ferry via Cherbourg (irishferries.com; stenaline.ie).
For more info, see serjac.com.