Domaine St Christophe Feather Down Farms
For a campsite with en-suite bathrooms and a private restaurant, Domaine St Christophe has an awful lot of history – a far cry from the glitz and glamour that such modern fittings may suggest. Step back around 4,000 years and there were already settlers here. In fact, they were campers too... though more out of necessity than choice – Neolithic tribesman who today leave their mark with menhirs and monoliths dotted in the woods nearby. Roll through to the late Roman era where workmen are laying foundations for stables, villas and ancient cloisters and then into modern history, rumbling with the memories of two World Wars ripping through the heart of North East France.
Each has left a story somewhere, whether it’s the looming circular war memorial overlooking the Meuse Valley or the cobbled stone architecture of Saint-Mihiel village. And Domaine St Christophe, founded in 707 and wonderfully looked after through the course of its life, is a place that hasn’t lost its historic charms. Now the home of Savine and Pieter Priester, life has been breathed into the cobbled country farm and its gates have been opened to the buzz of family glamping.
Canvas lodges, positioned in a meadow beside the main buildings, offer a luxury camping habitat. The interiors are clad with wood-panelled furnishings, peppered with handy storage spaces and all bearing the important items you’ll need – cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils and that all important cork-screw. Each lodge has an en suite bathroom with a proper shower and flushing loo and the veranda out front has a BBQ for the sunnier days when you feel like frazzling some skewers.
The real life brought to this campsite, though, is of a far more literal form – the thump and thud of hooves and the braying of Friesian horses. Domaine St Christophe remains a working stables and anyone glamping here can’t refuse the offer of a tour around the yard. The beautiful black mares and their clumsy young foals are an absolute joy to observe and you can’t help but get caught up in Savine and Pieter’s passion. Their love of horses extends to all aspects of the farm and the energy it gives them seems the crux of what makes such great hosts. If you’re new to it all they’ll patiently get you saddled on one of the experienced, learner ponies and whatever your level, there’s always the chance to enjoy some trekking through the farm.
Those who make it beyond the neighbouring paddocks should continue into the surrounding woodland and down across the Meuse to the opposite side of the valley. It’s a 5km walk in total to the Butte de Montsec, a round, colonnaded monument at the top of a hill. On a clear day the views are magnificent and from within you can compare the view with a map of the old World War I battlefield. Savine and Pieter know a lot about the history of the area, particularly of the farm itself, so if you find yourself intrigued they’re the go-to people. Of course its best to chat over a glass of vino, easily arranged if you spend the evening in the sites private restaurant, home to their excellent home cooked food.
FacilitiesThe canvas lodges each feature a double bed, bunk bed and cupboard bed suitable for 1 adult or 2 children (bedding included). Cots and highchairs are available at request. A cooking stove, cool box, table and chairs, sofa and wood for heating and cooking are all included. Each lodge has an en-suite bathroom with flushing toilet, hot shower and towels. There is an extended canopy outside and a BBQ for use. There are 2 deck chairs, and packs of candles and oil for the lamps. The farm also has an honesty shop where you will find a basic range of products to purchase and plenty of the farm's own goods. There's a communal chicken coop where you can go and gather eggs. Savine and Pieter are happy to give a tour of the farm showing you the ponies and horses and getting you saddled up for a ride.
Glampers, families, groups, single-sex groups (by arrangement only), dogs (on a lead) – yes.
Campers and caravaners – no.
NearbyThere is a pleasant 5km walk from the campsite to La Butte de Montsec where you can climb to the hilltop war monument commemorating an American led offensive here during World War I. It is also possible to arrange horse, donkey or carriage rides around this section of countryside. Chat to Savine and Pieter back at base and they'll let you know what's possible during your stay. Experienced riders can enjoy the landscapes themselves and riding lessons on the Friesian horses are offered for anybody else who wishes to learn or simply improve. Lac de Madine, 10km away, is a pleasant place to head if it's sunny. You can rent a canoe and dabble around on the water for the day.
Food & DrinkThe farm shop sells plenty of tasty local produce and, on certain nights, there is a traditional wood-fired oven that's lit for cooking. Grab some local cheeses and ham from the shop and try your hand at cooking your own pizza. The farm also has its own small private restaurant serving simple homemade dishes. There are a few restaurants in the immediate vicinity, particularly in Bislée (a kilometre south), but for the best choice its worth the half hour drive to the larger settlement of Bar-le-Duc.
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