Mullions and towers and heavy oak doors softened by glorious pink-gold brick and a thoroughly welcoming face: château it certainly is, forbidding definitely not. The interior does not disappoint in its big rooms with brick and stone walls, impressive open fires, hand painted frescos, genuine arrow slits and antique tiled floors. A wonderfully eclectic mix of elegant chairs, squidgy sofas and antique pieces makes the atmosphere warm and homely, never precious or formal. There are bedrooms galore, as many bathrooms, play spaces for children and a triple-aspect library full of (English) books, as well as a TV in the salon if you want to gather in front of a film. The tranquil park holds a generous swimming pool and room for all to relax and play. One of the loveliest parts of France, the Ariège rises to the glorious peaks of the High Pyrenees over rolling farmland, mountain-bright rivers and unspoilt villages. With famously unpolluted air and ideal weather all year round, it’s a walkers’ heaven, has white-water excitements and masses to explore in bastide towns, Neolithic painted caves and art-filled cities such as Toulouse and Carcassonne.