Nature’s bounty: A restorative treehouse stay in the Loire Valley

Updated on 15 May 2024 | 0 Comments

Who needs a TV in your room when you have floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the forest’s finest scenes? Abra Dunsby enjoys a slow-paced, nature-focused treehouse retreat at Loire Valley Lodges

If ever there was an antidote to frenetic, concrete-clad city living, it’s a night or two spent at Loire Valley Lodges, whose stilted wooden treehouses are tucked unobtrusively and respectfully into the seemingly endless greenery of the Duporterie forest, not far from Tours and its nearby famous chateaux. 

Here, the soothing sights and sounds of the forest, clearly visible from the floor-to-ceiling windows of our newfound woodland dwelling, provide the entertainment – and it’s far better than any TV show I’ve watched recently. 

I wake to the cheerful chirruping of the birds and make myself a mug of hot tea before opening the blinds and settling back to see what the forest has in store for us this morning. 

It’s hypnotic and incredibly meditative to simply sit and watch the firs, pines, chestnuts and oaks dappled with early morning sunlight, their branches rippling and swooshing in the breeze. 

There are moments of pure, simple magic taking place in view of the window, too: a red squirrel defying gravity as it hops up a knobbly tree trunk into the swaying canopy above. A plump robin fluttering onto a skinny branch, a dragonfly in its mouth. Breakfast. Speaking of which, ours has just arrived (and luckily it’s infinitely more appetising – sorry, robin.)

Forest views from Sixties lodge at Loire Valley Lodges: Image (Geraldine Martens)Image: Geraldine Martens

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Original touches

Our morning meal is delivered to the treehouse in a wicker basket and placed at the foot of our private terrace area and tied to a rope, so we can pulley it upstairs. A fun, thoughtful and original touch that reflects the ethos of this special place.

We open the basket to discover a tasty assortment of treats: smoked slabs of salmon; creamy local goats cheese; a sweet, thick pear compote, which we slather onto buttered baguettes and flaky pastries; fresh orange juice and a small bottle of ‘elixir’ filled with our daily dose of vitamins.

We take our time to enjoy it all, while savouring more soothing forest scenes from the table on our balcony. 

Breakfast at Loire Valley Lodges: Image (Geraldine Martens)Image: Geraldine Martens

Art and nature

Each of the 18 lodges here has been decorated in a unique style by a different artist: ours is called the Sixties and has been designed by the hotel’s owner and former art dealer, Anne Caroline Frey. 

It’s fittingly kitted out with furniture and art that pays homage to the swinging decade, with retro photos of Mick Jagger and French stars Sylvie Vartan and Michel Polnareff on the walls, taken by celebrated photographer Jean-Marie Perier. 

Other quirky touches include a James Bond-style white egg swivel armchair and warm orange lighting that makes the place feel both cosy and chic. 

This is ‘glamping’ at its most luxurious: there’s a coffee machine, a welcome gift of fresh fruit and chocolates, and a bag that includes a torch and walkie talkie – handy for evening forest walks and for contacting reception.

Meanwhile, the generous shower area features his and hers sinks and delicious-smelling products infused with essential oils by vegan Aussie brand, Leif. 

Sixties Lodge, Loire Valley Lodges: Image (Geraldine Martens)Image: Geraldine Martens

Our treehouse is one of the Spa + Lodges suites, and comes not only with a Jacuzzi sunk into the private deck outside (all lodges have this perk) but also a small-but-perfectly-formed sauna room. Perfect for whiling away another tranquil hour or two in the comfort of your treetop abode, perched 13 feet (4m) above ground. 

The pace here is delectably slow, and while the hotel is full during our stay, it feels pleasantly empty most of the time, as each treehouse is located a good distance from the other, to ensure absolute privacy and a feeling of being alone with nature. 

There are no TVs in the rooms here (you don’t miss them) and wifi is only available in the communal areas, so it’s easy to switch off from the trappings of technology too. 

Terrace view from Loire Valley Lodges (Image: Loire Valley Lodges)Image: Loire Valley Lodges

Outdoor pursuits

Relaxing in your lodge might be tempting enough but there are also private grounds to explore, which include a swimming pool dotted with loungers, swing seats and a Nordic bath; an organic vegetable and herb garden which the onsite restaurant, Ardent, makes use of to create its dishes; and beehives scattered in front of a small cabin with its own sofa and binoculars, where you can sit for a quiet moment to watch at the bees in action. 

Bee cabin, Loire Valley Lodges: Image (Loire Valley Lodges) Image: Loire Valley Lodges 

There’s also a new cabin, the Zome, which offers sound baths for visitors (the hotel is also open to outdoor diners and runs events for corporate groups), or which can be used for spa treatments such as massages. 

The Zome at Loire Valley Lodges (Image: Olivia Travers)Image: Olivia Travers

For guests, such treatments can also be enjoyed from your treehouse, with a spa practitioner who comes to your room or private terrace area, (depending on the weather). Here, your muscles will be worked using natural essential oils inspired by the forest, while you listen to the cacophony of birdsong and breathe in the fresh scents of the earth and tree bark wafting on the breeze. 

The greenery of the hotel grounds is punctuated with striking and surreal modern art installations, from a giant white rhino and a brass skull covered in butterflies, which sits behind the beautiful manicured pool area, to the naked form of a woman fashioned from mesh wiring. It all adds to the fantastical, fairy-tale-like feeling of the place. 

Pool area, Loire Valley Lodges: Image (Loire Valley Lodges)Image: Loire Valley Lodges 

The hotel is also set within 740 acres of wild Duporterie forest, and borders the public bois des Hates, or Hates forest, where you’ll find marked hiking trails and cycle paths (bikes are available to borrow from reception). 

Even if you don’t make it as far as Hates, the Duporterie forest has plenty to keep you enchanted on a woodland wander. On our walk, we are accompanied by the hoots of an owl, until we eventually spot it soaring between the trees. As we sit for a moment by some gnarled old oaks, listening to the birds and enjoying the sunshine, we spot a fawn grazing, before it catches our eye and springs off into the forest depths. 

Haute cuisine

Nature also takes centre stage at the exceptional onsite restaurant, Ardent, which is set within a converted farmhouse and offers four, six or eight-course tasting menus for dinner, devised by Michelin-accredited chef, Thomas Besnault. 

The seasonal, local dishes of the ever-changing menu all pay homage to the forest and its bounties and are artfully presented, often decorated with foraged forest finds such as edible flowers, lichen and pine bark. 

Garden foraging at Loire Valley Lodges: Image (Geraldine Martens)Image: Geraldine Martens

Each dish is a genuine delight, from a starter that celebrates the humble carrot in its many forms, served with a Douglas fir vinaigrette; to monkfish cooked with white asparagus and wild garlic; and a dessert presented beneath a smoking cloche. It contains flavours and textures of the forest, with a cat's tongue biscuit to represent bark, as well as pine nuts and a caramel cream. The meal is topped off with a palate-tingling sorbet – today’s choice is made with pine needles, lemon confit and salt.  

The small restaurant has a convivial atmosphere, with views out across to the gardens and pool, and friendly, professional waiters who will passionately talk you through each course. 

After dinner, in warm weather guests sit outside on the terrace with a drink, or when it’s colder they retreat to the modern but cosy bar area, complete with a fireplace and comfy boucle and velvet sofas in hues of cream, green and burnt orange. Owner Caroline Frey is often around to join guests for a drink too. 

For those who prefer to hide away in their woodland cocoon, an adapted version of the dinner can be served in your treehouse, as can a picnic-style lunch (also served at the bar). 

Ardent's sister restaurant, Asperatus, re-opened at the end of April this year, set in the hotel's aromatics courtyard. Here, food is prepared in a wood-fired outdoor kitchen, with a menu based on fresh products from the vegetable garden and which champions local producers. 

Dining at Ardent, Loire Valley Lodges: Image (Geraldine Martens)Image: Geraldine Martens

Natural approach

In a hotel whose very purpose is to allow nature to sing, it’s unsurprising that an eco-responsible approach lies at its core. The wooden lodges and their interiors have been constructed using local materials; single-use plastic is absent from all rooms and communal areas and the sensory elements of the forest are incorporated into every element of the experience, from the massages to the dining, to our leaving and arrival gift: a cloth bracelet infused with essential oils at the start, and a tree to plant in your own garden when you leave. 

The nature-focused concept at Loire Valley Lodges is straightforward but powerful, and after a couple of slow days spent here reading, walking and watching the light change as it dances on the trees through our treehouse window, I feel remarkably transformed; calmer, more thoughtful, inspired. 

We are simple creatures really, and Loire Valley Lodges celebrates the simplicity of both nature and humanity in all its forms. 

The farmhouse at Loire Valley Lodges: Image (Geraldine Martens)Image: Geraldine Martens

Getting there 

A stay at Loire Valley Lodges starts from £378 (€440) per night including breakfast. For travellers concerned about their carbon footprint, the lodges are easily accessible from London via Paris on the Eurostar. Then from Paris Gare du Nord, it’s just over an hour's journey on the TGV to the train station of Tours. From here, transfers can be arranged to the hotel (around 30 minutes in a cab/car.) 

For more information visit

Main image: Julien Deprez

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