Once you arrive in St-Arcons-d’Allier, a picturesque medieval village perched above the river which gives it the second half of its name, there’s no point in asking where the hotel is because you are already standing in the middle of it. Laurence Perceval-Hermet has breathed new life into a well-nigh abandoned village by converting ten of the houses into 14 bedrooms for her hotel centred on the château whose origins stretch back more than a thousand years. The streets are cobbled with stones taken from the river bed and, as visitors’ cars are excluded to preserve the peace and undeniable charm of the village, you and your luggage will be taken to your lodging by quad bike.
The restoration has been done sensitively, and creature comforts have been installed without marring the pleasing simplicity of the buildings. The traditional plantings in the gardens, warm stonework and glimpses of the countryside beyond the village all contribute to the atmosphere of rustic peace. Breakfast and dinner are served in the château; the latter by candlelight in the baronial dining room. An elegant but comfortable salon offers a place to linger after dinner before you walk home.