Tell us a little bit about Les Charmes de Carlucet, how it started out and where you're based.
In 2016, we decided to have a change of life after years working for companies and try our own business. It has always been a dream of ours to have our own business, based in a beautiful part of the world, in the tourism industry. I used to come camping near Sarlat-la-Canéda, in the Dordogne, with my family when I was a young girl and I remembered how beautiful this part of the world was.
In 2016, the time was right for us to make the move and take the risk of embarking on a new life for us and our then five-year-old daughter Evie. At the time we were already living in Paris working for IKEA France, so we started our extensive search for a suitable property in the Dordogne. We wanted to be close to Sarlat and in the 'Golden Triangle' of the Dordogne valley. This is the most beautiful part of the Dordogne and the best place to launch a holiday business as many of the most interesting and beautiful places to visit in the region are close by.
When we finally found Les Charmes de Carlucet, we instantly knew our search was over. It is a magnificent 18th-century, six-bedroom manor house with large private heated pool and, next door, a stunning barn conversion, Beaux Reves, also with its own private heated pool. It's set in 20,000m2 of beautiful countryside, between the medieval town of Sarlat la Canéda and the world-famous caves of Lascaux in Montignac. Les Charmes de Carlucet manor house and villa both were awarded five stars from the Dordogne tourist board after our extensive renovations. They can be rented as self-catered luxury holiday homes separately, as they are completely private from each other, or together by larger groups. We also offer fully catered, residential painting and photography courses in the spring and autumn with our renowned tutors from UK.
Why did you decide to open this luxury gites and B&B business in the Dordogne?
We decided to open in the Dordogne because the area is so beautiful, there is so much to do and see and tourism is very good in this area. The area is famous for its gastronomy, especially for the foie gras, walnuts and truffles from this region which is called Perigord Noir. The area is also famous for its prehistory with 147 world heritage sites along the Vezere rive nearby. The Dordogne river valley is one of the cleanest in Europe and famous for beautiful canoeing activities, the abundance of the 'Most beautiful villages in France' to visit along its banks and also the majestic chateaux which tower above the river below. The buildings are also so beautiful with their yellow sandstone and slate roofs. House prices are more affordable than other parts of France as well. We are also within easy access of the major international airports of Bergerac, Brive Dordogne Valley, Limoges and Toulouse, as well as only a six-hour drive from the ferry terminal in Caen. So the area is very accessible.
What were you doing before?
We were both working for IKEA France, based in Paris, for four years before moving to the Dordogne. We had both been working for this company for around 30 years, living in different countries. We met 20 years ago through friends who also worked for IKEA. I (Kerry) started with IKEA in 1988 in the London store and Tomas, strangely, started the same year in their Stockholm store. Tomas is Swedish and I’m from the UK. Before moving to the Dordogne, I had lived and worked in the UK, Spain, USA and Sweden. Then, together, we moved to Russia, Poland and finally, in 2012, we moved to France to work for IKEA France.
What makes the Dordogne a special place to be for someone in the accommodation business?
The countryside is breathtaking, there’s no end to the beautiful and interesting places to visit and recommend to our guests. Sarlat is the jewel of the Dordogne. The medieval bastille town is so picturesque and lively all year round. There is always something going on there. In the summer months, the night markets in the villages around here are incredible. The whole village becomes one big party for all ages with live music, stands to buy your food and wine to enjoy at the market's long tables. There are also the most incredible bike trails and walking routes on our doorstep, as well as fantastic canoeing on the Dordogne river. Finally, the area is world renowned for its gastronomy and the local weekly markets are packed with delicious local produce.