Les Escaliers de La Combe

Europe France Midi-pyrénées Lot

Fringed by undulating vineyards and a shimmering sea of sunflowers, this is true camping à la campagne

Ask most tourists to point out Quercy-Blanc on a map and they'll draw your query blank. Nestled where the departments of Tarn-et-Garonne, Lot, and Lot-et-Garonne converge, this little known pocket of south-west France has so far eluded the commercial trappings of mass tourism. Considering it's home to meandering rivers, sprawling oak woodlands, limestone gorges and some of the country's most beautiful historic villages, the region's unspoilt, semi-anonymity is pretty darn remarkable. But with a campsite like Les Escaliers de la Combe to base yourself, something tells us Quercy-Blanc won't remain a secret for too long.

Plotted in the 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' village of Saint-Matré, Les Escaliers de la Combe has been run with the utmost care and attention by the lovely Nihot family for the last 8 years. Fringed by undulating vineyards (bearing grapes for the local Cahors) and a shimmering sea of sunflowers, this is true camping à la campagne.

The site comprises just 12 spacious grass pitches open to tents, caravans and everything in between. For those looking for a spot of comfort, the three cute, colourful log cabins come fully-furnished and equipped with all the mod cons you could require for a completely fuss-free stay. And every pitch comes with its very own dining area which includes a picnic table, chairs, and parasol so you can enjoy a spot of al fresco dining. And while we're on the subject of campsite cuisine, you really are spoilt for choice here. Hosts Coen and Ilse feed their guests like members of the family, with a varied table d’ hôtes menu of delicious French dishes served daily. Be sure to ask about the special catering packages on offer.

There's a relaxed, family-friendly feel to this place. Campers return season-after-season, eager to savour the silence and simplicity that make Les Escaliers the perfect setting for a tranquil retreat. For school holidays, there's a wealth of activities to keep the kids entertained, with Ilse and Coen's own brood (Juliette, Frédérique and Laura) fulfilling the role of (un)official children's entertainment officers. Send the littl'uns to The Big Red House where they can have a go at cooking lessons, play restaurant ("for real!") or put on a fashion show. And when they've had their fill of that, there's animals to pet, a pool to paddle in, and acres of space to explore and let their imaginations run rampant.

Though it may be hard to tear yourself away from camp, be sure you do. The region is scattered with plenty of stunning mountain settlements such as Saint-Cirq-Lapopie (officially among Les Plus Beaux Villages de France). Anyone with an interest in religious history should be sure to visit nearby Rocomadour. Beguilingly situated atop a rocky plateau, this huge centuries-old shrine boasts a miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary, the tomb of an ancient saint, and a supposed fragment of a sword which once belonged to Emperor Charlemagne's bravest knight. If the tales don't move the cynics among you, the spectacular views over the Alzou Valley will do the trick.

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