Roots Manoeuvre – a heavenly escape to the forest at Loire Valley Lodges

IF YOU GO down to the woods today… you’ll find an array of magical experiences await you at Loire Valley Lodges. Nested within 750 acres of the The Duporterie forest, sit 18 unique treehouse hideaways,  each one styled by a different contemporary taste-maker – photographers, sculptors and graffiti artists have all left their mark.

The addition of contemporary art to the centuries-old forest adds a sense of otherworldliness, amplifying the woodlands natural beauty and creating a sense of the extraordinary.  Wait – is that a huge whale skeleton emerging from the Lake?

A reclining Michel Audiard angel, indulging in a spot of forest bathing?  The marriage of modern art and luxury hotels is nothing new, but in this staggeringly beautiful bucolic setting, the effect is truly unique. 

But first – a moment for the lodges themselves. Situated 4 metres high, within the treetops, and accessible by a wooden staircase, our ‘room’ is the stuff of childhood tree-house dreams.

Comfort reigns supreme, with alfresco hot tubs as standard, the most inviting of beds, panoramic woodland views, products by uber-hip beauty brand Lief and a teddy-bears picnic of a breakfast (if the teddy bear in question was a Michelin-starred chef, that is), delivered each morning via a pulley system to one’s terrace.

As ever, there’s an exact correlation between the commitment, thoughtfulness and precision a hotel provide in their service, to the level of relaxation which their guests can enjoy. Loire Valley Lodges epitomises this.

Fancy a herbal tea (leaves sourced from the onsite permaculture garden, of course)? Cue tiny gauze teabags in the room, ready to be filled with your choice of fresh herbs. Concerned about the lack of phone reception? Hey presto – walkie talkies, so the hotels helpful staff are on call 24/7.

Nervous about making it back to your lodge post-supper, in the dark? Torches come as standard. The woodland setting may be rustic, but the luxurious, considered service and exemplary beauty of the lodges is truly first class, which  explains the hotels’ recent acquisition of the highly coveted Michelin Key award. 

As one would expect in the Loire Valley, Gastronomy is a central focus. Head chef Thomas Besnault harnesses the flavours of the forest – think moss, pine essence and edible flowers –  in his wildly creative and utterly delicious 8-course tasting menu, which we enjoy at his chic, lively Ardent restaurant.  Dishes such as our superlative starter of breaded barefoot mushrooms, hazelnuts and lichen capture the heady woody allure of our surroundings.

Besnault works closely with his team of gardeners, to ensure almost all fresh produce used, is grown organically onsite.  A second eatery, Asperatus, opening this Spring, will host guest chefs Gil Nogueira and Sayaka Sawaguchi and is sure to enrapture gourmands and gourmets alike. 

Our 48 hours at Loire Valley Lodges raced by, but the peaceful effects are hopefully here to stay. The heavenly 20m fresh water swimming pool, situated within aromatic gardens, provided the hub for a perfect Saturday, where we alternated between sunbathing, dips in the 40 degree Nordic bath, and leisurely swims.

This lazy daze was punctuated only by a stroll back to the lodge for a divine massage on our terrace – where the talented masseuse used essences of site-grown plants, trees and herbs to soothe away any trace of urban stress. Followed by a gentle cycle (mountain bikes are complimentary for all guests) though the enchanted forest.

And for more adventurous guests, activities are endless. The charming hotel staff will gladly arrange jaunts to local vineyards, fairytale Chateau, gourmet cruises down the ridiculously picturesque Cher river, and even hot air balloon rides. The local town Tours is well worth seeing for its quintessentially French historic beauty. We visited on the first hot weekend of the season – Tours’ ‘ Centre de la Ville’ was abuzz with late Spring magic.

Flushed faces soaking up longed-for Vitamin D, Aperol Spritz glasses clinking in the sunshine and friends and families of all ages, making merry after months of hibernation. Whether you choose to stay put, and  bathe in the healing goodness of the forests’ endless Douglas fir, oak and chestnut trees, or enjoy every activity the Loire Valley has to offer, an unforgettable stay awaits.

And given the mere hop, skip and a jump from Paris (just over 1hr by train), Loire Valley Lodges makes for the perfect Pied à Terre for those visiting the Paris Olympics this summer. If only an ‘extreme relaxation’ category existed, Loire Valley Lodges may find themself on the receipt of an Olympic gold medal. 

by Thea Lewis-Yates Rooms from £342