Kingfisher guests tell us unequivocally that a beautiful location is a key ingredient to enjoying their holidays. Throughout the Lot Valley and Quercy, gently rolling hills, woods, farmlands and vineyards create a splendid natural backdrop. Stone villages and houses complete the picture of a rural idyll – a perfect setting for a summer escape.
Nearly all Kingfisher properties – whether in a village or out in the countryside – are great examples of traditional local architecture. So while you’re staying, why not take a look at some of the architectural features that help create the charming, rustic ambience we know you love?
Buildings in Kingfisher’s area of Southwest France are constructed in natural materials and colours. Everywhere you look you find stone buildings with terracotta roofs, brick accents and wood shutters. This natural palette of building materials totally harmonises with the landscape.
Stone and brick
Buildings in the region are all about stone. To the north of here, you find yellow Dordogne stone. To the south, it’s red brick in the style that gives Toulouse the nickname La Ville Rose. Here, in the Lot Valley and Quercy, the building material of choice is a light grey calciferous stone.
Stone is literally fundamental to the villages and bastides, which date back to 13th century. Arcades, called cornieres, surround the central squares. Arches support overhanging first floors of houses on the places. Wood beams, half-timbering and brick infills give these squares an unmistakably medieval character.
Basic service buildings like sheds and barns are built of rough fieldstone. Usually they have no outer covering. At the other end of the spectrum, grand village houses and manor houses (maisons de maître) in the countryside are made of cut stone blocks. They are often covered in a decorative outer render called crepi.
You may initially prefer the exposed stone look, but it’s worth studying the formal artistry of the rendering on the grander homes, which traditionally belonged to local bourgeoisie or minor nobility.
Terracotta and wood
We tend instantly to notice stone everywhere, but there are other constant features.
Wooden shutters cover almost all windows and most doors. When they are open, you see prominent, locally distinctive Z-shaped reinforcements. Traditionally shutters were painted light grey, green-grey or brown. Nowadays, Mediterranean blue is a popular colour.
And in common with the Mediterranean, roofs in this part of France are almost always terracotta, in contrast to the grey roofs of the cold North.
Roofs are supported by mighty oak beam structures. Oak beams also support the floors in multi-storey buildings and form the lintels over window and door openings.
No wonder this area is called The Quercy. Oak’s are plentiful. And Quercus is Latin for oak.
From farmhouse to villa
Even if your permanent home is in one of the UK’s many areas with a legacy of stone buildings, you’ll discover interesting new features in the Lot Valley and Quercy.
Kingfisher rentals span the range of local architectural styles. They have been transformed from traditional rural buildings into holiday villas. Some were originally modest agricultural sheds or barns; others were farmhouses or grander manor houses. There are many clues all around to the origin of your holiday home.
Outbuildings tell a vast amount about a home’s history.
The dovecote or pigeonnier is perhaps the most recognisable symbol of the home of a family of means. Keeping pigeons was a practical way of making valuable fertiliser, which was traditionally given as part of a bride’s dowry. You may find a pigeonnier on the grounds of your holiday home, but it is unlikely you’ll be living in one.
The Quercy barn is another iconic type of outbuilding in the region. These barns have distinctive hip roofs with big overhangs that shelter a wide front entrance. Barns – with their big open spaces – are a favourite for conversion into homes. They combine rustic agricultural details like old ironmongery and animal feeding troughs with wall-less expanses that are easy to convert for modern open plan living.
If a home started as a modest farm cottage or a manor house, there are several other typical exterior details worth mentioning.
Farmhouses and cottages often have covered front porches. The stone steps might climb straight up to the porch and door. Or a pair of curved staircases, called bolets, might arc up to the front door from left and right. If there’s no porch, a wooden or glass auvent protects the door overhead.
Stone walls and wood beams dominate the interiors of the region’s traditional homes. You can find vaulted ceilings and big fireplaces in grander homes. Large fireplaces in kitchens often retain a crémaillère – a hook for suspending a cauldron over the fire.
When a house has a staircase, it is often a work of elegant craftsmanship, made of oak, chestnut or elm, with a patina that speaks of how long it has stood.
One of the most colourful artefacts of a modest dwelling is the old stone sink called an evier. Carved in stone, the basin has an outlet through the wall to a spout also carved in the stone on the outside. Surprisingly, you occasionally see such a spout emerging from an evier on the first floor. That tells you that people lived on the first floor above their animals. Living above the livestock was a classic way of staying warm in the winter.
Beauty and comfort
However humble or grand its origins, your Kingfisher holiday villa, cottage or gite provides comfortable, well appointed accommodation for couples, families or groups of friends vacationing in the Lot Valley and Quercy. Modern bathrooms, well equipped kitchens, pools, BBQs and terraces for eating al fresco on a warm summer night are sensitively integrated into the beautiful traditional architecture.
Stand back for a moment while you’re here, and see if you can connect with some of the rich history in the buildings all around you.