In the land of grand châteaux is the Château de Courances. In the ‘hamlet’ of Courances is a pretty row of outbuildings: a restored mill, a pump room and an atelier. Magnificent trees tower behind and the château lies beyond. Ninety minutes from Paris, the setting is historic and rural. You drive through the outer château wall, pass the whooshing spring that feeds the mill, and enter your chosen home. Find warmth, comfort and simple style – and a welcome basket of produce. If you come as a group, the houses interlink – discreetly; the beautiful lawns are shared and the terraces are private. Living spaces are lofty but have a cosy feel, so sink into sofas and play games by the log-burners. Bedrooms feel soothing, and rustic. The single in Le Moulin has a window through which you see the water rushing past; two bathrooms have original tubs from the 17th-century château. But best of all are the views of the Jardin Japonais – one of the most famous gardens in France. From here, a short walk brings you to impressive lakes and avenues. For real, wild nature, borrow the bikes and pedal to the Forest of Fontainbleau.