While enjoying a summer evening cocktail with friends on a 16th century terraced balcony overlooking the expansive gardens below at the Chateau de Chambord, I knew with aching clarity that I was at one of the most remarkable places on Earth. The unfathomable, grandiose castle was commissioned and partially designed by King Francois I, who was named by the French as “Le bâtisseur” (“The Builder”).
Builder, indeed! The jaw-dropping structure and its ingenious architecture transported me to 1519, the year it was completed. It was unlike any building I’d ever seen or toured, and it perfectly symbolized my July trip to France’s Loire Valley, the famed “Valley of Kings” that unfurls spectacularly through the country’s central region, home to hundreds of other chateaus.
Chambord is a 15-minute drive from Les Bordes Estate & Golf Club, which was what inspired me to visit France. It sits gorgeously amid the Loire Valley’s ancient towns, timeless architecture, luscious vineyards, dreamy landscapes, and prevailing “joie de vivre” (“joy of life”). There are exclusive luxury golf clubs, and then there is Les Bordes and its Estate.
Located roughly 90 minutes south of Paris and nestled upon 1,400 acres of pristine property in the vast Solonge Forest, Les Bordes elicits a visceral feeling of serenity the minute one drives through the gated entryway. The term oasis comes to mind, one where stress almost ceases to exist. There is an overwhelming feeling of calm, beauty, grace and classic rustic charm permeating throughout Les Bordes.
One of the defining features of expansive private estates, and particularly ones with multiple golf courses on site, is the initial drive from entrance to clubhouse. The intent is generally to arouse one’s senses, serving as a visual appetizer for the experiences that await. And the long winding road from gate to facilities at Les Bordes delivers. First time guests will find their heads on a swivel devouring the buffet of varying landscapes, with lanes weaving between the forest, home to red deer, wild boar and pheasants, sweeping lakes and natural clearings.
For golf enthusiasts, it provides a passing glimpse at the brand-new Gil Hanse-designed 18-hole “New Course,” which beckons one to unpack the clubs first and leave the suitcases for later. Hanse also designed the Wild Piglet, a 10-hole short course that opened in 2020. A second 18-hole layout at Les Bordes (The Old Course) combines with Hanse’s work to provide arguably Continental Europe’s finest golf club.
The New Course lives up to Hanse’s reputation as perhaps the finest golf course architect of his time, a master craftsman who is to golf course design what DaVinci was to the Renaissance. No wonder club members have come from around the globe, including Europe, the United States, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. Many belong to other iconic golf clubs worldwide, their discerning acumen illuminating the excellence of Les Bordes.
I stayed in one of the member-guest cottages, which are a revelation in their refined simplicity – at once both immensely satisfying and deeply soul-stirring through the sophisticated décor and luxurious natural setting. It’s a wonder I was able to drag myself out of the sumptuous bedding or pulsating pie-plate shower, but adventures called!
A wine-tasting with cheese and meat boards whilst boat cruising on the Loire River made for an exceptional afternoon. Likewise, attending a concert at Chambord performed by a virtuoso cello player and astonishing accordionist, added a lovely musical touch. As did the gastronomic mastery at Les Bordes, where the appetizers and meals offer bountiful selections ranging from fresh croissants, crepes, eggs, sausages, farm-to-table vegetables, pork, prawns and savory sauces!
Palette-pleasing foods and drink, wonderful courses, and first-class service welcome those at the private golf club. They are but some of the many alluring aspects found or coming to the property. A Six Senses boutique luxury hotel and spa is planned for Belair, the 19th Century chateau on property that was built by a baron and is as magnificent as it is unique.
Les Bordes Estate has partnered with two of London’s pre-eminent design houses, as it transforms from a world-leading golf venue to a luxurious bolthole for international homeowners through the capsule collection of homes at Cour du Baron.
Leading architects Michaelis Boyd – known for their work designing interiors for Soho House (LA, Berlin, Oxfordshire), and The Groucho member’s club in London – and multi award-winning interior design studio Morpheus & Co. (Six Senses Residences Courchevel, Club Thirty Nine, Monte Carlo) have been commissioned by Les Bordes to collaborate on delivery of the much-awaited Cour du Baron residences, as well as breathing new life into existing buildings on the estate.
Taking inspiration from the historic 13th Century priory and agricultural buildings dotted around the estate, Michaelis Boyd’s designs have retained original features – weathered stonework and clay roof tiles, dramatic high ceilings, exposed beams and rustic limestone flooring that injects a modern vernacular to create contemporary, light filled spaces.
The phase-one development of 45 residential dwellings – offered first to golf club members – sits in a secluded wooded area to the south of the site. Architects Michaelis Boyd designed three distinct styles that translate across the three- to six-bedroom homes with exterior materials favoring a simple palette, allowing a natural connection between the varied architectural languages. Each property will feature an extensive outdoor area interconnecting with the surrounding woodland, creating an authentic connection with the natural world. Each of the different styles is available in a variety of sizes to suit every individual and their family.
The phase-two development of 48 more residential dwellings will be offered to non-golf-club members. Offering unique lifestyle choices, Les Bordes is developing a community where all family members have endless possibilities for fun and adventure, with natural swimming lakes and pools, beaches, watersports, go-karting, archery, pony riding and biking and walking trails among the myriad activities available to pursue on-site.
Future investment plans, in addition to the announced partnership with Six Senses, include a village square with shops and restaurants and a variety of residential villas in various styles, as well as an equestrian center, an organic farm, an art gallery and outdoor amphitheater.
My visit to Les Bordes and the Loire Valley was memorable in the extreme. It stoked my appetite for more. Bon appetite! Vive le France!