character houses for sale in france ardeche

An old, pink sandstone, fortified house by the river Chassezac
in the south of the French department of Ardèche
Alès, ARDECHE rhones-alps 30100 FR


On the outskirts of the town of Les-Vans, in a Mediterranean climate softened somewhat by the Mistral wind, in a landscape featuring sandstone and limestone, where the Ardèche mountain regional nature park meets the Cévennes National Park, where biodiversity has flourished. Chassezac Gorges, Naves with its geological and botanical interpretation guide, the Païolive Woods, where an extraordinary world protected by tower-like rocks can be explored, and the Ardèche Gorges are nearby, just like Chauvet Grotto and Orgnac sinkhole.


Two driveways, steep in places, provide access to this estate with its 3.6 ha, surrounded by electrified fencing connected to the mains to protect against wild boar. It is linked to a hamlet just a kilometre away by a rural track. The main, 300 m long driveway winds through its numerous plots of terraced land, planted with pine and one hundred year old oak trees as well as some giant heather. These have been cleared of undergrowth and stones, fertilised and planted with a variety of grass, much appreciated by horses, chosen for its resistance to summer drought. An orchard comprises numerous fruit trees (peach, almond, fig, cherry, apple, apricot, etc.). Strawberries, blackcurrants and raspberries are also cultivated, as are vines, the 70 vine stock producing a table wine. Two vast, organic vegetable gardens are highly productive and meet annual needs.
An irrigation system channels water from the river (official pumping rights). An old stone ornamental pool, fed by springs, is undergoing restoration works. A stream channelled by low walls crosses the estate for some 500 m (2 banks on the property). Another stream acts as a border for about 700 m (superb cavernous groupings of rocks).
Bordering the property, the river Chassezac is reached via a jetty over one of the streams. One plot extends as far as the shore with its sand and pebbles. The clear, bracing water of the Chassezac flows continually throughout the summer and its width as this point varies between 50 and 70 m.
One protected sector acts as a vast swimming area. It is also possible to go canoeing for a long distance from the estate.
The plants, watered by means of water conveyancing, by a continual spring and the river (pump and slice gate system), can defy the heat coming up from the Languedoc and Provence regions.

The building

This residence was constructed on the side of a hill five centuries ago and modified at a later date. Its homogeneous style features blocks of pink sandstone, now bearing the patina of time, extracted in situ and squared off in the way that the old stonecutters knew best. This once fortified residence still has its main features such as its superb original flagstones, its monolithic framing, its very old fireplace recessed in the thickness of the wall, its passageways and its vaulted rooms. It was recently discreetly modernised, providing a vast living room with white stone tiles, stylised metal door and window frames as well as a contemporary kitchen, with solid acacia wood cupboards and a central unit. Extending the living room, the covered terrace provides a wonderful view of the river and the surrounding hills.
The construction spans two main levels, following the lie of the land. It is entered via the top level either through a closed courtyard or directly into the current living room. An original stairway, made of stone blocks, leads to the lower level, providing access half-way down to the inner courtyard (15th century porch way, metal door and window frames with double-glazing). An area under cross-ribbed vaults, with monolithic stone walls and large, perfectly restored original flagstones, is heated via a contemporary cast-iron wood-burning stove. It is illuminated, on the west side, by a porch way, all on a level with the lawn (metal, double-glazing), on the south side, by a high opening atrium that fits into the arch of the vault (metal, double-glazing); this atrium is extended by a cosy loggia, adorned with flowers, containing one of the buttresses of the residence. Two other vaulted rooms, spanning a total of approx. 100 m², are on this level. They await conversion so as to be able to complete approx. 210 m² of living space.
The old, 2-storey silk-worm nursery, in the courtyard adjoining the living room, also awaits restoration. In total, approx. 120 m² awaits full restoration inside.

First level
A vast living room features a mezzanine and a white stone floor. A contemporary style kitchen, with solid acacia wood cupboards including a central unit, is followed by a storeroom. A 16th century fireplace is in a bathroom, with a stone bath and a toilet. Two, white-painted bedrooms, with large flagstones, exude a monastic air. One bedroom has a very old fireplace recessed in the thickness of the wall whilst the second opens on to a covered, south-facing terrace. The mezzanine in the living room is used as a spare bedroom. Heating is provided by a central, Jotul 15 Kw wood-burning stove.
Second level
This level comprises a glazed, artist’s studio under cross-ribbed vaults. Two other vaulted rooms could be used as living rooms or a projection room. The old, 2-storey dovecote, awaiting restoration, can be reached from this level.
First floor
A 2-storey construction, opening on to the inner courtyard, was once used as a silkworm nursery. It awaits restoration and internal conversion but its roof has already been insulated.

Our opinion

This residence is laid out on a hillside with the surrounding greenery stretching for as far as the eye can see. Depending on the light, the river below acts as a mirror or reveals the transparency of its clear water. During the summer months, it refreshes the immediate scenery whilst vaulted rooms guarantee coolness inside the house. One of the miracles of this site is that it is sheltered from drought and from excessive heat. The second is that the beauty of the site, provided by stone, and the tranquillity that reigns here can but be sources of inspiration and creativity. Restoration works, which are in progress and which are to be continued, have been carried out using traditional local materials so that the harmony between man and nature embodied by this residence could continue.

790 000 €
Honoraires à la charge du vendeur

Voir le Barème d'Honoraires

Reference 768884

Land registry surface area 3 ha 57 a 93 ca
Main building surface area 430 m2

French Energy Performance Diagnosis

Regional representative

Regis Senseby       +33 1 42 84 80 85



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NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.

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