Less than an hour from Paris, country retreat Le Barn is the stuff of urbanites’ dreams, bringing considered design to the Rambouillet forest. The sprawling estate borrows the generous proportions and unpretentious atmosphere of a Midwestern ranch, and its inch-perfect interiors – the work of Parisian design studio Be-Poles – have more than a touch of the Shakers about them. The food, on the other hand, is every inch a French affair. Dishes in restaurant La Serre are a masterclass in Gallic country cuisine, served in a sun-soaked greenhouse. Beyond the glass, the oak- and elm-studded grounds are covetable for their looks alone, but they’re also home to first-rate stables, a Scandinavian spa, biking trails, a lake and more. Dabble in a little or come for the lot; this is the countryside at its most accommodating.
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A regional speciality, such as locally made jam or paté
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £141.88 (€166), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.65 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a buffet breakfast of pastries, rustic bread, farm-fresh eggs, just-squeezed juices and more.
Next to the bar and restaurant you'll find l’Atelier, where cooking and cocktail-making classes are held. You can also accompany the chef as he collects the day’s produce at the farm, picking your own fruit and vegetables.
At the hotel
Vast grounds with walking trails, stables, a pond and a volleyball court; spa with a hammam, sauna and nordic hot tubs; projection room; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV; minibar stocked with local products; tea- and coffee-making kit; and eucalyptus-based bath products made specially for the hotel.
Our favourite rooms
It might be the most expensive of the lot, but the 55sq m Le Barn Suite is well worth its price tag. Beautifully furnished by Parisian design studio Be-Poles, it has a large living room, a kitchen, a cosy bedroom and a spacious private terrace with a barbecue.
There’s no pool, but you can take a dip in the wood-fired Nordic hot tubs instead: they’re outside, surrounded by decking and separated by neatly planted borders.
Le Barn has a sauna, hammam, Scandi-style hot tubs and a treatment room staffed by an ayurvedic masseur (who’s there every day) and an osteopath (who comes twice a week). Between them, they’re able to provide everything from muscle-soothing sessions to a tailored program for chronic aches and pains. Yoga classes are run seasonally and on request.
It really depends on how much you plan to do. Some come to kick back and enjoy the fresh air from the comfort of the Scandinavian hot tubs, others go all out with horse riding, biking, running and fishing. If you’re into golf, don’t forget your clubs – there’s an excellent course nearby.
All public areas are wheelchair accessible, and there are several specially adapted rooms.
Le Barn is perfect for families: children will love the vast grounds, games areas and the wealth of activities on offer. Some rooms can be connected and turned into kids' dorms; others can fit a cot or extra bed. Babysitting is available, too.
Children of all ages will love Le Barn, but those over six will get the most out of the expansive grounds and wealth of activities on offer.
Superior Rooms and larger can fit a child up to 12 on a sofa bed. Certain Deluxe Rooms can be connected and turned into a kids' dorm with up to six beds, making the hotel perfect for large families or those travelling in groups.
Outside, you’ve got acres of grounds with an outdoor play area and areas for football, badminton, croquet, baseball and beach volleyball. The stables offers children's horse-riding lessons, and little Smiths can also try their luck fishing in the lake. Inside, there are board games, art materials, games consoles and a projection room for films.
There’s no children's menu, but the restaurants are very family friendly and have high chairs for the youngest Smiths. The staff are more than happy to heat up milk, too.
Yes. The hotel recycles waste and water, and composts anything organic from the kitchens. The ingredients used in the restaurant are either grown on their own farm or sourced from local producers and markets.
We’re keen on the tables in the greenhouse, but the terrace can’t be beaten on a balmy evening.
Get back to nature with olive greens and earthy tones.
La Serre (meaning greenhouse) is Le Barn’s gourmet restaurant. The space is split in two, with the main room leading to a second space encased entirely in glass, bathing every corner with daylight. Simple wooden furnishings lend an organic edge, and potted plants are scattered across the floor, shelves and window sills, echoing the verdant landscape outside. The look is entirely fitting, as chef Marc Pagel is devoted to the land, doing all his cooking with produce that’s either grown onsite or sourced from nearby farms and markets. The menus are seasonal and ever changing as a result, but you can expect rustic staples like chicken casseroles, Gravlax salmon and veal blanquette. Thin-base pizzas are fired in the restaurant's wood-burning oven, which was made bespoke.
The bar stays in the organic vein with plenty of wood, potted plants and a vast Indochinese-style painting depicting a leafy and exotic vista. Comfy armchairs and sofas are arranged around the edge of the room, leaving space for the centrepiece: a tall, custom-made stove clad in cream tiles. The bar’s part of the lobby, so you couldn't hope for a warmer welcome when checking in on a cold winter’s morning.
Breakfast is served until 10am (10.30am on weekends), lunch is from noon to 2pm, and dinner's from 7.30pm to 10.30pm.
You can ask for breakfast to be served on your private terrace, where you’ll be able to hear the birds as you sip your morning coffee.
Le Barn is in the commune of Bonnelles, about 45km south of Paris.
Paris Orly is the closest of the capital’s airports, just 35 minutes’ drive away. You can fly directly from London Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham airports. If you’re coming from elsewhere, you’ll probably touch down at Paris Charles de Gaulles; from there, it’s around an hour’s drive to the hotel.
Catch the Eurostar from St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord, then hop onto Metro line 4 (the blue one) to Montparnasse-Bienvenue, where you can take regional services to Rambouillet. From there, it’s a short cab ride to the hotel.
If you don’t mind driving yourself, a car will come in handy:there’s plenty to see in the surrounding countryside and public transport’s thin on the ground. The Smith24 team can arrange your hire, and there’s free valet parking at the hotel, too.
Worth getting out of bed for
Le Barn’s location is its trump card – under an hour from the centre of Paris, yet worlds apart in character. On the hotel’s leafy grounds, you can play pétanque, badminton and croquet. Put the spring back into your step with a limbering yoga class, or swing into the saddle of one the hotel’s trusty steeds. The surrounding forest is criss-crossed with walking, running and biking trails, and the valley is traversed by the scenic cycle route that runs from the centre of Paris all the way to Mont St Michel on the coast. Then again, the hotel’s just as suited to doing very little at all: weary city dwellers looking to slow things down will relish soaking in the open-air hot tubs, boating on the pond and wandering in the woods. If you’re serious about improving your riding, arrange a session at Haras de la Cense, the natural horsemanship centre that backs onto the estate. Founder and entrepreneur William Kriegel (who’s also one of the partners behind Le Barn) developed his own technique, the La Cense Method, which focuses on nurturing the bond between horse and rider. The hotel’s other neighbour is the Château de Rochefort golf course, an 18-hole wooded course that’s open all year-round. If you’ve never seen the Sun King’s palace, now’s as good a chance as any – Versailles is only 45 minutes away by car.
There’s not a huge amount in the immediate area, but if you do want to have lunch out, try Le Bistrot de la Cave in the medieval town of Dourdan. The owner of this local bistro and wine bar does most of the cooking, taking the difficulty out of choosing what to order – it’s really down to what he can do on the day. The dishes are rustic and hearty and there’s a fine selection of wines in the cellar. It’s right outside the castle walls, too, so grab a table outside if the weather’s pleasant.
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 country estate in Bonnelles and unpacked their homemade jam, a full account of their rustic retreat will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Le Barn in Bonnelles…
Parisians have had country retreats for as long as they’ve had couturiers, but they’re not all like this one. As splendid as they are, châteaus don’t necessarily inspire that cosy, home-from-home ambiance – a feeling that’s more akin to stepping into the house of an old friend than that of a deposed aristocrat. Le Barn, on the other, does just that. Here, pomp and ceremony give way to the honesty of a French homestead, given a top-to-tail refit that unites the restraint of the Shakers with the panache of a Parisian designer. In the rooms, reminders of the outdoors are everywhere: grainy wooden furniture, pastoral artwork and curtains cut from Barbour fabric. Each one has its own terrace, too, so you’re never far from the sight and scent of the meadows. At Le Barn, the pace of city life soon gives way to the rhythm of the seasons – in summer, you’ll find yourself drawn to the hammocks slung between the silver birch trees; when the leaves begin to fall, it’s the stove-warmed bar that sounds its siren call.
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