Driving through France: the 20 best pitstop hotels

Break up the journey on the way to the South of France in style with our pick of the best hotels on the four main routes.

Route 1
Calais to Provence

Stop once in southern Champagne-Ardenne or Burgundy, or break the journey twice with an extra night in Lyons.

Le Champs des Oiseaux, Troyes, Aube

Le Champs des Oiseaux
Troyes, Aube

In the shadow of the city’s cathedral, this charming hotel dates from the Middle Ages and features wooden beams and an idyllic courtyard. Its 14 pretty bedrooms are quiet and serene, making the hotel a soothing place for a break from the road. Its welcoming restaurant is the pride of chef René Hachez, who creates simple yet delicious menus with high-quality produce from the area.
Doubles are from €185 (£146) a night, breakfast €20. Main courses are from €38 (00 33 3 25 80 58 50, champdesoiseaux.com)

Le Domaine les Crayères
Rheims, Marne

What better refreshment after a long journey than a glass of cool, sparkling champagne? At the five-star Les Crayères, just outside Rheims, you can start (or end) your holiday in style with some great bubbly. Follow with an evening meal at Le Parc restaurant, where the Michelin-starred chef Philippe Mille serves seasonal menus in the sophisticated surroundings of the wood-panelled dining room. For something less formal, take a table at the brasserie, Le Jardin, with its modern interiors and sunny terrace. The 20 rooms are decorated in sumptuous style.
Doubles are from €370 a night, breakfast €29. Dinner menus in Le Parc are from €130, and in Le Jardin from €31 (00 33 3 26 24 90 00, lescrayeres.com)

Cour des Loges, Lyons, Rhône

Maison du Colombier
Beaune, Côte d’Or
For an informal soirée in Beaune, a historic city surrounded by vineyards, head to this new “gastro bar”, set in a 1574 monument. Inside, the chef Roland Chanliaud mixes his wine knowledge to match vintages to his simple dishes, which include tartines — toasted bread with different toppings. Up a stone staircase are five modern apartments.
Self-catering apartments for two to four people start from €155 a night. Main courses are from €15 (00 33 3 80 26 16 26, maisonducolombier.com)

Château de Fleurville
near Mâcon, Saône-et-Loire
An easy hop from the motorway between Tournus and Mâcon, this peaceful château prides itself on Burgundy cuisine under local chef Sebastien Di Noto. The elegant dining room is a pleasant setting, but better still is the sun-drenched terrace overlooking the garden. The comfortable rooms are decorated in traditional style, and there’s a heated pool.
Doubles are from €125 a night, breakfast €16. Menus from €46 (00 33 3 85 27 91 30, chateau-de-fleurville.com)

Cour des Loges
Lyons, Rhône

Known as France’s capital of gastronomy, Lyons offers so much choice for food lovers that they may want to cancel the rest of their journey. For an overnight stop that is pure indulgence, check into the Cour des Loges, which offers a sensational setting for a meal in its romantic Florentine courtyard. Michelin-starred chef Anthony Bonnet serves a sophisticated menu with the best-quality produce. Its 61 rooms are decorated in Italian Renaissance style.
B&B doubles are from €244 a night. Menus are from €95 (00 33 4 57 74 74 74, courdesloges.com)

Route 2

Ferry ports to the Dordogne

Don’t bother with the hair-raising ride around the Paris Périphérique — take the route down the north coast. Stay near the ferry ports in Normandy, or head farther to Tours or Vienne.

Le Petit Coq aux Champs, Pont Audemer, Normandy

Le Petit Coq aux Champs
Pont Audemer, Normandy

This picturesque four-star hotel, with its own gastronomic restaurant, is worth the short detour from the A28, which should add only half an hour to your journey. The 16 pretty rooms are set in thatched cottages and have their own terraces, while the restaurant is the domain of chef Jean-Marie Huard, who uses delicious local produce.
Details Doubles are from €119 a night, breakfast €15. Menus are from €36 (00 33 2 32 41 04 19, chateauxhotels.co.uk)

Château de Saint Paterne
Alençon, Normandy

For food lovers heading south from the northern ferry ports, there’s no better stop than this. With ten beautifully decorated bedrooms, along with a “dacha” cabin in the woods (with sauna and hot tub), the family-run château is owned by the chef and cookbook author Charles-Henry de Valbray, who serves his sumptuous evening meals in the candelabra-filled dining room.
Doubles are from €145 a night, breakfast €14. Dinner costs €49 (00 33 2 33 27 54 71, chateau-saintpaterne.com)

Les Hautes Roches, Tours, Loire Valley

Les Hautes Roches
Tours, Loire Valley

Cave dwellings don’t tend to be mentioned in the same sentence as luxury hotels, but here you get both in one hit because 12 of the 14 rooms are built into the cliffs. The rooms’ decor blends the white chalk walls cleverly with their modern style. The restaurant is the pride of chef Didier Edon, who creates seafood-inspired menus complemented by a selection of excellent wines, stored — of course — in the cave cellar.
Doubles are from €225 a night, breakfast €21. Menus are from €60 (00 33 33 2 47 52 88, leshautesroches.com)

Château du Clos de la Ribaudière near Poitiers, Vienne

Château du Clos de la Ribaudière
near Poitiers, Vienne

While families might peel off the motorway at Poitiers for the theme park Futuroscope, gastronomes should make a beeline for this château, where the restaurant serves sophisticated dishes using fresh local produce. The hotel has 41 rooms spread through three buildings, including the 18th-century château, as well as an outdoor pool and fitness room.
Doubles are from €130 a night, breakfast €15. Menus are from €34 (00 33 5 49 52 86 66, chateauxhotels.co.uk)

Hôtel les Orangeries
Lussac les Châteaux, Vienne

Head south towards Brive-la-Gaillarde at Poitiers and you’ll get a picturesque route and a welcoming stop at this hotel, which has won accolades for its sustainable food policy. The chef David Royer uses organic produce to create enticing dishes that are the perfect antidote to on-the-road snacks. The hotel has 11 charming rooms and four apartments sleeping up to five, and an outdoor pool.
Doubles are from €85 a night, breakfast from €12.50. Menus are from €35 (00 33 5 49 84 07 07, sawdays.co.uk)

Route 3

Ferry ports to Provence/Languedoc

Make the most of this spectacular journey through the Massif Central by stopping at least twice, either in Normandy or the Loire Valley, as well as Millau for its jaw-dropping viaduct. If you want to plough on, Clermont-Ferrand is a good halfway point.

Manoir de Surville, Surville, Manche, Normandy

Manoir de Surville
Surville, Manche, Normandy

After a long ferry crossing, check into this chambre d’hote before you head south. In a five-acre garden, the timber-framed manor has been beautifully restored, its 11 bedrooms decorated in fresh whites and greys. Gastronomes will love Jordan Fouchet’s chef’s table (every night except Tuesday in July and August) at which you’ll be treated to one menu created from local produce. There is also a spa with Cinq Mondes products.
Doubles are from €180 a night, breakfast €17, or included when booking direct. Dinner is from €39 (00 33 2 32 50 99 89, manoirdesurville.com)

Hôtel Tatin
Lamotte-Beuvron, Loire Valley

The tarte tatin is one of France’s classic desserts and it was here, early last century, that the sisters Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin are said to have created the tart by accident. The hotel continues the tradition, serving the upside-down apple pie either to eat in or take away. Those booking into the restaurant will be treated to traditional, hearty meals. The hotel has 14 pleasant rooms.
Doubles are from €72 a night, breakfast from €9.50. Menus are from €27 (00 33 2 54 88 00 03, hotel-tatin.fr)

Domaine de la Trolière
Orval, Loire Valley

Just five minutes from the motorway, 30 miles south of Bourges, Marie-Claude Dussert goes to great lengths to make her guests welcome in the house that has belonged to her family for more than 200 years. A delicious home-cooked evening meal is served before guests retire to one of four double rooms, each decorated with an individual character and style. Cat lovers will delight in Mme Dussert’s many feline friends.
B&B doubles are from €53 a night. Dinner with wine is €27 (00 33 2 48 96 47 45, sawdays.co.uk)

A dish at Hôtel Radio, Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dôme

Hôtel Radio
Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dôme

This fabulous art deco hotel was established in 1930 and has many original features, such as floor mosaics, wrought-iron doors and period furniture. The restaurant is the pride and joy of chef Wilfrid Chaplain, who brings together elements of different regional cuisines from across France.
Doubles are from €105 a night, breakfast €14.50. Menus are from €59 (00 33 4 73 30 87 83, hotel-radio.fr)

Château de Creissels, Millau, Aveyron

Château de Creissels
Millau, Aveyron

The highlight of any road trip through France has to be the magnificent Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world, designed by Norman Foster. For a perfect pitstop within sight of the bridge, stay at this 12th-century château, with 26 rooms within its walls. The restaurant is in the castle’s guard room, which as a stone vaulted ceiling, where guests can enjoy menus that bring together specialities from the area, such as lamb from the Grands Causses plateaux.
Doubles are from €84 a night, breakfast €11.50. Menus are from €19 (00 33 5 65 60 16 59, chateau-de-creissels.com)

Route 4

Brittany/Normandy to Aquitaine

After a long day crossing on the ferry, you’ll need two stops on this route, starting either in Brittany or Normandy. With a night crossing, you can push on to a stop at Clisson or Bordeaux.

Hôtel Brittany, Roscoff, Brittany

Hôtel Brittany
Roscoff, Brittany

Overlooking the English Channel in the pretty Breton town of Roscoff, the Hotel Brittany makes the ideal stop after a long day on the ferry. The Michelin-starred chef Loïc Le Bail presides over the kitchen, and his menus make the most of the hotel’s location to bring together the best fish and seafood. The hotel, a 17th-century manor house, has 23 rooms decorated in classic style with gingham bedspreads. A new modern villa with 11 sea-view rooms opens this year.
Doubles are from €155 a night, breakfast €23. Menus are from €44 (00 33 2 98 69 70 78, hotel-brittany.com)

Château La Chenevière
Port-en-Bessin, Normandy

Not far from the ferry ports of Cherbourg or Caen, the award-winning Château de Chenevière is one of Normandy’s best foodie hotspots. Its restaurant, Le Botaniste, prides itself on sourcing ingredients from the best food producers in the region and chef Didier Robin brings them together in dishes that are inspired by traditional recipes, pictured right. For something more laid-back, take a table in the garden at the bistro Le Petit Jardin. The 29 rooms in the luxury hotel are light and elegant.
Doubles are from €220 a night, breakfast is €25. Menus are from €55 at Le Botaniste, and €16 at Le Petit Jardin (00 33 2 31 51 25 25, lacheneviere.com)

Villa Saint Antoine
Clisson, Loire

Just a short hop from the motorway south of Nantes, Clisson makes an interesting detour thanks to its Italianate architecture. The villa is a former flax mill with a fantastic vantage point overlooking the town’s medieval castle. The restaurant makes the most of the view from its large terrace and offers good contemporary cuisine. The hotel has 43 modern, comfortable rooms, as well as a heated outdoor pool, fitness centre, sauna and hammam.
Doubles are from €69.70 a night, breakfast €13.50. Main courses are from €19.50 (00 33 2 40 85 46 46, hotel-villa-saint-antoine.com)

Le Saint James, Bordeaux, Gironde

Le Saint James
Bordeaux, Gironde

At this modern hotel just a few minutes off the motorway outside Bordeaux, food lovers are in for a treat; the chef’s name translates as “magic”, and what Nicolas Magie does in the kitchen using produce from his home region of Aquitaine must come close to it because his Michelin-starred menus are nothing short of divine. If that wasn’t reward enough, the restaurant and bar’s terrace provides a spectacular view over Bordeaux, from which you can admire the hotel’s architecture by Jean Nouvel. The modern rooms with minimalist decor also offer great views.
Doubles are from €195 a night, breakfast €25. Menus are from €70 (00 33 5 57 97 06 00, saintjames-bouliac.com)

Les Prés d’Eugénie, Eugénie-les-Bains, Landes

Les Prés d’Eugénie
Eugénie-les-Bains, Landes

The revered chef Michel Guérard has held three Michelin stars for 40 years, so a meal at his restaurant here should be on every foodie’s bucket list. Those expecting typically calorific French cuisine might find his meals a surprise, for he specialises in “slimming cuisine”, which means you can devour some of the best meals in France under 600 calories. The magical hotel is set in seven houses in this former bolt hole of Empress Eugénie, the spa-loving wife of Napoleon III — it also has a top-class spa.
Doubles are from €170 a night, breakfast €30. Menus are from €60 (00 33 5 58 05 06 07, michelguerard.com)

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