1. Cèdre et Charme, Saint Branchs, Indre-et-Loire
Near Tours and the A10, a major route to the Dordogne
Expect lively, intelligent conversation, good food and music in elegant surroundings at Cèdre et Charme. Owners Anne and Armand love sharing their fine 19th-century townhouse and big bosky garden with their guests, and helping them discover the riches of the surrounding area. Bright, stylish bedrooms, with excellent bedding and bathrooms, are a blend of period and modern. The table, outdoors or in, is beautifully dressed for friendly meals. Children can eat separately and romp safely; there’s an enticing, enclosed pool to look forward to after a long journey.
• Doubles from €120 B&B
2. Clos Marcamps, Prignac et Marcamps, Gironde
Near Bordeaux on the A10, en route to the beaches of south-west France
This B&B was given a stylish makeover by owners who moved here from Paris with their young children. All is pale, clear and uncluttered, matching the elegant proportions of this handsome house. There are compact rooms in the converted barns; each has its own entrance and is on two levels, with beds upstairs. In the grounds there are swings, a pool, and table tennis, visitors can take a peaceful stroll through the vines, and there’s babysitting on offer.
• Doubles from €110 B&B
3. Manoir de la Manantie, Lezoux, Puy-de-Dôme
Near Clermont-Ferrand and the A75 to Béziers
Passionate about gastronomy, owners Véronique and Guillaume quit Paris to pour their talents into this neoclassical manor. The grand entrance has red volcanic-stone stairs, and bathrooms are big and super-modern bathrooms. High-ceilinged bedrooms are full of light and antique furniture. The woodwork alone is worth a visit, as is the English gentleman’s room, with its hog-roasting fireplace. Walk into Lezoux, stroll in the huge gardens, or take a detour to one the Auvergne’s national parks.
• Doubles from €90 B&B
4. L’Observance, Avignon
Near the A9 and A7, en route to south-east or south-west France
This friendly B&B within the city’s old walls is ideally placed for ambles round historic Avignon. Over the centuries the building has been part of a monastery, a barracks and a factory; now there are two light, spacious en suite rooms in the main house and a cosy apartment for four in the annexe. The Dutch hosts welcome guests with a glass of wine and offer breakfasts of pastries, ham, cheese and eggs. Though the Palais des Papes and Pont d’Avignon are only a short stroll, it’s blissfully calm, and there’s a pool for cooling off in.
• Doubles from €95 B&B
5. Chambres d’Hôtes Morin Salomé, Saillans, Drôme
Near Valence on the A7, en route to the Côte d’Azur
A feast of colour and art, surrounded by breathtaking views, the Morin house is owned by a charming couple. With skill and imagination, he has created the windows and ironwork of the pergolas and she has tiled, frescoed and friezed the bathrooms, bedrooms (all overlook the river) and kitchen. Dinner is served on the terrace at one long table among pots and clambering plants; a second terrace has ponds and goldfish. There’s plenty to do nearby, if you decide to hang around.
• Doubles from €70 B&B
6. La Demeure des Sacres, Reims
In the centre of Reims near the E17, for stopovers en route to or from Calais
For a luxury end-of-holiday treat, perhaps, this mansion is in a privileged position: the cathedral is 150 metres away. The rooms are suave, spacious and voluptuous, the quietest facing the garden. Courteous Songy offers an elegant breakfast buffet of homemade cookies, crêpes and jams in the dining room, or on the terrace overlooking lawn, roses, shrubs and swings. You get minibars, safes, superb bathrooms, snow-white linen … and a sweeping art deco sitting room.
• Doubles from €145 B&B
7. Château de la Frogerie, Maulévrier, Maine-et-Loire
Near Cholet and the A87 in western France
Guests can pretend to be medieval royalty as they climb the spiral staircase to the turret bedroom of this little château dating from the 15th century. Its panelled walls, moat and parquet floors create a historical atmosphere but owners Jean-Christophe and Raymond-Pierre have added modern comforts. Antique beds are dressed in fine linen, leather armchairs surround the fireplace and there’s a pool shaded by ancient walls. Breakfast is pastries, milk from the local Jersey herd and honey from the château’s own hives.
• Doubles from €80 B&B
8. La Ferme de Marie-Eugénie, Bruailles, Saône-et-Loire
Near A39 in eastern France, a popular route to the Alps
La Ferme belonged to Marie-Eugénie’s grandmother and her renovating flair is on show everywhere, from whitewashed beams to shabby-chic leather sofas. The pretty half-timbered barn, overlooking a big garden, is now a fashionable maison d’hôtes, with light-flooded rooms, pale tiled floors and exposed limestone walls. The bedrooms are delightful, with walls painted in soft colours and adorned with modern art. There’s an inviting reading room, with loads of books and magazines, and a slick kitchen-diner for delicious meals.
• Doubles from €115 B&B
9. La Souraïade, Villeneuve d’Allier, Haute-Loire
Near the A75, a popular route to the Languedoc region
In a tiny Auvergnat hamlet, amid a web of hiking paths, this expertly renovated cliffside house is decorated in gentle grey and taupe, with finely sewn old lace (all owner Joëlle’s work) and plenty of country antiques. The big, raftered rooms are pretty, cosy and private. Breakfast is a feast served in the large kitchen or on the terrace.
• Doubles from €115 B&B
10. Eden Ouest, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime
Close to the N11 and a good half-way point en route to the south-west coast
This fabulous building, built in 1745, stands in the old heart of La Rochelle. An immense amount of thought has gone into its renovation and manager Véronique is brimming with ideas as to how they can go the extra mile. Sweep up grand stairs to a marble fireplace and muted grey walls, a long, polished dining table and a rococo-esque chandelier. Bedrooms are colour-coordinated, right down to the paintings, most have sofabeds for children and all but one have bath tubs crafted from wood. Tread the ancient cobbles, sample the local aperitifs, take a couple of days and catch a boat to the Ile de Ré.
• Doubles from €125 B&B
To book any of these B&Bs or for more information on places to stay in France see sawdays.co.uk. The new Sawdays guide, Special Places to Stay: French Bed & Breakfasts is out now, £11.99
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010