Château des Briottières - 24km N of Angers, Rte de Marigné, Champigné (02.41.42.00.02/www.briottieres.com). €€€. The frustration of seeing so many glorious châteaux but never being able to stay in one is solved at this gorgeous, family-run 16th-century castle, which oozes history and romance from every nook and cranny. In fact the whole place is so lovely, with its ancient park, swimming pool and sumptuous period decor, that you might never want to leave. The 11 rooms all feature antique furniture, thick floral fabrics and bathrooms big enough to live in. All in all, a superlative, princely experience.
Château de Verrières – Saumur, 53 rue d’Alsace (02.41.38.05.15/www.chateau-verrieres.com). €€€. Uno the dog bounds out to greet you, Andrew the English handyman waves hello, and Thierry and Yolaine, the welcoming owners, take your bags inside their sumptuous belle époque home, built by one of the Louvre’s architects. Thus begins one of the most memorable stays in the Loire Valley. This is the perfect hideaway, brimming with antique furniture, sculpted wood panelling and views to die for over Saumur’s castle.
La Croix Blanche - 14km E of Saumur, 7 pl Plantagenêts, Fontevraud (02.41.51.71.11/www.fontevraud.net). €€. The Croix Blanche coach house has been around since medieval times and couldn’t be in a better location, right next door to Fontevraud Abbey. Until a few years ago it was the main port of call for coach trips, but the passionate new owners have put a stop to that by revamping most of the bedrooms in bright, art deco style. Dining here is an experience in itself, and if you plan to visit in the winter try to come for one of the truffle-hunting weekends when the owners take you and a lovely Labrador out to hunt the black diamonds of the Loire.
Le Diderot – Chinon, 4 rue de Buffon (02.47.93.18.87/www.hoteldiderot.com). €. With ancient beams, 19th-century furniture, warm-toned fabrics and a flower-filled terrace, the ivy-clad Diderot is one of those cutesy, olde-worlde hotels that makes you feel snug as soon as you step through the door. In summer breakfast is served on the terrace, but it’s almost worth coming in winter just to take advantage of the roaring fire.
Hôtel d’Anjou – Angers, 1 bd Foch (02.41.21.12.11/www.hoteldanjou.fr). €€. Angers has surprisingly few decent places to stay in the city centre, but this place is an exception to the rule, with 53 bedrooms all individually decorated in plush fabrics with traditional French furniture. Its restaurant, La Salamandre, is a François I-style dining room serving traditional cuisine, and for those in search of pampering in-room massages with essential oils can be organised.
Hôtel La Marine de Loire - 10km E of Saumur, 9 quai de la Loire, Montsoreau (02.41.50.18.21/www.hotel-lamarinedeloire.com). €€€. This tasteful hotel is in a great location at the foot of the Château de Montsoreau, between Fontevraud Abbey and Saumur. The beautifully furnished rooms are decorated in airy pastels, and there’s a peaceful garden for lounging and a small outhouse containing a spa. The ‘Sous la Lune’ suite, which sleeps four, overlooks the Loire and re-creates the night sky with encased lights above the bed. Stargazers can also use the in-room telescope.
Le Pavillon des Lys - Amboise, 9 rue d’Orange (02.47.30.01.01/www.pavillondeslys.com). €€. A street away from Amboise’s royal castle, this wonderful 18th-century townhouse has seven luxurious rooms, decorated in classy art deco style with fine pieces of furniture, modern art and bright fabrics. Breakfast is served outside in the pretty courtyard or in the art-filled drawing room by friendly owner Sébastien.
Troglododo - 18km NE of Chinon, 9 chemin des Caves, Azay-le- Rideau (02.47.45.31.25/http://troglododo.fr). €. This is your chance to sleep inside a real troglodyte dwelling. Troglododo used to be a hamlet of cave dwellings inhabited by local farm workers, before friendly owners Cathy and Alain Sarrazin (who grew up in the village) put much sweat and tears into turning the cliffside into self-contained grottoes. The results are appealing: four rooms with exposed stone, a colourful feature wall and a bathroom entirely dug into the rock. The fifth room isn’t troglodyte, but it makes up for it by having its own private terrace.