Hotels in France

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Chateau de Sassetot

by Sarah Shuckburgh

With excellent food, romantic rooms and 30 acres of parkland, the 18th century Chateau de Sassetot makes a stylish base for exploring the Alabaster coast between Le Havre and Dieppe.

The chateau has an impressive classical facade, and picturesque but crumbling stables and outbuildings. Rooks wheel above ancient beeches, and bells ring from the nearby village church.

The chateau was privately owned until 1970, but then lay empty for 15 years, and unfortunately few original furnishings survive. The bedrooms vary: ask for a "chambre charme" with a four-poster bed and a bath. Avoid second-floor rooms which are poky and much-partitioned. The honeymoon suite has a huge circular jacuzzi in its own wood-panelled room.

Chef Gregoire Braux prepares superb food, and serves it in several small salons, so the air of intimacy is preserved even when the hotel is full.

Much is made of the chateau's brief brush with celebrity: the vivacious Empress Elisabeth of Austria stayed here for a few weeks in the summer of 1875, with her 8-year-old daughter and a retinue of 70 attendants. Portraits of 'Sissi' and her husband, Emperor Franz Josef, hang everywhere, and postcards of them are on sale in the hall.

The park has an old ice-house, an orangery, a vegetable garden and chicken runs. Nobles have lived here since 1204, and two tulip trees are reputedly over 500 years old.

The sea is only a mile away, and a footpath leads through woods to the chalk cliffs and pebbly beach of les Petites Dalles, and on to the (smaller, despite its name) sandy beach of les Grandes Dalles. Another path leads back from here, and the enjoyable circular walk takes about one and a half hours. The chateau has a tennis court and will also supply mountain bikes.

Seven miles down the coast is Fecamp, with the monastery where Benedictine liqueur has been distilled since the 16th century. Etretat, 2 miles on, has extraordinary wind-eroded cliffs, including one which Maupassant christened the 'elephant'. Honfleur and Deauville, Rouen and Dieppe are all easy day trips from Sassetot.

First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd

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