When it comes to sink or swim, waterside hideaway Brindos Lac & Château has resplendently surfaced to become a siren of peace and play in the Basque countryside. Beside one of France’s largest lakes and many hectares of greenery, its Hispano-Moresque mansion is a vision of vintage glamour; built in the 1930s, party mode has been reactivated here with its new look of crystal-dripping chandeliers, reed-shaped lamps and golden-bamboo furnishings. But likely you’ll spend your time floating about, whether you’re taking cocktails on the pontoon, yoga on the deck, a massage in the over-water spa or a snooze amid waterlilies in the lake lodges. As one of the largest projects the vintage-home hotel brand Millésime have taken on, this is a lakeside stay that will remain buoyant.
39, including seven suites and 10 floating lake lodges.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £173.56 (€198), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates don’t usually include the Continental breakfast spread (€35 a guest, €17.50 for six to 11 year-olds, free for under-sixes).
Two of the hotel’s hideaways (one Millésime, one Merveilleuse) are specially adapted for guests with mobility issues. And there’s an elevator too.
At the hotel
Private lake and electric boats (manned by staff only), leafy grounds, pontoon, spa with hammam and fitness room, concierge, charged laundry service, free WiFi. In rooms: Flatscreen TV, coffee machine with Lavazza coffee, kettle and Mariage Frères teas, minibar with free bottled water, air-conditioning (except in lodges), Gemology bath products.
Our favourite rooms
That ‘floating on air’ feel might be even more ecstatic on water – the best way to find out is to book one of the 10 lodges that rest on platforms over the lake. They’re a little simpler in style than the rooms in the main house, where waterfall chandeliers, floor lamps shaped like reeds, golden-bamboo furnishings and fabrics and finery evoke the house’s vintage and the great outdoors. But the pin-drop seclusion, panoramic views and the fact that they can only be reached by boat give them the romantic edge. Up the ante by booking the one with an alfresco Nordic bath.
The spa has four lake-view hot tubs to soak in, which resemble designer craters. And, come summer, the huge outdoor heated pool opens (from 7am to 9pm), set aside from the lake in a picturesque patch of the grounds.
There’s a hammam and treatment rooms (some for couples) in the château, where semi-precious Gemology products and Millésime’s own plant-based brand ‘éc(h)o’ are used in botanical-garden-scented massages (some with singing bowls), facials that leave you dazzling, body wraps and masks, mani-pedis and more. Plus, personal coaching, aquagym sessions and dance lessons: bolero, sacred spring dancing… However, come summer (from May to October), things get all the dreamier when the floating spa on the lake opens for drift-off rubdowns amid the waterlilies and yoga sessions on a view-blessed pontoon.
Swimwear – most of the distractions here are water-based, and if you’re not frolicking in the lake, you might be front-crawling in one of two pools, steaming yourself in the hammam or paddling in the sea. And, you can easily hire surf gear – after all, Biarritz’a Côte des Basques was where surfing was first introduced to Europeans – but you might want to bring your own wetsuits or rash vests if you have them.
First built in 1438 and remodelled in the 1930s, the château has had a few notable owners, such as eccentric Englishman Sir Reginald Wright, known for his elaborate soirées, and later Serge Blanco, a fullback for the Biarritz Olympique rugby team.
There’s a dedicated family lodge (Intemporels) floating on the lake, offering aquatic pastimes – as such it’s best for swim-confident kids. Babysitting can be arranged on request from €20 an hour. Breakfast is free for under-6s and there's some baby kit..
Silks that flow, shades of blue, ice-queen jewels, and a serpentine silhouette.
Locavore in thought and deed, the hotel’s food is proudly Basque. Chef Hugo De La Barrière borrows influences from either side of the border, countryside and sea, serving up the likes of pata negra, ember-baked octopus with piquillo peppers and lemon caviar, foie gras with kiwi chutney, rosemary- and honey-infused roast pork with white beans and chorizo, or spider crab with smoked paprika and tomato-soaked bread, plus a selection of local cakes and pastries. Guests dine in a conservatory-style dining room, strung with trailing greenery and chandeliers, where a huge bank of arched windows frame painterly views. Or sit in the sun on the lakeside terrace. A second, more casual eatery by the pool serves light healthy dishes. Less healthy but enticing nonetheless is the Chocolaterie – a collaboration with emblematic local makers Cazenave – for sweet things, a savoury-sweet brunch and hot-chocolates – plus some live chocolate artistry at your table. It ties in nicely with Basque history, as not far from here, in Bayonne, chocolate was introduced to France to celebrate the wedding of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria.
A piano in the corner, a restored stone fireplace with a storeys-high chimney, and yet more chandeliers cascading glamorously from above: the indoor bar, close to the lobby, makes an elegant space for convivial cocktail hours in the cooler months. In summer, servers board the hotel’s pontoon to serve chilled txakoli wine and cider, plus a selection of border-straddling snacks (platters of Bellota and Bayonne ham, rillettes and terrines, smoked trout, madeleines and Basque cheesecake). And, the hotel's cocktail game is strong, with signature sippers such as the Beltza with armagnac, Cazenave chocolate-infused black-tea liqueur, and cherry bitters; or the Morea with tequila, raspberry eau de vie, hibiscus-infused rosé vermouth, elderflower liqueur, Verjus and pink lemonade.
Lunch from 12 noon to 5pm and take dinner from 7pm till 11pm. Drinks run till midnight.
Perfectly timed for early-flight breakfasts and ‘just got home’ munchies, room service runs from 6am to 1am.
Brindos Lac & Château is deep in Basque Country on the shore of one of France’s largest private lakes, close to Biarritz and Anglet’s blustery, surf’s up beaches along the Atlantic coast.
Biarritz Airport is just around the corner from the hotel. The hotel’s free shuttle (which sits up to six) takes just five minutes there and back. Flights arrive direct from several major cities in Europe.
Biarritz railway station is also just a five-minute drive from the hotel and the shuttle stops there too. From Paris, a TGV train will speed you here in around four hours, and there are direct links to Bordeaux, Tours and Toulouse, so if you’re coming from the UK, you can easily hop over on the Eurostar and change. The scenery along the way will put you in the mood for pastoral adventures.
There are plenty of plages to choose from – 11 in Anglet and six in Biarritz – so you’ll want some wheels for hopping between them, especially if you need to strap on a surfboard (and you really should – there are world-class breaks here). The hotel has free valet parking onsite.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s a whole lotta lake here, with one of the largest private bodies of water in France at your disposal. So, halcyon days of cooling dips, Marco Polo-ing, zipping about in a staff-manned e-boat and making friends with the resident ducks await. That is, when you’re not getting soothed in the floating spa cabins, meditating or yoga-contorting on the deck, or stopping to enjoy the serenity, avec du vin, on the pontoon. But, there are also 12 hectares of Basque countryside flush with broom, mimosa, plane trees and sunflowers to hike and bike through, and a trail’s been gently cleared around the water. Then, take your pick of 17 beaches along the Atlantic coast. A touch wind-blustered and beloved by surfers, they’re also suited to sunbathing depending on the season. But, it’s de rigueur here to hop on a board and crest along the mountainous coast on the sizable breaks that roll in. Côte des Basques is where it all began (well, for the Europeans anyway), when writer Peter Viertel introduced the sport to France, so there’s no better place to learn how to ride those waves; volleyball tournaments are held on the sand too. Anglet’s coastline tends to be wilder and more remote, while Biarritz’s is more glamorous and lively. The ‘ritz’ part of its name has rung true since the 19th century when emperor Napoleon III and empress Eugénie holidayed here, inspiring a wave of Belle Époque buildings. Its sheen has been tarnished by some modernisation, but the Port Vieux neighbourhood has plenty of as-it-was charm, and it’s here you’ll find the exceedingly grand Villa Belza, placed dramatically atop a rocky outcrop. If lakes are a little too low-key for your liking, trek out to the Gorges of Kakuetta, where waters gush forth over the rocks and trickle merrily through woodland. Or dry off and head up into the Crêtes d'Iparla, undulating hills in the Pyrenees (the antique La Rhune train chugs into the mountains too if you’re le tired). And, further inland you can see the beautiful and traditionally Basque (i.e. red and white) residence of Edmond Rostand, better known as the lyrical penman of Cyrano de Bergerac. Or, as you’re so close to the Spanish border, give your tastebuds the time of their life with a gastro tour of world-leading gourmet hub San Sebastián, around a 45-minute drive away.
Basque cuisine has a strong sense of identity outside of France and Spain’s culinary tropes. You’ll dine à l'ancienne here, tucking into dishes that have been handed down or made using centuries-old methods. Rustic stews, charcoal-cooked meats and fish, sheep’s cheeses, game and pintxos (Basque tapas) are all washed down with local cider or sparkling white wine txakoli. There’s little in the way of eateries nearby, but Biarritz basks in the reflected glory of San Sebastián and shines in its own right. First, get to know chef Anthony Orjollet who runs two sustainable restaurants here. Elements may be casual in manner, but it takes its food seriously, with aged steaks cooked over flames and imaginative salads, such as kale leaves with hemp salt, foie gras, chanterelles, seaweed chutney and tuna jus. And Epoq offers more of the same in a greenhouse-style setting, plus a range of baos and grilled cheeses. For whole fish to share, garlic-soused langoustines, smoky grilled squid and other sea fare, head for the terrace at La Plancha D’ilbarritz, and keep an eye out for owner ‘the captain’ – you’ll know him by the hat. And, make a beeline for the border to try some of the world’s best grub in San Sebastián. There’s the highest concentration of Michelin stars in Europe here, so aside from footing the bill you can’t really put a step wrong. But, perhaps the two most celebrated are Arzak and Akelarre. Both pioneered New Basque cuisine, and the former has its own lab and a menu keeps you guessing. But expect the likes of egg ‘balloons’ filled with foie gras; anchovies paired with strawberries; monkfish and mussels with nori ‘shells’; and the signature hake in green sauce. Akelarre champions the traditional in its own unique style, serving black-pudding biscuits, souffléd kokotxa with white garlic pil pil, and red mullet with a praline made of the fish’s head and bones.
Les Halles market is a vast epicurean emporium spanning the Avenue du Maréchal Foch and Rue Gambetta. There are colourful piles of produce and shops to pick up souvenirs, plus counters laden with cheese wheels and haunches of jamón – but also cafés and wine bars to take a breather at. Try tonka-bean brownies at Café Miremont, dainty flavour-burst bites at Puig & Daro, and coffee at Mokafina.
Sure, you can try your luck for an invite to Carré Coast members’ club where cutting-edge techno gives life to the dancefloor, or push your luck at the Casino Barrière. But Biarrots, not unjustifiably, have bottomless stomachs, so a night out revolves around food whether you’ve sought it out or not, and your glass of wine will likely be paired with a plate of pintxos. L’Artnoa has around 600 bottles to try including natural and biodynamic picks, and will fix up a spread of foie, cheese and charcuterie too. Bar Jean is a little more traditional – after all, it’s one of the oldest bars here – and is ideal for an apéritif with an array of edible things on sticks, slicked onto crostini or sandwiched in mini brioches.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this floats-our-boat (and more) hotel close to Biarritz, wrung out their wetsuits and tucked into their hunk of jamón, a full account of their go-with-the-flow break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Brindos Lac & Château in Basque Country…
If local legend is to be believed, the best date to check in to divinely romantic Basque Country stay Brindos Lac & Château is 14 September. Many years ago, it was then that a mysterious beggarwoman whispered incantations over the moonlit waters of Brindos lake and when the clock struck midnight its waterlilies turned into winged beauties, who danced under the stars then dove under the surface and disappeared. Now, it’s not a definite ‘no’, but we don’t want to get your hopes up about any otherworldly goings-on, so let us extol the more earthly virtues of this lavish lacustrine hideaway. The 1930s mansion, an elegant assemblage of turrets, pavilions and whitewashed wings with sprays of carnelian foliage, is the largest project master-renovators and hotel experts Millésime have taken on (bulking up an impressive portfolio of Smith stablemates such as Porto’s Cocorico and Champagne’s Château de Sacy). And, a personal one for artistic director Marie-Christine Mecoen, who hails from the region. She’s used her own brand of necromancy to re-spark the house’s Hispano-Moresque charm, restoring antique furnishings where possible and adding waterfall chandeliers, lamps shaped like clusters of reeds, golden bamboo furnishings and fabrics and linens from fine French ateliers. And the lake itself is no mere water feature: one of the largest private lakes in France, It’s become a sort of grown-up waterpark, where cocktails are taken on the pontoon, massages are carried out in floating cabins, electric boats zig-zag across and 10 lodges allow guests to sleep drifting among the waterlilies. We can’t promise any hocus-pocus, but the magic here is very real.