There’s a revolution happening in the uplands of Limousin. Nestled between undulating forests and picturesque gorges just north of Saint-Privat you’ll find Chateau De Camiller, a picturesque 17th Century holiday home with a reassuringly rustic appearance, swimming pool and all the snazzy amenities you’d expect from a luxury French chateau rental. Not exactly the kind of place you’d expect to find a pioneering project in eco-sustainability and self-sufficiency – but that’s exactly what’s happening in the grounds, and even to the chateau itself.

Chateau De Camiller, Auvergne - Limousin - Oliver's Travels

Chateau De Camiller, Auvergne – Limousin – Oliver’s Travels

Spearheaded by owner Ruth Phillips, The Eco Chateau project is an ongoing scheme whose goal is to create an ecologically responsible and self-sustaining village in the grounds of Chateau De Camiller. Parts of the property’s 32-acre estate will be converted into 22 off-grid eco-homes and 24 studios and cabins, utilising existent structures on the site and also creating a whole new set of buildings that integrate and celebrate the natural surroundings without impacting them.

Eco-village sample, France

Eco-village sample, France

The plans are both ambitious and admirable. The ambition covers everything from design through to the construction and legacy of the new domiciles, with styles ranging from invitingly snug “Hobbit-houses” to converted barns and forest cabins. All of these will be built with natural materials such as wood, stone and cob to reduce their impact on the environment both practically and aesthetically, and will incorporate integrated and ecologically-responsible energy and heating systems. Those interested in joining the project can hop along to a number of open days Ruth is running on the last Saturday of each month until April 2015, where the costs and commitments of joining the project are outlined in full.

As well as living space, the eco village will also incorporate everything members need to live a comfortable and healthy life without an overriding dependence on modern utilities and methods of production. As well as a home, those who join the initiative can look forward to swimming pools, creative spaces, tended gardens to grow food, therapy treatment rooms and even a gourmet vegan restaurant that will showcase the abundance of fresh, organic ingredients grown on the estate, and a shop selling crafts and clothing produced on-site.

Those who want to join the co-operative can choose to either build their own homes or have the work done for them by a team of professional builders, albeit for a moderately larger cost. Seeing as the price of the building materials is factored into the buy-in fee, we’d be more than tempted to roll up our sleeves and give house-building a go – not only will you be able to enjoy the unique satisfaction of having built your own house, it’d be a great opportunity to get to know everyone who’ll be living in the village once everything is up and running. Community and is one of the central concepts of the village, so getting to know everyone as soon as possible can only be a good thing – not to mention handy if you need a little help putting your walls up or wiring your kitchen!

But you don’t have to commit your time and money if you’re a little short of both and still want to enjoy the unique surroundings and self-sufficient charm of the eco village. The Chateau itself will continue to accommodate guests in its elegant interior (which will also be getting an eco-friendly upgrade over the next couple of years), but various homes in the eco-village itself will be available to rent too. Not only will you get the chance to stay in an ecologically-sound environment (or Hobbit house!) you’ll also be given the chance to learn how the village itself operates, and even try your hand at some of the day-to-day tasks or get involved with the village’s crafts and culture side. As far as holiday experiences go, it’s not only unique, but also enlightening when it comes to realising the true potential of eco-tourism! We’ll be sure to keep an eye on developments at Chateau De Camiller, and we’ll add any new and exciting experiences to our listings as soon as they’re available.

If you’d like to contact Ruth about the Eco Chateau initiative, you can email here by clicking here, and you can get a closer look at Chateau De Camiller on our site, as well as our full range of luxury chateaux and villas in France!

(Photo credits: Lead picture via Anup Shah)
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