Le Castel tries to make holidays easier for parents and fun for kids. Just about everyone goes away with big smiles on their faces, but we are not perfect for everyone.
Le Castel has four lovely suites and two cottages. We use the term luxury but we are not a 5 Star hotel. The idea is that you should feel as if you are staying with a bunch of friends in a nice couintry house. There are no staff wandering round with uniforms and white gloves. In fact, owner Jon is rarely seen out of a pair of shorts. It's mean to be relaxed, comfortable and fun
Owner Jon Barnsley was previously Travel Editor of a UK newspaper, so he is used to giving fair and frank evaluations of holiday venues. Here he does the same to his own property...
You are encouraged to treat Le Castel like your home and simply help yourselves to drinks etc. There is a very relaxed atmosphere. Jon does not get stressed if kids (or adults) break things.
Le Castel is a safe environment for kids with huge lawns, a den, play marquee, trampolines, swings, slides, climbing wall, play marquee with soft flooring etc.
We serve kids meals around 5.30pm so you can have adult only time later - no more sitting in a hotel room from 6pm after you have put the kids to bed.
Children's play sessions are arranged most days to give parents a change to read a book, take a bath or simply chill out. At least one parent must stay on the premises.
Parents staying in the chateau can easily hear children in rooms upstairs - with or without a baby monitor. It is also no problem if kids pop down crying or simply after more chunks of bread during adult suppers.
There are fridges in the suites so you can keep snacks and drinks handy for hunger attacks. (You can even pop some beers or wine in there for yourselves!)
It's not a problem if kids leave toys strewn everywhere ..although it is always appreciated if they do clear things away.
All suites have two bedrooms - no more sharing a room on holiday!. The suites upstairs have lots of space. They are designed to be luxurious but child friendly.
The wine flows very freely..and you can end up staying up quite late. Jon tends to set a bad example - A Guardian article remarks that he usally has a large glass of wine handy at night!
You never know what the other families are going to be like! Thankfully, there have never been any problems. Kids always get on and most parents seem to manage even if they don't gel with everyone. We have had weeks where all families have wanted to arrange reunions.
Menus each day are set, so there is no choice. However, cold meats, salads and cheeses are always available. Many mums are just grateful they have not cooked the meal and are often thankful that they don't have to make a decision!
Meals are usually taken with other guests, but you can have a quite word with Jon and he will set up an individual table for you. It has only ever happened once though!
The swimming pool is above ground. It is not supervised. It is heated and has been landscaped with decking. It is very usable in good weather. but we do not regard it as a big selling point. There are wonderful beaches only ten miles away and there are swimming pools in nearby towns with flumes etc, but struggles to get to more than 23 degrees.
The play marquee is packed with toys, but kids can be pretty destructive so there is no guarantee that everything works all the time! If batteries have worn out let us know and we will get things going again.
We don't have the full range of facilities offered by big name resorts like Mark Warners and Club Med, but the kids always find more than enough to do here.
There are no TVs in the rooms, but there is one in the salon (with UK tv including Cbbebbies) and one in the play marquee. The cottages do have full UK telly.
The self catering cottages are 50 metres from the chateau and some parents feel this is too far away to leave kids if they fancy a meal in the chateau. However, we can provide baby sitters at additional cost if booked in advance (subject to availability).
The wine flows freely - every now and again we get someone on Trip Advisor saying it comes out of a box. Yes it does, but it is a nice quality wine and it is available in bottles. It is just that with kids it is safer to have boxes, they are less environmentally damaging, don't require recycling and take up less fridge space. You are more than welcome to bring in your own wine - therer are no daft corkage charges. We used to have a supplementary wine list but in three years it was used perhaps three times.
Points to bear in mind:
Children's meals are intentionally simple. We do get some mini gourmets, but the majority of our smaller guests tend to only want pasta, chips, lots of bread and very few green things. However, salads and green stuff can easily be provided! Last season we tried some more adult type food...and it bombed.
Adult suppers are designed so that they don't spoil too much if you are having trouble getting your nippers to sleep. It does mean we are talking hearty food rather than fine dining most nights. On the Friday we do give you a gourmet five course meal, but it is still designed with flexibility in mind.
Le Castel can be quite noisy! Jon dreams of children who do maths homework quietly for 8 hours a day...but it doesn't happen. The great thing is that no parent can feel smug if their child is being quite while others rampage round the grounds or scream the house down..because a few minutes later it could be their nipper wailing or shouting with joy.
We are very good at looking after new parents and have most of the gear you need to make your life easier - cots, high chairs, baby baths, sterilisers, blenders, microwave and fridge in your suite, etc, etc.
You are responsible for your children at all times, espcially on the trampolines, in the den area or in the swimming pool. Jon would like all kids to be wrapped in cotton wool while at Le Castel...however, we seem to attract the slightly more robust families, where parents feel their kids have an element of bounce in them. In an ideal world little Henry wouldn't hit Charlotte over the head with a log...but it does happened.
Roi and Emperor suites are on the first floor and are our most elegant. They have three metre high windows over looking the gardens.
Dauphin is on the second floor in the attic space between the two turrets. It is large and ideal for families with three or four children. The rooms have a combination of small normal windows and velux windows.
Comte is our smallest suite, but it has been designed to make full use of the space. it is ideal for parents with a baby or toddler. It is on the ground floor so you can easily reach your child if he or she starts crying during dinner. You may sometimes have to ask children in the lounge to turn the telly down if you have a baby sleeping during the day.
How do Le Castel and Villa Pia in Italy compare?
Le Castel seems to share a lot of guests with Villa Pia. We both try and make holidays easier for families and have enjoyed a huge amount of recognition from the media because of this innovative approach. However, there are several differences between the two places.
Villa Pia is larger and has more facilities. Le Castel is smaller, more intimate and more luxurious.
Le Castel includes play sessions, but Villa Pia doesn't. However, Villa Pia includes lunches but Le Castel doesn't.
You can take a ferry and drive to Le Castel with all the kids' gear you need. Generally, you need to fly to Villa Pia.
The weather is likely to be better in Italy - Normandy weather is only marginally better than the UK.
Most guests appreciate the long suffering aproach that Le Castel takes and they believe we offer good value for money.
One or two guests a year post iffy reviews on Trip Advisor. Generally they reckon we are too pricey - that is their view and we respect it.
The type of guests we attract rarely ask for a discount, which is great as owner Jon has been known to have a seizure at the very mention of the D word!
There are cheaper and more expensive holidays out there and the idea of this page is to help you make an informed decision.
Le Castel is basically a big old family house rather than a posh hotel. Every now and again some thing goes wrong and Jon starts force feeding the guests fizzy wine to take away the pain.