Domaine La Mathonière
How much nicer when, instead of that kind of welcome, a campsite owner stands in front of a green field, opens his arms out wide and says ‘Anywhere you like. Just don’t scare the donkeys.’
Thankfully that’s more the kind of welcome you’ll find at Domaine La Mathonière, a complex of buildings and a campsite set amid the forests and lakes in the heartland of the old Dukes of Bourbon. Behind the fine old rustic farmhouse there’s an expanse of green field, broken up here and there with the odd hedge and tree, but essentially an open area, where you can pick a pitch to suit your mood. There’s a large tree in the middle, which provides a heap of shade, and there’s a large (heated) swimming pool too.
Elsewhere, closer to the farmhouse, there’s a great little café-cum-bar with a sheltered seating area. Here you can enjoy a café au lait or something stronger, if you prefer, while the owners can cook a three course meal for you (also known as table d’hôtes). Once a week they also organise a ginormous barbecues for every camper on the campsite.
It’s a tried-and-trusted French formula, this. A few old farm buildings converted into a lovely owners’ home, some gîte accommodation, an open field for the camping and the cooking of communal barbecues, if you want. No worries if you’d rather do your own thing, but it’s good to meet the neighbours. There’s also another common feature of these kinds of places; large, luxury safari tents with an en-suite bathroom inside and views too die for. If you want something more basic, you can book a large bell tent instead. Closer in style to camping but still allowing you to travel light.
This may all make Mathonière sound a little formulaic, but honestly, it’s not. It’s a simple, wholesome, unpretentious site that’s a great place to bring the kids to, but with enough space to stretch out if you don’t want to be pestered.
Round and about, this region is dotted with forests and copses and has loads of interesting old towns and villages to explore. While it is possible to get to places on foot, by bike, or by donkey, the farther-flung destinations are really only accessible by car, there’s a sandy beach in the vicinity and loads of forest trails that are great either on foot or by bike. Just don’t get lost. Perhaps it’s best to lay a trail of breadcrumbs behind you and hope that you manage to find your way back before the birds eat them. Because you’ll want to find your way back to La Mathonière, and probably more than once. It may be based on a simple formula, but then all the best formulae are simple. Like E=mc2; and it doesn’t come much simpler than that. At least in theory it doesn’t. But then, when you think about it, in practice, making things look as effortless and simple as this is often the hardest trick in the book. And you really don’t need to be Einstein to figure that out.
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There are all sorts of goodies. In addition to the usual facilities of hot showers, WCs, and washing facilities, there’s a great little café-cum-bar with a sheltered outdoor seating area, where the communal meals are served and where you can sit and play some of the games available, from chess to dicey board games. Next to it is the lounge area with free WiFi. Then there are the animals, the pool, and the large kids play ground to keep the little ones happy. And if none of that works, then the site is big and secluded enough just to let the kids run amok on their own.
Suitable ForTents, campervans, caravans, dogs – yes.
NearbyWhere to start? There are some great little towns and villages in the vicinity, such as Hérisson and Bourbon L'Archambault. In the former, for example, there’s a wonderful ruined 14th-century castle with a crumbling keep. For something a little more adventurous head to the Plan d’Eau de Vieure, it’s a T-shaped lake just off D11, north of Vieure, that boasts a small section of sandy beach, but also offers kayaks, canoes, and pedalos for hire. In the opposite direction is the 27,182-acre (11,000-hectare) Forêt de Tronçais. It’s so old that Julius Caesar is said to have passed through it. Today it contains oaks that are hundreds of years old. Just don’t get lost. Or take some breadcrumbs.
Food & DrinkIf you don’t fancy partaking with the table d’hôtes or the BBQ at the pleasant café-cum-bar on site, head into Cosne-d’Allier where you’ll find a large Carrefour supermarket with everything you need to cater for yourselves, including garden furniture if you’ve forgotten to bring your own. Just remember, when you go, that French supermarkets don’t offer plastic carrier bags, so make sure you take something to put your baguettes and bottles of wine in. Unfortunately the town’s not that hot on restaurants or bars. For those you’d be better off going the extra miles to Montluçon or Moulins, where there’s a much better choice on rue Grande in the medieval part of town.
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Contact Domaine La Mathonière, Camping Mathoniere, 03350 Louroux-Bourbonnais, Allier, France
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Rated ★★★★★ over 7 reviews
Space, peaceful, great for kids
We arrived late afternoon after a long drive and were warmly welcomed by Rob and Lutien.
The campsite was spotless and an oasis of calm. We stayed for five nights and we strongly recommend that you don't just use this site as a one night stopover. We enjoyed exploring the local area with our dogs and we cycled to a local village (quite a challenge!) If you want a cycle ride ask Rob for the route; if he smiles you know there are going to be hills!
At night we heard owls, during the day we heard chickens, buzzards and the resident donkeys. A perfect place for children during the summer, a wonderful place to explore out of season. We can not recommend the site or the hosts more highly.
Wonderful, peaceful place. Our 3yr old loved the chicken running around, the small, but very lovingly created playground and the freedom of running around and discovering everything. We loved to join the owners for a fantastic self-cooked dinner and to choose our favourite pitch under trees. My husband and I both found that if we would be owners of a campsite, we would do it exactly like this :)
Stayed two nights and will defenetely return for longer next year.
Dank je wel, Lutien and Rob!
Don't really want to share my views as would love to keep it to ourselves!! We spent 6 nights with 3 young kids and had such a fab time. Lutien and Rob were such great hosts, nothing was too much trouble, my son was missing a table tennis table, so rob made one for him. He took the kids on a tractor ride, they had donkey rides, anything was possible, even down to what music my kids liked whilst in the bar! Met some lovely people and had some fab meals in the cool designed bar. It was such a delight to stay at this wonderful campsite with such lovely owners, can't wait to return. Thanks Michelle, Mark, Henry, Mae and Ava
Lovely campsite, lovely people
Stayed at Mathonière end of July after baking in 42 degrees in Florence.
We found the campsite to be a welcoming retreat, we camped under a huge oak tree at the bottom of the main field.The campsite and facilities are wonderful, but the thing which really made our stay was the warm and friendly attitude of the owners and other campers.Rob and his lovely wife are gracious, easy going hosts, but they also run a tight ship and keep the site spotless. Our 3 year old son had a great time running around and playing with the other children on site, plenty of room for the children to play, but lots of quiet areas for peacefull solitude.
So highly recommended and worth a visit.
This was the best campsite we went to on our holiday - owner is laid back and friendly and we had brilliant communal meal with other campers. It is very kids friendly and they can run around with their friends and be a bit wild without a care. It gave us a proper holiday.
Very peaceful camping, you turn up and as long as you don't need electricity you can camp where you want on a large field. It may seem like there isn't that much there but our 4 year-old had the best time; discovering grass hoppers, being free to play in a huge field with other children on rope swings, in dens, the pool and the trampoline. We had a lovely relaxing time as she was so happy. Don't expect a big modern campsite, enjoy the simplicity of feeling like you've camped in your friend's back garden, albeit a very large back garden!
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