The Heart of France, this countryside really is. Hills, valleys, forests, large meandering rivers to bubbling brooks, viaducts, bridges, villages, chateaus, meadows … this region provides the traditional French cultural experience that binds and fuels the local community and is a major provider of France’s food supplies. It’s farming land, particularly famous for its rich creamy brown Limousin Cattle that the region takes its name from, are bred for their exquisite beef. The region also supplies France with 25% of its gold production!
As the centre of rural France, the area, and our region in particular, is perfect for those looking for tranquility and remote unspoiled landscapes. A haven for painters, walkers, fishermen and countryside wildlife enthusiasts alike.
This is a region that has, and continues, to inspire artists, chefs, writers and poets… some of which are rather well known.
Monet, one of the best known of the Impressionist movement, lived for three months in the village of Fresselines and, inspired by the landscape and light in the Creuse, painted his very first series of 23 paintings there in 1889.
Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) chose to work in the softer, greener landscape of the lower lying Haute-Vienne. A generation before Monet, his was a more classical style yet again, his approach to painting cleared a path for the better known leaders of outdoor (or Plein air) painting. He worked on the verdant banks of the river Glane just outside Saint Junien, inspired by pretty trees and picturesque rocks. The area is still largely unchanged and unspoilt and is signed ‘Le site de Corot’.
Renoir (1841 – 1919) was born in Limoges. A son of a tailor he was later apprenticed to a painter of porcelain. ‘Bal du moulin de la Galette’, his most famous painting, is now hung in the Musee de L’Orsay, Paris.
Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938) was born in our nearest town, Bessines-sur-Gartempe. She was an artist’s model before becoming a respected painter herself. Part of a circle of artists living and working in Paris’s Montmartre neighborhood at the turn of the twentieth century, Valadon was one of the most notable female artists of the period. Valadon is also remembered for her many love affairs and as the mother of prominent French painter Maurice Utrillo. In 1894 Valadon became the first woman to show at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, a major French artistic accomplishment. There is an exhibition in Bessines dedicated to Suzanne Valadon.
Food and Drink
The area is renowned for its cuisine made with excellent local ingredients. The beef, mushrooms and fois gras are specialties, and the apples and seasonal berries are wonderful. There’s a wide selection of Limousin cheeses to sample and in autumn a local past time is searching for the delicious Cèpe mushrooms in the countryside.
Limousin Oak is the most expensive oak in the world used for the oak barrel: Critical for Cognac ageing. … Apparently a Cognac will extract more tanins in a Limousin oak barrel. It’s the most expensive wood for barrels in the world. What’s more, Limousin oak is known for the rich vanilla-like flavour it imparts to eau-de-vie.
Places of Interest
Situated in the newly created larger Nouvelle Aquitaine region this area is steeped in history. Until 2016 the region was known as the Limousin, the name of the famous beef cattle. The Corrèze, Creuse, and Haute-Vienne departments make up the region. We are in the Haute-Vienne, with the beautiful Vienne river running through Limoges.
Once a Roman city, Limoges, lying on the river Vienne and on a main route between Paris and Toulouse, has always been a major centre, in this relatively sparsely populated region. In the Middle Ages, it was renowned as a centre of arts and culture. Limoges enamel has been produced over several centuries up to the present and in the nineteenth century Limoges became famed throughout Europe, and beyond, for its porcelain; indeed the city became rich with its porcelain industry, and much of the city centre dates from this period. Limoges has a large historic quarter, with narrow streets and many fine half-timbered houses.
Oradour sur Glane – The Martyred Village
In June 1944 the Waffen SS torched the village and massacred over 600 villagers in a mistaken act of reprisal. The village has been left unchanged, fixed in time as a memory to the brutality and horror of war.
Mortemart & Montrol-Sénard
Mortemart, one of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” (Most beautiful Villages of France) is very close to Oradour sur Glane and well worth a stop. Just a stones throw from it is Montrol-Sénard where the residents have dedicated parts of their village to create an ecomusée Nostalgie Rurale. Wander around and take a step back in time.
Aubusson – Tapestries of Aubusson
Aubusson takes visitors into a surprising world of artistic discoveries. It earned the UNESCO Cultural Heritage designation for its crafts of traditional tapestry. This time-consuming and labour-intensive weaving process has produced the gorgeous tapestries that were used during the Middle Ages to decorate French castles.
Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat, a quaint medieval town, was an important stop on the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage Trail during the Middle Ages. It has an impressive Romanesque church, now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a stroll back in time through its cobbled streets and narrow alleys, many unchanged since the Middle Ages.
La Souterraine is a nearby market town and our nearest train station. It is also on the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage Trail and worth a visit to while away a few hours meandering the streets and taking in a cafe or two.
Watersports lovers will be in their element with the deep gorges, numerous rivers and “1,000” lakes. Lac de St Pardoux nearby, and a bit further afield Lac Vassivieres, are both set within lush forests with scenic trails to explore and observe the abundance of wildlife. There is first rate fishing with the Vienne, Charente and Dordogne and their sister rivers such as the Gartempe right on our doorstep. It is also an excellent area for canoeing, kayaking and sailing.
With many walking trails in the heights of the Monts d’Ambazac and horse riding centres around you have plenty of options to explore this beautiful area.