Just a mention of a French cottage escape is usually enough to conjure visions of quaint homes built from stone or pool-ready gîte enfolded in sunflowers. In this inspiring guide, we'll take a look at some of the most-vaunted places to book boltholes across the English Channel, ranging from the oyster towns of the north to the lavender-scented hamlets of the south.

The best of Brittany cottages

Direct boats link this salt-washed region of France to Plymouth and Portsmouth right throughout the year. Hop onto one of those and you could be settling in characterful Brittany cottages in no time.

Get Brittany cottages in Saint-Malo

Go self-catering in Saint-Malo to give yourself a real home away from home in this enchanting city on the north coast. It's home to a criss-crossing grid of cobbled lanes and squares, with a proud Gothic turret marking out its 12th-century church. Saint-Malo's a place for romance, culture and lip-smacking seafood.

Historic Brittany cottages near Rennes

French country cottages in the area around Rennes channel typical Breton styles – low-gabled roofs, stone-faced walls. And they have a buzzing university town right on the doorstep, where elegant Thabor Park and grand Rennes Cathedral combine to create somewhere steeped in architectural grandeur.

Brittany cottages near the beach

With coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel, it's hardly a surprise that many a French cottage in these parts sits just a stone's throw from the shore. Each little cove and inlet comes with its own story too, which means tracing the history of the Seven Years' War at Quiberon or encountering striped beach huts and salty fish bistros at family-friendly Dinard.

Discover unforgettable Normandy cottages

What better than to have a French cottage ready and waiting just as you step off the ferry to Cherbourg? Along the way, a stop at the historic Bayeux Tapestry and a glimpse at the windswept Normandy beaches could be in order. Then, you might be heading to one of these enticing places .

Coastal living in the Manche

The area known as the Manche is likely to be many a UK travellers' first glimpse of northern France. That's because it's one of the main arrival points for cross-Channel ferries. Don't think you're not being adventurous seeking a cottage in these parts, though. The region has relics of the Normandy landings to see, along with quaint medieval towns where the bistros brim with the freshest scallops you'll ever taste.

Be stunned by Mont St-Michel

Use your very own Normandy cottage as a base for seeing one of the most striking historical sites in all of France – Mont St-Michel. A UNESCO World Heritage Site that's crowned with a soaring abbey from the 11th century, it straddles a tidal island watered by the mouth of the Couesnon River. Talk about romantic spots.

Heritage buffs will love Normandy cottages in Rouen

There are more eye-watering churches in Rouen than you can shake a sweet crepe at. Start with the indomitable Rouen Cathedral, which dates back 1000s of years with its trio of Gothic spires and towers. Next, the Church of St. Ouen calls, said to house the most elaborate organ in the world. Finally, the Church of Saint-Maclou soars overhead, its flying buttresses a reminder of the sheer audacity of France's medieval structures.

Find French cottages with pools in the south

Heading south through France means turning up the heat a little. It also means heading to some of the most iconic areas the country has to offer. They pack in rolling vineyards, rising mountains and babbling rivers overshadowed by opulent chateaus.

A cottage in the Dordogne

The landlocked region of the Dordogne has long been a favourite of British travellers – and settlers. A whole French market of cottages to pick from brings plenty of choices with swimming pools and enough space for the family. Once you're booked, be sure to start planning jaunts to handsome La Roque-Gageac and its cliff-side castles, or long days of canoeing down the famous Dordogne River.

Closer to the coast in Languedoc-Roussillon

A French cottage in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon will put you closer to the Mediterranean Sea. A great choice for getting the romance flowing, they nestle between the bristling lavender fields of Occitanie, surrounded by striking Roman cities like Nimes or evocative medieval towns like Carcassonne.

Taste the wines of Bordeaux

It's all about the reds and whites and sparkling in the vast, vine-clad area of Bordeaux. Well, those and surf-bashed beaches and dancing sunflower fields. Booking a cottage in these parts means plenty of tipples come evening and loads of adventure in the backcountry.