Château Grand Barrail in Saint-Emilion: A luxury hotel you’ll visit time and time again
By LAURA TOOGOOD
As my love of travel has developed over the years, I have found that there are not many destinations I would visit twice. Not because I don’t like the destination, in fact, more often than not I am blown away by places. Rather, I feel a second trip to familiar territory can at times be a wasted journey considering there is so much of the world to explore and so many hidden gems to discover.
However, there is one destination that is exempt from this line of thought. It is a destination that I would visit time and time again, namely: Saint-Emilion and the impressive Château Grand Barrail. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Château Grand Barrail is situated opposite the vineyards of Château Figeac and is beautiful to behold.
The 19th-century building is a unique property and far surpasses any others in the area. It embodies the local culture and is utterly enchanting. A number of famous vineyards are right on the doorstep and the hotel really makes the most of being nestled among the vines. Many of the rooms (and also the dining terrace) boast uninterrupted views that overlook the bundles of grapes growing in impeccable rows outside. The grounds of Château Grand Barrail are stunning and the smooth lake in front of the main building adds to the charm.
The hotel has a peaceful atmosphere and meets your every need when it comes to relaxation. The intimate spa overlooks the vineyards and provides a glorious panorama during sunset. It has a number of advanced skincare treatments available and the facials are particularly impressive. Whether you want to give your skin a moisture boost or target fine lines, there is a bespoke treatment available for every client.
In fact, the tailored experience is something the spa prides itself on offering. While it is possible to book a spa package and visit just for the day, this facility is more popular with affable guests who are already staying in the hotel. Many of the treatments draw on local ingredients, with grape-based beauty products an obvious inclusion.
One of the most appealing areas of the spa is the hot tub and this offers the best views of the grounds. This is indoors; however, there is also an outdoor swimming pool that is heated throughout the year. Other additions include steam room and sauna facilities, as well as a private relaxation area.
You can visit Château Grand Barrail for a quiet break that involves lazing by the pool and meandering through the grounds. However, it would not be right to visit without making a trip to nearby Saint-Emilion, which is a World Heritage site. It is one of France’s most beautiful medieval towns and it is only a short drive or cycle away. The view from the top of the town is likely to take your breath away and beneath you can see a maze of wine shops, cafes, French boutiques and quaint restaurants, which are certainly worth exploring.
While there are plenty of places to dine in Saint-Emilion, if you chose to make the most of the hotel’s bicycles, I would also suggest cycling to Montagne to try a hidden gem of a restaurant known as Le Vieux Presbytère. Prior booking is recommended and truly excellent French dishes make the most of the local produce. If you visit for lunch, it is possible to cycle right past the famous Chateau Petrus. Weaving through some of the world’s highly renowned vineyards is an experience not to be missed. It also gives you a chance to admire typically French countryside and although the terrain slopes at times, it is mainly an easy cycle ride.
Back at Château Grand Barrail, those who select a half-board stay will not be disappointed. Dinner is served in a decadent conservatory or on the terrace outside, depending upon the time of year. If you sit in the former, you will be able to admire the ornate stained glass windows and statement antiques. Meanwhile, the latter provides a model view of Bordeaux scenery.
Unless you opt for a-la-carte, the menu will be pre-selected for you and matched with local vintages. While it is possible to change the dishes, the recommendations are always worth trying. I have to admit, I did change my main course on the second evening but only because I was so impressed by the scallops that I wanted to enjoy them a second time. Other highlights include the venison dishes, oysters and an incredible cheeseboard that is served before dessert. Needless to say, I left the dining room feeling extremely full and I only just managed to find space to squeeze in the little chocolate truffles that were left on my pillow before bedtime!
While it is possible to visit any time of the year, I recommend a stay in early summer or during the wine harvest if you want to enjoy a slightly quieter time than during high season. If I am completely honest, I would happily return at any time of year to enjoy this faultless holiday. Even when the sun is not shining brightly outside, you will be captivated by the local traditions.
There are parts of the world that leave you wanting more and more, no matter how often you stay, and this is certainly the case with Château Grand Barrail.
Watch a film from our visit to Château Grand Barrail on Sloaney TV…
Château Grand Barrail is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which provides Luxury Boutique Hotels and Resorts from around the world. More information, including how to book, can be found online at www.slh.com or by telephoning 0800 0482 314. More information can also be found at: www.grand-barrail.com/