Domaine La Mathonière

Europe France Auvergne Allier

Middle-of-nowhere peace and quiet and a great safe haven for the kids
Don’t you just hate it when you turn up at a campsite and the owner whips out a red marker pen and a site map of numbered pitches and plonks a big fat cross on No.127? It’s usually way down the far end, between the fence and the bins and with a long, desperate walk if nature calls. It’s really not what you want.

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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Reader Reviews

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Autumn heaven

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. 

Nov 2, 2014 by Micky & Caroline


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!

Sep 17, 2014 by Daniela

Fantastic site

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 

Aug 31, 2014 by Michelle

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.

Aug 17, 2013 by Tarkus


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.

Aug 13, 2013 by Pinny Crane


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!

Jan 21, 2013 by WeLoveFrenchCamping
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